The Ultimate Guide to Media Relations

Learn how to approach your media contacts, how to build relations and much more.

The Ultimate Guide to Media Relations

This guide contains everything you need to know about media relations and how to do it effectively.

You'll learn how to communicate effectively with your media contacts by knowing how to create visual press releases, distribute press releases, nurture your media contacts, and send pitch emails that get results.

We’ll even show you how to automate the boring parts so you can focus on the fun stuff. You'll learn how to:

  • Get more attention with visual press releases
  • Send email pitches that get results
  • Improve media relationships with a CRM
  • Automate to save time and be more effective

Chapter 1: Get More Attention with Visual Press Releases

One key aspect of media relations that is rapidly changing is that need to be visual. The need to be seen and cut through all of the noise that is currently out there.

No social media press release should be without images.

They’re easy to use, cheap to get, and proven to increase views.

Images are extra powerful when you share your press release on social media. Social networks automatically generate an image preview, which increases your odds of engagement:

  • Facebook posts with images get 53% more likes and 104% more comments than the average post
  • Tweets with pictures are nearly twice as likely to be retweeted
Tweets with images get more engagement
Tweets with images get more engagement

Keep this in mind:  

  • Choose images that are eye-catching, high quality, and relevant.  Try to avoid generic stock photos in favor of images that relate to  your story.
  • For press releases, use high quality, high-resolution photos. They'll  make your press release look more professional online, and they look  great in print, too.
  • For pitch emails, include an image preview that downloads fast. Use a  preview of the actual image. Not a link to a Wetransfer or a  password-protected image library.

 

Video is an incredibly effective way to tell your brand's story

Video can elicit powerful emotions and memorable narratives in just  seconds. Adding video to your social media press releases can help make  them more interesting, more human, and more relatable.

Also, video is a great way to explain complicated ideas, such as new software or data  from a new study.

But most importantly, it is a way to stand out fast and bring your personality to the table. It puts a face to a name. Creating an instant emotional connection can help get your press release plucked from the crowd.

Check out the one below by CodeWeavers that was directed at David Pogue, a NYT Tech columnist:

If creating your own videos feels daunting, it shouldn’t.

You don’t need a professional film crew to make a great video. A short Instagram worthy video or a well done SnapChat filmed with your smartphone can be just as effective.

Remember:

  • Keep videos short and simple, a few minutes long at most.
  • Grab their attention with things that relate to your brand and will get them talking
  • Try different video platforms like going live on Twitter, Instagram stories, or SnapChat
  • Upload large video files to YouTube or Vimeo rather than host  them on your server. This helps your press releases load faster,  automatically generates previews when sharing on social media, works  across all devices, and makes your content searchable, giving you an SEO  boost.

 

Infographics paint a picture with numbers and statistics

If your press release is heavy on data, consider telling your story with an infographic. Good infographics  are visually appealing and simple for readers to follow. They have a  lot of viral potential, too.  You don't even need to be a designer to make them with all the great (sometimes free) tools for infographics the internet has to offer.

Some pointers:  

  • Aim for three things: good data, clarity, and simplicity (in that order if possible). Ask yourself what you want the reader to take away from your infographic, and design around the answer.
  • Choose only the data that's absolutely necessary to tell your story. A simple, easy-to-understand story is always better than an  overcrowded collection of statistics, no matter how good it looks.
  • Get more traction by sharing your infographics on Pinterest and other visual-forward platforms.

If you'd like to try your hand at an infographic press release, here are three gorgeous examples to inspire you.

Multimedia news releases get viewed more
Multimedia news releases get viewed more

 

How to Create Visual Content

It’s important to invest in high-quality visuals, but you don’t have to break the bank or lose hours of sleep to create the content you need.

There are basically two ways to get more visual content for your press releases – you can either do it yourself, or you can outsource it to someone else. Like so many business decisions, this usually boils down to a choice between time and money.

DO IT YOURSELF

Creating your own visual content isn’t as hard as it sounds, and it’s usually cheaper than paying someone else to create it for you. If you carry a smartphone, you already have everything you need to create gorgeous photos and videos.

Helpful tools to create your own visual content:

  • PowerPoint templates PowerPoint may not be sexy, but it's easy to use and  surprisingly powerful tool for visual design. From gorgeous Facebook cover photos to killer infographics to engaging SlideShares, you'll be  surprised at how far PowerPoint can take you. To get started, check out these free, downloadable templates from HubSpot.
  • Canva If you don't have the budget for a graphic designer, Canva is a lifesaver. This simple online tool helps you design images, edit  photos, and create beautiful visual content at little to no cost. It's  fast, too — in fact, we used Canva to create all the title images in this blog post, and it took less than 30 minutes!
  • Placeit For great-looking screenshots and slick interactive demos (great for new product launches), make Placeit your go-to tool.
  • Adobe Voice Adobe Voice is a free iPad app that lets you easily create your own animated  videos. All you have to do is talk. Choose from over 25,000 images to  create your custom backdrop, and Voice automatically adds music and  cinematic motion.
  • Wistia Wistia is an excellent resource for all things video-related. For practical  guidance concepting, producing, and marketing videos, be sure to check  out their free Learning Center.

OUTSOURCE IT - You can't do everything yourself.

When you’re pressed for time or have limited resources for content creation, it often makes sense to let someone else do the heavy lifting. Outsourcing content creation doesn’t have to be expensive, though it certainly can be.

Besides the standard agency route, here are a few options to satisfy all budgets and timeframes.

  • Visual.ly A flexible, affordable option, you can work with Visual.ly to create infographics, videos, custom web experiences, presentations, and micro content. They'll work with you from start to finish, and fixed prices mean you always know what you're getting.
  • 99 Designs For those on a tight budget, crowdsourcing an image is a  cost-effective way to go. Just create a project brief, pick a payment  option, and let designers come to you.
  • Freelancers When you need professional-quality work on a project basis, contracting with a freelancer is the way to go. UpWork and Freelancer.com are two reputable places to find your next freelance hire.
  • Free stock images If you need stock images free, and you need them now, check  out Google for finding free online images or repositories like Unsplash and Pexels. Pay close attention to the citation guidelines — you don't want to end up in legal trouble!

Chapter 2: Pitching — How to Send Emails that get Results

Hopefully by this point in our crash course, you’re feeling pretty well-equipped to start creating social media press releases. But it’s not enough to create a press release; you have to pitch it effectively, too.

Let’s talk about press release distribution and the art of the pitch email:

The pitch email remains one of the most powerful tools in the PR toolbox.

They are simple to create, quick to send, and easy to scale, but that doesn’t mean you should treat them lightly.

There are two parts to a successful pitch email:

  • Your target audience.
  • The email itself.

While it might be tempting to email your entire database, your childhood friends, and maybe a distant cousin or two every time you have a new press release to pitch, don’t do it.

We call that S.O.S. (sending out stuff).

Make sure it's relevant
Make sure it's relevant

 

S.O.S. pitching is never a good idea. You’re much better off sending a highly targeted email to a select group of influencers who will find value in your press release:

  • Your response rates will be higher
  • You'll build trust among your influencers
  • Your contacts will thank you for not spamming them with irrelevant emails

The Anatomy of a Great Pitch Email

Anatomy of an email pitch
Anatomy of an email pitch

 

A well-crafted pitch email can  quickly and effectively open new doors, strengthen media relationships,  and increase your exposure.

A bad pitch email, on the other hand, can  alienate your influencers and permanently damage your credibility.

So what distinguishes a great pitch email from one that fails to get results?  Let's walk through the anatomy of a great pitch email, piece by piece:

1. A Specific "From" Line

Your from line is probably the first thing your reader sees. It should clearly and concisely communicate who you are as the sender.

As an  example, for this crash course, I use the from line Frederik from Prezly, which tells you who the email is coming from, as well as which company I work for — all before you even open my email.

2. An Irresistible Subject Line

Your subject line should be relevant, timely, and evoke just a little  bit of mystery. Include a tidbit about your story that relates to your influencer's interests and inspires enough curiosity to make them want more (example: New study: Everything we thought we knew about Gen Y is wrong).

Here's a great list of best practices for subject lines, drawn from MailChimp's analysis of over 200 million emails.

3. A Brief, Relevant Introduction

Start your email with a 2-3 sentence introduction that states who you are and why you're reaching out.

Tie your message to something personal that you know about them (example: I saw your wrote a story about millennial employees and thought you might like o learn the surprising results of a new study), which shows that you've done your research and understand what they care about.

4. A Compelling Value Proposition

Once you've made your introduction, get to your point quickly.  

Remember that in order to get a response, you need to demonstrate value  for your media contacts.

Ask yourself, how will a journalist benefit by covering your story? Always keep your pitch about them and how they  stand to gain, not about you (example: Your latest article about millennials got a lot of buzz. Sharing the results of this study would be a great  follow-up for your readers.)

5. Supporting Multimedia Previews

Don't just tell influencers and journalists about your story, show them. Your pitch email should also include previews of all the multimedia assets in your social media press release.  

Don't send attachments or links without having proper previews. They'll take forever to download and lack the visual impact of embedded content. Instead, use a tool, such as Prezly, that automatically generates media previews in your pitch emails.

6. A Clear Next Step

Having good media relations means that you need to give clear next steps and most important of all, clearly provide contact information that is easy to access.  

Contact information to include: (phone number, email, Twitter,  Skype, etc.), and suggest a clear next step (example: I'd love to  answer any questions you have about the study. Can we talk for 15 minutes sometime next week?).

Media pitch checklist
Media pitch checklist

 

Don't Forget About Tracking

It's tempting to send pitch emails from Gmail or Outlook, but what you gain in speed, you lose in trackability. And that means you lose big time the next time you send a pitch.  

Use a tool that allows you to track opens, clicks, and responses to your pitch emails. You can also A/B test subject lines and messages to see what works best.

This allows you to see what part of your pitch you need to reconsider on the next go.

  • Did they not open it? Try a new subject line.
  • Did they open it and not click? Try more engaging content.
  • Did they open it, click it, and then forget about it? Maybe it just wasn't the right pitch for them.

Whatever the case, knowledge is power and engagement tracking is a great way to learn about your efforts.


Chapter 3: Improve Media Relations

For all our talk of press releases, pitch emails, and visual content, PR is ultimately about building relationships with your media contacts.

You know those master networkers, people who never forget a name, have an incredible memory for detail, and always know just the right thing to say? Luckily, you don't need the memory of an elephant or the social skills of a politician to build strong media relationships.

You do, however, need a good CRM, or Customer* Relationship Management system, to help you manage communications and keep track of important information about your contacts.

(*I guess in this case it is Contact Relationship Management? But I digress.)

Prezly CRM example.
Prezly CRM example.

 

A CRM is essentially a little black book on steroids. It keeps all your contacts in one place. Traditionally these tools are for sales teams, but PR teams need them as well. How else are you expected to keep track of who said what to who when and why?

You could try to use Excel, but why not leverage specialised technology to make your life and your job easier.

Knowledge Is Power

The more data you have about your media contacts, the more power you have:  

  • Understand what they care about
  • Remember past conversations you may have had
  • Recall important details about their lives, both professional and personal

All of these data points will help you build trust and create stronger relationships.  Of course, more data can quickly create more complexity as you try to manage it all, especially if you use Excel to manage your contacts.  

Like we said, there's no shame in relying on Excel for this purpose. Most PR people use Excel to manage media relations. Keep in mind, though, that Excel was designed to make calculations and graphs,  not help you manage a database.

Contact enrichment.
Contact enrichment.

 

That's where a CRM comes in. A CRM is much more than a glorified Excel spreadsheet. Among its many advantages, a CRM can help you:

  • Document emails, phone calls, and even social media  conversations with every influencer. Many CRMs will even let you send  pitch emails directly from the platform.
  • Search for contacts by name, communication history, beat, PR  campaign, or any number of tags that are important to your business.
  • Measure the impact of your efforts with thorough reporting on response rates and new PR opportunities generated.
  • Share knowledge across your company by keeping it in a  universally accessible platform, rather than a spreadsheet saved to your  hard drive.

Getting Started with CRM

CRM systems range from simple and relatively cheap to sophisticated and very expensive. What you need will  depend on the size of your business, your budget, and your specific  situation, but I'd recommend keeping it simple to start. You can always add complexity later.

The important thing is getting a system in place to help you manage your  data, allowing you to focus on the human side of PR - creating and  cultivating great media relationships.  There are a lot of CRM solutions out there.

My colleague Jesse compiled a list of 29 CRM tools that can help you.  

A quick note: if you're tempted to try and build your own PR CRM rather than purchase a tool, consider this: Doing it yourself is a lot harder, and potentially more expensive, than it sounds. Don't discount software as a service (SaaS) and run a comparison.

It just so happens that we at Prezly know a lot about using CRMs to manage contacts. In fact, contact relationship management is at the core of everything we do. If you'd like to chat more about the right  tool for your needs, book a demo and we can talk all about it.

Automating boring PR tasks
Automating boring PR tasks

Chapter 4: Media Relations Automation

Most PR professionals are using outdated technology to manage their workflows:

  • Excel for contacts
  • Outlook for pitch emails
  • Word for press releases

There's a better, faster, more efficient (not to mention more fun!) way to do PR.  It starts with embracing automation.

Four Reasons to Love PR Automation

PR is ultimately a human-powered industry - robots and computers can't forge relationships, build trust, or tell great stories. That said,  there are plenty of repetitive activities in PR that we're more than  happy to automate.

Here are 4 really important, really boring PR tasks that are better left to robots, and the tools you'll need to automate them:

1. Track email responses with Yesware

If you send a lot of pitch emails, use Yesware to keep track of responses. Yesware is a Gmail and Outlook add-on that lets you monitor opens, clicks, and responses for every email you send to influencers.

You can even automate your outreach with editable templates that pre-load in your inbox, so you don't have to cut-and-paste every pitch.

2. Enrich your influencer list with social data from FullContact

If you have a list of influencer emails, but no social profiles, use FullContact to quickly, easily, and automatically enrich your data. Just enter an email address or Twitter handle, and FullContact's API gives you a list of associated social profiles. You can also sync contacts from all your address books, fix duplicates, and correct formatting errors in your database.

3. Nurture influencers with the help of Boomerang.

Boomerang is a handy tool that sends you automatic reminders to contact people on your media list whom you haven't reached out to in awhile.

Use it to periodically nurture your influencer list with useful links and articles, even when you don't have big news to share.

You'll build credibility, show them you care, and increase your chances of getting coverage when you need it.

4. Publish and pitch social media press releases with Prezly

Prezly is the glue that will hold all your other PR efforts together. Prezly gives you everything you need to create and distribute beautiful, mobile-friendly social media press releases, send pitch emails with media previews, manage your contact database, and track email response rates — all in one easy-to-use tool.

Embrace Automation, and It Will Set You Free

When it comes to repetitive PR tasks, automation = liberation.

Anything that lets you spend more time getting creative and less time in  Excel hell is a very good thing. Automating the boring stuff means  you're free to focus on telling great stories, strategizing campaigns,  and building strong influencer relationships.

More Articles Like This
Employee Advocacy

Employees Are Your Company's Voice

In the past few years, employee advocacy has become the new buzzword in human resources. Now, it’s also taking corporate communications by storm. Encouraging your employees to be your champions could be the perfect answer as journalists increasingly seek out real stories on social media.
Presentations

Sketchnotes of Public Relations presentations

I usually doodle during presentations and meetings. Not because I’m not interested in what’s happening. On the contrary. Making visual summaries  helps me retain more of what was said.
Influencer Marketing

How to Keep Up With Influencers in 10 Minutes per day

Keeping up with your influencers’ latest articles and social media posts is one of the most important things you can do as a PR professional. It’s a very simple, very effective way to know what’s on their minds from day to day, which will help you send better pitches, add more value, and stay relevant to media contacts.