Jaymie Scotto Cutaia: Another month, another article in Forbes! It goes without saying that as PR professionals media engagement is a top priority. Over the 14+ years that JSA has been in business, we have always prided ourselves on garnering media attention within the tech and telecom industries by solidifying and nurturing key media relationships and partnerships that amplify our clients’ messaging. However, the media landscape has certainly changed over the years, and there is an upward trend of mainstream media interest across the tech and telecom landscape. With this in mind, I thought it best to bring in JSA’s Media Relations Manager and my friend from my MSNBC days, Sheetal Werneke, to shed some light on pitching techniques that engage mainstream journalists. Sheetal, can you tell our readers a little bit about your background and what inspired you to write this latest piece?
Sheetal Werneke: From early on in my career, mainstream news has taken center stage. I spent about a decade working my way up from local cable stations (think Wayne’s World!) to the 24-hour cable news network, MSNBC. During that time I had the opportunity to really hone in on and perfect my news ‘judgment’. In fact it became somewhat of an obsession, during a time when I worked at a local New Jersey news channel, to find the New Jersey spin on big, national stories. I also vetted THOUSANDS (cannot emphasize that point more) of pitches and found the ones that were responded to were clear and got right to the point. Before I went ‘agency-side’, the pitches that I often used from PR firms were somehow tied to a current event or big news story, and that knowledge has become invaluable throughout my time here.
JSC: Let’s not beat around the bush; telecom in particular isn’t always the talk of the town for some mainstream pubs. What’s your strategy for keeping journalists interested?
SW: I work every day to find that mainstream news peg – some call it newsjacking – and sometimes those pegs come from unusual sources, like a popular movie. It certainly requires creativity and an overall understanding of the current newscycle to connect the dots between what average Americans find engaging (social media trends, the latest smartphone release, a local internet outage, or the hottest gaming app) and how our tech and telecom clients make those everyday activities possible.
JSC: If you could give our clients your greatest piece of advice for getting covered in mainstream publications, what would it be?
SW: Take the risk to comment on news outside of your wheelhouse. We always try to position our clients as subject matter experts so they can offer thoughtful insight on generalized, mainstream tech and telecom news, as opposed to only accepting opportunities that directly promote their company. Also, as PR professionals, it’s our job to keep on top of trends, buzz-worthy topics and water cooler conversations, all while considering what might lie ahead; our clients cannot be afraid to make those predictions, too. Finally, please stay active on social media! I cannot stress how important it is to know what the ‘Twitterverse’ is talking about.
JSC: What are some mistakes to avoid when pitching mainstream media?
SW: Making sure that you are pitching to the right journalist is key. Take the time to understand what they write about and are interested in. Importantly, don’t fall back on the strategy of blasting out your pitch to a giant list and then saying a little prayer that something hits. Also, even though it seems like everything is done over email these days, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. I’ve had a lot of success with finding the right journalist just by calling a newspaper or local news station. When the person on the other end of the phone puts a voice with the email, it can spark interest.
JSC: Clickbait is huge right now. What would you say is the difference between a clickbait story and what you refer to as “the scare factor”?
SW: We have all clicked on stories that promise some vague but exciting information, forcing you to wait until the very end to then be completely let down. Empty promises annoy us all and it’s even worse when that promise has to do with something that strikes fear into your heart. One example is with a JSA client, NJFX. We used a clickbait headline – “Can the Internet Really Break?!” – without being over-the-top scary. I like to keep short, snappy headlines in mind for my subject lines to journalists. If the subject line makes them click on the email, it’s a great sign you’re on the right track.
JSC: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
SW: Don’t get frustrated (I know, much easier said than done). One thing that frustrates me often is that I know we have some really great stories and insight to offer, but it’s just getting those five minutes with the right journalist so you can convince them that’s the tricky part. I sometimes like to think of our telecom pitches being in the “how stuff works” category. Also, it’s great to look at our industry from a solution standpoint , for example when news breaks about a data breach or security issue. Just keep in mind that even the most technical industries touch regular people’s lives in one way or another. Connect those dots, and you have a media-friendly story to tell.
To read the entire article on Forbes, click here.
Interested in learning more about JSA’s approach for targeting the media? Email us at [email protected]!