Positive publicity in quality media outlets is a powerful tool for gaining recognition and devloping trust with potential customers. But gaining it is easier said than done.
Monumental Marketing founder Jamie Love recently hosted a virtual event in which Milli Midwood, the editor in chief of Cosmopolitan Middle East, shared some tips and tricks for brands looking to get that press coverage.
PR: ‘The backbone of the publishing industry’
Press releases are not advertorials that will simply be copied and pasted directly into a publication, according to Midwood. While they can provide essential information for an article, the often generic press release sent to an editor is written in an entirely different tone to the one the publication would use. Cosmopolitan has its own distinct tone of voice, attracting the same market for generations, and, according to Midwood, each publication’s distinct readership needs to respond in a way that’s personal to the brand, which cannot be found in a press release.
Press Releases: ‘Who, What, Where, When, Why, How’
With more than 300 emails received every day, half of which are probably press releases, Midwood admitted she won’t spend her time sifting through each and every email from a PR agency. The best press releases – the ones that will immediately attract her attention and have a greater chance of leading to a response – are those where the most important details are at the forefront of the email.
Although bullet points may look lazy, short and sweet paragraphs that highlight the ‘who, what, where, when, why, how’ – the immediate information required – remain professional and also easily accessible for the recipient.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that journalists simply do not have the time pore over every email. By making their lives this much easier, PR agencies are more likely to be acknowledged, and not just discarded in the ever growing pile of press releases.
In Midwood’s opinion, We Transfer links are the worst parts of any press releases. They require far too much time and effort to download, so she prefers smaller images with lower resolutions so the journalist can visualise the PR’s point from the outset.
The subject line is definitely vital in catching the eye of who you’re writing to. Your real key words need to be involved, whether it’s the word ‘exclusive’, ‘an interview opportunity’ or ‘celebrity’. These are the words that say ‘when you open this email, it will be a personal, exciting opportunity for you and your brand’.
Target Your Newsletter
When trying to make a journalist’s life easier you may be inclined to include as much information as possible in the release. But it’s vital to target your newsletter and emails when possible, to avoid important information being lost in all the other jargon.
Taking the extra time to pitch more meticulously to your ideal editors will pay off, according to Midwood. These editors will realise they can cover the pitch from their own angle, rather than having to scout out what angle is specifically involved for them in the whole, generic press release.
Key Contacts: Building Relationships and Respecting Boundaries
Knowing who to contact can sometimes be tricky, and often depends on the size of the publishing team involved. Contacting everyone may come across as a bit excessive, and it’s important to remember that editors and writers communicate with each other. Midwood emphasises that you need to be really mindful of which section editor you’re contacting in order to avoid emails being lost or ignored.
While writers and PRs often cultivate personal relationships, which can certainly be beneficial for PRs contacting particular journalists, PRs often run the risk of blasting too many emails out on irrelevant topics. This means appropriate emails are often missed. As Love says: “Be everyone’s best friend and that will create opportunities.”
From Midwood’s perspective, as an editor-in-chief, being friends with everyone works both ways, in terms of being able to reach out to PRs for certain favours like borrowing make-up artists. However, there is a line. And sometimes that line is crossed, especially when mobile numbers are circulated around.
Despite the fast-paced industry, Midwood does not respect press releases that are sent to her via WhatsApp, voice notes, and especially Instagram DMs. It does no favours to cross the line, she says, and is definitely not professional. Being friendly while respecting personal boundaries is key. If every PR who sent an email also phoned her mobile, it would be chaos!
With the amount of emails that are sent, so many do get missed, which is why follow ups are so important. In fact, Midwood is grateful that certain PRs do follow up, because a story they simply missed in their Inbox could actually be perfect for Cosmopolitan.
It is obvious when follow ups are generic, though. These ones, where brands, names or specific angles are avoided in the email, are bound to be breezed past again.
According to Midwood, the best way to follow up is directly to the editor, in a succinct email that can grab their attention in 10 seconds.
Pitching: Do Your Research
Although it may sound obvious, addressing the right person when sending a pitch is vital. A pitch is all about why you think this particular piece of content, or that specific angle, works for an editor.
For publications like Cosmopolitan, which are strong and distinct brands, it’s clear what will and won’t work. A quick way of researching whether a pitch is appropriate is to check on the publication’s website – if nothing along the lines of the pitch comes up, they may well ignore your email.
Something digital or interactive can give a pitch that extra edge. People seem to be obsessed with video content, with TikToks and snappy videos, so a format that can work through IGTV, or a YouTube or Tiktok video could be key.
According to Midwood, these are the things that will get get your press release addressed and win you press coverage in a publication like Cosmopolitan. Each and every tip on this list is fundamental for PR agencies to look into when pitching to their clients, whether through the first email, a follow up, and definitely not a Whatsapp or DM.