We’re a quarter of the way through 2021 and so far, it’s felt a lot like 2020 2.0. Still, spring is here and as the old proverb goes, hope springs eternal. Vaccinations are beginning to roll out to larger segments of the population, Disneyland is reopening, fans are coming back to baseball games, and the economy is showing renewed signs of life. As PR professionals, most of us approached 2021 planning apprehensively, recalling all too well how our 2020 plans were tossed out the window by this time last year. If you were waiting for a time to come up with some outside the box PR ideas, let me tell you, it’s now.
With this in mind, I turned to the results of Muck Rack’s “The State of Journalism 2021” survey for some inspiration. One of the things that stood out to me while reading the report was that more than 60% of journalists agree that the way companies – and by extension, agency PR pros – share information is outdated. This fact prompted me to review the report in more detail, and reflect on some outside-of-the-box PR ideas that might better engage journalists.
Here are some outside the box PR ideas that I plan to implement in 2021:
1. Pitch on a Monday morning (or even Sunday?!?): I’ll admit this one caught me off guard. We’re often told that the best day to send out a press release or pitch a reporter is on a Tuesday or Wednesday. But according to Muck Rack’s survey, while one in five reporters prefer Tuesdays, nearly six in ten (57%) shared that they prefer Mondays. Following Mondays and Tuesdays, 6% of journalists indicated they prefer to receive pitches on Fridays, which was the same amount that said they prefer to receive pitches on Sundays. While I’ve had a great deal of historical success with Friday pitching, I’ll certainly consider sending out a few on Sundays in the future just to see what happens. Besides, with work (my dining room table) just a few steps away, it’s easier than ever to do this.
2. Consider the dreaded exclusive: I know, I know. The goal for many client programs is often to get as much coverage as possible for their new software tool, service offering or other announcement. At Voxus, we’re firm believers in quality over quantity. An in-depth piece in an outlet like TechCrunch or VentureBeat, based on a lengthy interview beforehand, can be much more valuable than a handful of press release reposts from publications with low domain authority and reach. A surprising 78% of journalists shared that they are either somewhat or much more likely to cover a story if offered an exclusive. Not every client may be willing, but I’m going to start my outreach earlier and offer an exclusive in the hopes of landing a top-tier feature that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
3. Have your client do the pitching for you: Okay, this one may seem counterintuitive since clients typically hire us to do the pitching for them. But hear me out. While only 34% of reporters find agency PR pros to be credible sources, more than half (55%) said company PR pros are more credible and almost three-quarters (74%) said the same about CEOs. I think we can all name a handful of reporters that we know that aren’t fond of working with PR teams. They’ve likely had more than their fair share of bad experiences with in the past to justify their disdain. If I have a compelling story idea or news item for one of the aforementioned individuals, I may try to convince the client to have their CEO or another C-Suite executive send the pitch instead. We will still handle the heavy lifting of conceiving the pitch angle, preparing follow up responses and so on. But if this approach results in an article that we likely wouldn’t have gotten otherwise, then it will be worth the effort.
4. Build meaningful relationships with journalists: This one cuts deep. 2020 kept us largely isolated in our homes, which for many of us served as our office, school classroom, etc. One thing I’ve missed over the past year is meeting with reporters while traveling and getting to know them and their interests better. Only 6% of journalists see their relationship with PR pros as a partnership, and this isn’t terribly surprising. For far too many PR pros, the relationship with a reporter is one-sided. Instead of thinking about what they can do for you, I implore you to think about how you can help them. Maybe you can put them in touch with a former client contact or another client your agency works with, a research analyst, VC firm, etc., for a story they’ve been hoping to write. And while we likely won’t be travelling too much this year, I plan to carve out some time on Fridays just to drop a “hello” email to several journalists. No pitches – just a note to check-in, see how they are doing, and ask if there’s anything I can do to help.
5. Share coverage on social and tag reporters: Lastly, this is one that is all too easy to forget during our busy workdays. We spend so much time and effort securing great coverage for our clients that we often forget to celebrate – and share – our successes. According to Muck Rack’s report, 62% of journalists said they track how many times their stories are shared on social media. What’s stopping you from sharing these articles with your network? Nearly six in ten (58%) journalists said they usually or always consult a company’s social media when reporting on that company. Beyond simply sharing coverage, I plan to identify and flag relevant articles that our target reporters have written so my clients can tag them on social media as well.