Behind the Headlines With Brooks Wallace
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Brooks Wallace, account manager and media specialist at Hollywood Public Relations and part of the PRSA Boston Leadership Team, says continuing to follow up after sending a pitch, even if it’s a no, is how she finds success for her clients.
In this interview, she discusses what communication professionals are doing wrong with their media relations, how social can help you widen the reach of your brand’s coverage and what the future of media relations could look like.
What do you like most about working in PR? What do you like least?
My favorite part about working in PR is the people, and my least favorite part is the large amount of time-consuming administrative and reporting work we’re tasked with.
You’ve helped brands land coverage in publications like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and more. What’s your key to success?
My personal media relations motto is “no means maybe.” Basically, that means that I’m relentless and exhaust all possible resources in order to secure ink for my clients.
In my six years in the business, I’ve been told that my relentlessness is rare, so perhaps that’s why I’m able to see the success I’ve enjoyed.
What is the biggest challenge brands face in garnering media coverage? How can they overcome it?
I’d probably say the biggest challenge is going to the wrong audience with the wrong message. So much time must be spent honing a message and researching the correct reporters.
Oftentimes, media lists are created under one beat, such as technology for example, yet communication professionals need to spend time actually reading those journalists’ stories to determine if they’re actually a fit. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of everyone’s time.
That’s easier said than done though since communication professionals are so strapped for time.
What makes a successful pitch? How can brands increase the likelihood that a reporter will respond to their pitch?
First, you need a gut feeling that this reporter will be excited about your news. That comes from diligent research, reading and dissecting their previous stories.
If you have that, then the second ingredient for a successful pitch is personalizing it. Reference previous articles they’ve written to explain why you think they’d be interested in your news.
And better yet, perhaps you have something in common like alma mater or a hometown. Play that up so it’s clear your email is coming from a human and not a mass mailing robot.
How does social media play into your media relations strategy?
Social media plays a big role in my media relations strategy — at the beginning and end stages.
Sometimes I find new journalists on Twitter or LinkedIn and check out their linked portfolios from there. Other times I use Twitter or LinkedIn to ask a reporter for their email and converse about a story, and have seen success with that strategy.
Finally, I use social media to promote coverage after it’s secured. I tweet it out myself directly from the article page so the publication is able to track shares, and I make sure to tag the publication and reporter since I know that journalists are judged based on how much engagement their stories garner.
I do the same from my PR agency’s social handles to increase the shares and eyeballs on it. And if I’m lucky, the publication tweets the story too, increasing the audience size, and I always make sure to re-tweet that.
What advice do you have for brands looking to improve their media relations?
Be strategic and hire people who are passionate about media relations. Not folks who just have pitching experience and results, but people who are truly addicted to seeing their client’s name in ink.
You’ll be able to figure that out by asking them about their pitching strategy. If they get excited and anxious to tell you all their tricks, you’ve got a winner.
How do you envision the future of media relations? What will change the most? What will remain the same?
I envision the future of media relations to modernize in terms of communication channels. As more social media channels pop up, communication professionals will have more ways to communicate with journalists, and vice versa.
But I do expect much of it to remain the same in terms of how we communicate — the majority will likely continue to live on email, and phone calls will be used when necessary, as is the case now.
One major change that we’re already seeing take shape, though, is the measurement of media relations. Brands are getting smarter about analyzing what coverage produces ROI for their business and what doesn’t, and as that progresses (as it should), I imagine PR firms and brands will bulk up on measurement resources.
Rapid Fire Round
1. My biggest pet peeve is…sneezing. For some reason, the sound of sneezing makes me cringe!
2. If I won the lottery, I’d…split it with my family, travel the world, visit every five-star spa and yoga retreat, and donate the rest to United Nations and NPR — two organizations I think make a positive difference across the globe.
3. I laugh most at…Instagram memes or #iworkinpr Tumblr GIFs.
4. The thing that gets me up in the morning is…my daunting to-do list or an exciting meeting.
5. My guiltiest pleasure is…Netflix.
6. My dream vacation is…Bali and Bora Bora with endless beaches and yoga offerings.
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