Get out of the press release rut. On today’s PR Wars podcast, we will look at six ways that you can engage the media without writing a press release. Learn specific tactics to add to your PR toolbox.

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A.I. generated show transcript: “We want the truth.” “We want the truth.” “We want the truth.” “I have news for everybody. Get over it.”

It’s time. Welcome to PR Wars coming at you live from Atlanta, Georgia. Now, here is your host… Chris Shigas.

Chris Shigas: Hello everyone, and welcome to PR Wars, I’m Chris Shigas.

Do you ever feel that your media relations work is becoming too process driven? Rinse and repeat, week after week. Write a press release. Get it approved. Send it out. Get the next release ready.

We’re public relations people, we want to be creative. We want to move the needle. Well today on PR wars, we’re going to take a look at how to engage the media, beyond the press release. Specific tactics for you to add to your arsenal.

Now if you’re new to public relations, this will be a good primer for you. And if you’re a veteran, hopefully this list can inspire you; remind you; refresh some of those tactics in your PR toolbox. It’s good to stop and take account.

How do you keep your work fresh? Well, you invest in yourself, right? You sharpen the saw now sharpen the saw. If you don’t know that’s an expression from Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

A wood cutter was cutting wood for hours. He was having trouble cutting down a tree. A man told him “Look, take a break, spend some time sharpening your saw.” He said “I don’t have time. I don’t have time to take a break.” And the man said, “If you sharpen your saw, you will cut down the trees faster.”

Well, today you’re sharpening the saw by listening to PR Wars. You are investing in yourself. Sharpening your saw so that when you go back to the PR world, you are ready to rock and roll.
So, here we go. Here are six ways to engage with the media beyond the press release.

Number one – The byline article
For a byline article, you write a news story, as if you’re a writer for the publication. Now this is not an advertisement. You want to keep the public relations audience as a focus here, avoid the marketing language, because we want to keep this newsworthy. And it’s good to structure a byline article as a problem to solution. Just like a real news story, what’s the problem that your product or service solves. So let’s reverse engineer this thing. And then we begin the article building consensus about how this problem is impacting people and then provide your product or service as one of the possible solutions.

Number two – The op/ed opinion editorial.
This is your chance to tell your side of the story. And since it’s aptly named an opinion piece, it’s meant to have your viewpoint as opposed to the byline article. This paper takes a strong position or a point of view about a topic op eds should be about 500 to 1500 words. And the overall impact of an op ed is not only to persuade your audience to an issue, but it also positions you your company, your executive, as a thought leader in the industry.

Number three – Letters to the editor
Now, a letter to the editor is a short opinion piece, and they can be used reactively to correct either a story that’s already published, or it can be used to offer an alternative viewpoint to a previous story. Now, each publication has their own rules for the length of a letter to the editor. Most letters should be less than 300 words. So they are much shorter than an op ed.

Number four – Topical Pitch
A topical pitch is about a paragraph pitch or email to a reporter about a story or a trend. This is not a full blown, press release. Think of it as a story idea. Now, when you pitch this trend, or a current event, as a story idea, maybe you have a statistic in addition to that, to back up the overall thesis of the story. Now, your brand or product should not be in this pitch. This is pitching a story, a trend. But what you can do is suggest your company’s expert as a thought leader for an interview. And this is the way that you get your brand product or service into the story through an interview.

Number five – Deskside briefing
If you are starting from scratch, I mean reporters don’t know who you are. They don’t know what your products are. They don’t know what your company is, well, you have some education to do. And a great way to accomplish that is through a desk side briefing. This is a get to know you meeting with the reporter. Sometimes they can be done at the reporters office. Sometimes they can be done at a lunch or a coffee. And in the times like we face today, they can also be done virtually through zoom or Microsoft Teams. However, the real beauty of doing a decide briefing is getting to know the reporter as a person, looking them in the eye shaking their hand, hearing directly from them feedback about the types of stories that they’re interested in, and putting that name that email that phone number to a face so that you know what they’re all about, and that they know who you are, and what you can offer them. Now in a deskside briefing, there’s typically no expectation of a story to be published, all the pressures off. This is a relationship meeting. This is charting the course, if there’s a future between this reporter and your company, it is okay to submit materials, it’s okay to have leave behind fact sheets, product sheets, those types of things, information resources that can help the reporter out. But again, the real purpose of this meeting is for you to develop a relationship with the journalist.

Number six – Nurture your reporter circle
Number six on the list of ways to engage with the media, beyond a press release is to nurture your reporter circle. Now previously on PR wars, we had a whole podcast about just this topic itself. It’s so important. You don’t want to show up on that reporters doorstep every time you need a favor from the reporter How are you engaging with this reporter throughout the year? Are you reading this reporters content on a regular basis even when it’s not about your company? Are you following this reporter on social media? Are you commenting on this reporters posts? are you sharing some of these reporters stories and by lines, these are the types of things that help you develop a relationship with the reporter and have your work flourish. When you follow these reporters on social media, engage with them, compliment them on their work, point out specifics in their story angles that you thought were worthwhile. These types of relationship building engagements will help you build a better relationship with the reporter and nurture your reporter circle.

So there you have it. six ways to engage the media beyond the press release. And remember, media relations is about relationships. If you are blasting out press releases to email lists of people that you don’t know. That should be a red flag. You should be making connections. Connect an email address to a journalist story. Connect the story to the journalists name. Connect the name to a voice connect the voice to a person. You are on your way to being a public relations rock star. Now go get ’em.

PR Wars was selected as a Top PR Podcast You Must Follow in 2020 by Feedspot.

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