Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

I’ve landed on a new email list.  So, what you ask?  Aren’t we all added to new lists every day? This, however, is a specific list of reporters and media. It’s used by public relations professionals and communicators to reach different media outlets.  But, I’m not a reporter. I’ve  worked with hundreds, maybe thousands over the years though. The twist is that now I’m receiving press releases from all over the United States, and even internationally.  They are all pitching their stories, and encouraging me to cover their topic, interview their expert, promote their podcast, sponsor their event.

For those that may not know, “pitching” something to the media means contacting them with your news or topic and attempting to “sell” them on why this may be of interest. Dozens of these types of emails now arrive in my mailbox each week.  Not as many as reporters. But, enough to make me consider what it’s like on their end when communicators are trying to encourage them to cover their news, event, topic or expert.  What I’ve concluded is that it’s a mess.

Whether you’re a beginner or a more seasoned professional, media relations and preparing press releases isn’t always an easy task. Organizing your story in a way that interests your readers, while being accessible to journalists and optimized, takes a lot of practice.

Let’s take a look at the fundamentals. If you wish to work with the media, it is wise to first contemplate what medium(s) may be appropriate. There are thousands of different platforms and ways to reach your audiences. Many are going to be helpful to get the word out. Many won’t.

Understanding this and taking the time to research what is best for your specific goals is a solid place to start.  Next, determine who is the best contact.  Blanket press releases, sending to everyone on a list, isn’t effective and it may hurt your brand. It also indicates that you aren’t doing your homework.

For example, if you are promoting a special organic diet for dogs (one of the releases I received) it is a good idea to make sure the people you are contacting are reporters or contacts at media that might be interested in a dog food story. I’ve received  pitches on unique travel destinations, organic ways to lose weight, new ways to do accounting, successful ways to talk to your children, unconventional ways to handle unruly co-workers, and many, many, more. One of the releases I received listed all of the times that a particular speaker had been booked on the Oprah Winfrey show.  They were sure, that based on this, that I would want to book them.  Seemed sort of interesting, but I don’t book speakers.

To effectively work with the media, you must understand who and what they are and why they may be interested in what you wish to pitch to them. Who are their readers, listeners, or viewers? Have they covered the type of topic you are working on? Is there a tie in with a current event and your subject? Is there a local angle? Be clear. Show how your topic is relevant.  Start with a strong lead, don’t make people search for your point.  Keep it short.  Remember, your release is in competition with hundreds, maybe thousands of others.

My most successful endeavors with the media start with the fundamentals. Lead with strong messaging. Pay attention to your subject and headlines. Form relationships. Never stop researching. Don’t forget to say thank you when you achieve a good outcome.  Always be respectful.

You want to be noticed, but not for the wrong things.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising.  She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or LinkedIn.

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