Updated: Jun 23
Public and media relations (PR) is a field that never stops growing and has become very crowded. For every reporter in our nation, there are as many as six PR specialists vying for their attention. To get a better look at the industry and share an insider’s perspective, 1st Degree asked our Senior Director of Media Relations, Nicole Bell, to share her insight on how she lands the best media coverage for our events and campaigns.
You can be ‘lucky’ without it being luck at all.
“Getting an outlet to pick up the story you’re pitching is heavily dependent on who you know,” shared Nicole. “A media outlet might take your story, but if you know someone on the inside who can push and advocate for you, your chances of coverage increase greatly.”
Nicole began reporting at her local news station at the age of 19 before earning her master’s degree and going on to spend 17 years working as a television journalist. As a PR guru, she began consulting in the PR and media relations industry back in 2003 and has not stopped growing her expertise since.
Despite her assurance that winning in this industry is rarely luck, Nicole does believe that lucky things can happen, usually in one of two ways:
The media outlet having an opening or;
Pitching the right story at the right time
When asked about pitching and landing a spot for a story in media outlets, Nicole had great insight to share.
“Pitching is tough as it’s a crowded field. You have to have a plan and your story needs to stand out,” she said.
Today in media, bigger outlets can require longer lead times, so it is best to put the story on their radar as soon as possible. The bigger the story and the bigger the desired impact and audience, the more advanced planning that must be done. Many organizations want to gain national broadcast attention to raise awareness for their work, mission and vision, and are competing with one another for a much smaller slice of the pie. This is where the ‘who you know’ comes back into play. Being able to pick up the phone and speak directly to a connection at the station or media outlet being pitched is how the slot is won these days.
I am lucky to have you as my friend.
“Cultivating relationships can be difficult because everyone is busy,” said Nicole with a small shake of her head.” When I was a journalist, PR practitioners would reach out to connect, and while I always responded, my availability was limited.”
Building a meaningful relationship with a journalist takes time and must be done in a balanced and not overly aggressive way. Journalists are always on tight deadlines, working in stressful environments and often dealing with complicated audiences while trying to capture their stories. Allowing for flexibility, calling during the hours they are not at the station and giving them space and time to call back are the best ways to begin to build that relationship, but it does not always work.
“It’s great if you’re a journalist turned PR professional. You already have relationships with reporters who you can pick up the phone to call or text,” Nicole said. “If that’s not the case it can be tough in the beginning, but with time and persistence you’ll breakthrough and develop those contacts.”
So, is it luck?
“You’re going to get there and land that story and it’s going to feel like luck, but it’s just hard work in disguise,” declared Nicole. “I recently secured a live interview for one of my pitches. Was it lucky? Yes – but I also made endless calls and followed up with people all hours of the day. You’ve got to get in the trenches and do the work. That’s how you’ll land your spot.”
Looking for a Marketing & PR agency to represent your brand and want Nicole on your team? 1st Degree is the creative force behind bold campaigns that achieve unprecedented results. Contact us today to learn more!