This last week at my fabulous internship, I got to listen in on my very first webinar. The webinar was mostly about PR software (coughCISIONcough) and the different services it provides. In the spirit of objectivity, I must admit that haven’t tried any of its competitors (yet) so I don’t have anything to compare this software to. Nevertheless, it seems pretty cool. The media list management capabilities kick my Excel sheet’s sorry butt, ROI junkies can get their quantitative metric fix with the Chart Wizard, and the media monitoring tracks your client’s coverage with most likely with more accuracy and organization than your little intern (although this will cost drastically more than him, her, or me.)
As a student, I have this expectation: If I can take away one or two great new pieces of knowledge (something that provokes further thought) from each class, I did my job paying attention (and let’s face it: I got my money’s worth.)
So the two great things I took away:
According to the host, this one journalist spoke of a “3 Strikes” rule when it came to media pitches and press releases. Say a PR person shows that he or she hasn’t done any research (by pitching an irrelevant story, sending a press release about something that has already been covered.) The person gets three strikes, three chances to do that, and then the rest of their emails, pitches, releases, and advisories would be ignored.
This got me thinking about the importance of building relationships with reporters. It’s an investment of time, and it’s hard to do when you have a million different clients and projects to tend to. But I hope I never lose enthusiasm for the idea that less pitching is more, that building tight relationships with a network of journalists is better than sending out some mass-email to every single reporter in North America.
At my news internship, I worked primarily with the health reporter. I rode around in the news Jeep (this one time, I sat in the front!) and observed while she did stories. I couldn’t help but notice the relationships she had with the PR professionals of the local medical centers where she did most of her reporting. She could always count on them to give her timely, unique, relevant story ideas – and they could count on her to consider, and usually pursue, them. It was a professional bond, but there was an element of trust that I admired on both ends.
The host included some comments about the importance of using keywords in press releases in order to increase SEO. She described how press releases are no longer a one day event because they can be formatted as web pages and posted up on the internet – left there for anyone who Googles your client to discover.
I wish I knew more about SEO sooner in my PR education.
Overall, my press releases have gotten some much-appreciated positive feedback. People have told me before that “you’re a great writer,” or “that’s a catchy headline.” Or, I’ve gotten B’s and C’s from teachers who didn’t like my “awkward phrasing.” I’m starting to get the feeling that it’s not about captivating a reporter’s attention with a clever lead – but about using great keywords to summon the almighty search engine forces and provoking them to catapult your press release to the top results of a Google inquiry.
Maybe there’s a connection in the two great things I learned from my first webinar. Perhaps journalists aren’t going to take our stories because we had an amazingly clever headline in the press release. They are going to do our stories because there is a relationship behind the pitch, and they know we aren’t wasting their time. Search engines won’t pick up the press release because the headline is particularly entertaining, either. They’re machines. They don’t have opinions about that type of stuff. They will, however, spit out the intended results with the use of great keywords.
From now on, it’s my goal to concentrate more on relationships and keywords when writing and sending press releases. The relationships are for the people, the keywords are for the search engines. The separate focuses intersect at the crossroads between the traditional and the future – the newspapers and the internet. The road forks and in both directions there is results for my client.
Until next time,
(stealing some great phrases from my friends)
Be as you are. Just breathe. Make hope.