12 Quite Personal PR Suggestions From an In-Demand Lifestyle Journalist
Freelance journalist Rachelle Unreich is a distinguished Australian voice in lifestyle media. Her 30 plus year career has spanned New York, LA, the United Kingdom and Asia. She has a twice-monthly column in Domain Review , she’s a contributor for Harper’s Bazaar and regularly is commissioned to write the cover story for The Age’s M Magazine. She takes to her subjects in travel, luxury, society, art and the fashion milieu with the veracity of an investigator, teasing up pithy quotes and exacting insights.
We asked Rachelle for her best advice to someone wanting to pitch their story to the media. She shared with us her enthusiasm for young businesses that have a fresh approach are brave enough to make it personal.
Here are her 12 key pieces of advice to those new to hacking their own PR.
1. BREAK THE ICE
“Firstly you CAN cold email. It’s not frowned upon. Many journalists have their email addresses published in the byline with their story, so they expect that the public will be in touch, not just PR contacts. Prepare a succinct email introducing yourself and your work.”
Check if there is a List Co. media list for your industry and region. With contact details for the leading 30 publications in each category it gives you a brilliant head start with your media comms.
2. DIVE DEEP
If you have a media list for your industry you will still need to do research on each publication or journalist for yourself. This will help you know which are a good fit. This knowledge will also help personalise a strong pitch. If there is a particular journalist you are targeting, dive deep into their body of work. “Know their work and you will have a window to their mind,” says Rachelle.
Has your contact won an award for their work that you could congratulate them on? Is there an article they wrote that really had an impact on you? Go ahead and mention it when you contact them. They will appreciate that you are interested in their work.
3. USE TRADE-GRADE TOOLS
Include a press release. Think of it as a simple one-pager. “Use a friendly tone, but keep it professional. Go straight to the point and fill it with facts,” says Rachelle.
We at List Co. recommend you attach your press release to your email AND also copy/paste it into the body of the email. Having it in the body will be super helpful to the journalist when they come to write their story and have ten tabs open. For a free guide to a sure-fire media release go here.
4. BE A COOL SOURCE
“Don’t presume to write the story,” says Rachelle. If you can bring fresh and interesting material, as well as some sharp intel on your industry, you will be seen as a resource by your media contact. It’s their job to know a newsworthy story when they see one. They have a very sharp instinct for what their audience is interested in and will know how best to build a story.
“Don’t ever say ‘You should profile me’. It shows a lack of respect”.
5. THE NEWSWORTHINESS CONCEPT
“Tie in with something newsworthy.” Rachelle gives the example of a vegan festival. “There may be a vegan festival coming up that you will be launching a new range at. Your product might not be newsworthy as a stand alone item, but drawing the journalist’s attention to the festival may pave a way to be featured as part of a story about the festival.” Any insight you can give on new trends in your industry or on consumer behaviour will add value and give you a greater shot at being included in a story.
6. STAY ON THE LINE
Once you have begun to build a relationship with the journalist you can adapt your communications to the way they like to be contacted. Initially, email is probably the best way of breaking the ice. After that they may establish with you a dialogue through social media or SMS. “Try to keep in touch, so you remain at the forefront of my mind. Ask if I prefer being emailed or called” explains Rachelle.
There are very few media people who want an unexpected phone-call from someone they don’t have a close working relationship with. The risk is that you will catch them on deadline or interrupt their concentration while working. List Co. gives you the editorial email address for key media outlets, so it’s a great tool to help build your media relationships.
7. EXPENSIVE DOES NOT EQUAL INTERESTING
“If you’re small, think of ways to make it personal in order to compete with the bigger brands. The other day a cafe owner I’m interviewing dropped by with a coffee sample. It was a simple gesture that was really appreciated.” Rachelle says that small operators shouldn’t be discouraged when they see how lavish the big brands launches are.
“The best ones have had the least to work with. Ask yourself ‘How can I make a difference with what I do have?’ Invite the journalist to your home- you don’t need an expensive venue and a boatload of influencers present to give an authentic insight into your product.”
8. LOVE CAN’T BE BOUGHT
On gifting. You are proud of your product or offering and want the journalist to experience it. However this is a tricky area as Rachelle explains: “Legitimate journalists resist ‘freebies’. We get enough free stuff. It puts us in an awkward position, in terms of journalistic integrity; we aren't actually allowed by our employers to accept gifts. It goes against our profession's code of ethics. And we don’t want to feel ‘bought’.”
Our advice is to keep your sampling strategy modest. By all means offer the Journalist an inexpensive sample. If they do accept, go to the effort to personalise it.
9. IT’S UNCOMPLICATED
“Recognise I’m time-poor, and help me do my job better.” We encourage people to see the relationship they are building with a journalist as a two-way street. Yes, they have the power to really help you, and you have the ability to help them with what they are doing. With this in mind, think of how you can make your communications digestible and uncomplicated by offering content that can be easily worked into their writing.
10. WHEN YOU GET CRICKETS
The follow-up email is an art-form. There is a fine line between a thoughtful follow-up and stalking. If you’ve sent an invitation to a preview, Rachelle suggests you might ask if they would like a reminder closer to the event. Another sound way of approaching a non-annoying follow-up is to update the journalists when there has been a significant development with the product or business, or within the industry. This may bring your pitch to the top of their inbox at a more fortuitous time. Aside from the quality of your pitch and your actual product, timing is everything.
11. TAKE SOCIAL CUES
When the day comes that you are featured in the media, sharing that press hit on your social media channels is not only smart marketing, it’s good for the journalist and the publication too. “Everyone likes positive professional feedback. We want to hear how we made a difference. We work in a vacuum, so we don't really know if our articles are well received or not most of the time.”
On tagging the publications and writer, Rachelle suggests: “ask me how I like to be linked in a social media post”.
Think through the best way to frame your hit to your different networks on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Each of these posts will have a different tone, but all should offer ways to link to the article itself, even Instagram.
Sidenote: Wondering about the best ways to get more than one link happening on Instagram? We are a bit excited about Milkshake.
12. MANNERS COST NOTHING
You have gone through a huge process and have finally been featured in the press - congratulations! But don’t return to your to-do list just yet. Remember your manners. And Rachelle specifically recommends ‘old fashioned manners’.
“A simple, handwritten card or message of gratitude is perfect.” Never forget to thank the journalist who took the time to get to know you and your business. “Make it personal. Let us know if your family liked the article.”