Webinar Recap: What’s New in Media Relations? Mixing Tech and Humanity

Since the pandemic began, PR pros have urged corporations to communicate with more empathy. The need for empathy also is apparent in media relations, a trio of panelists said earlier today (Oct. 8) during the PRNEWS webinar “Innovations in Media Relations.”

“Writing is a lonely job,” Stephen King said, probably referring to novelists. Yet panelist Rachel Lenzi, a sports enterprise reporter for the Buffalo News, made a similar claim. She, like many reporters, is working from home owing to COVID-19. Building relationships with journalists still works, she said. Her tip? Follow up an email pitch with a phone call.

“It shows the [PR] person is taking time to [make a phone call]…and it’s always great to hear a human voice,” she said.

With so many reporters laid off and furloughed, there’s a lot of stress on journalists, added Katie Miserany, head, communications and social media at SurveyMonkey. So, a key for pitching at the moment, she said, is “to try to be helpful” to reporters.

Even Gregg Castano, founder and CEO at News Direct, the automated media-distribution platform, admitted that the optimal situation for PR pros is to take advantage of time-saving technology so they have the opportunity to “pick up the phone” and build relationships with journalists. “Technology can be powerful and help keep you organized…but don’t lose touch with human beings.”

Lenzi noted, “I think back to March 13, when all the college basketball tournaments were cancelled, wondering, ‘How will we get through all this?’” Now, she realizes teamwork is critical. “I realize we all are necessary…PR people, reporters, photographers…everyone…let’s work together…let’s have more good will.”

Technology Enhances the Human Factor

In addition to covering the empathetic human side of media relations, the panelists also commented on a News Direct study Castano mentioned. Journalists, he said, like receiving pitches and releases that include multimedia, as opposed to all text.  As a result, far more visuals and media are needed in pitches as opposed to more words, he said.

Lenzi confirmed the need for visuals. Journalists don’t have time to read long pitches, she said. “If you have something that pops for me, a trend or graphic or photo, use it.” As long as it’s user friendly, “innovative packaging” that includes multimedia is “a great way” to pitch, she added.

Castano noted multimedia pitches can tell a story with few words, easing the burden on both reporters, who don’t need to read long pitches, and PR pros, who don’t need to write them.

Turning to product launch pitches, Miserany said, "Provide as much context as you can about why your product is of the moment,” perhaps through a survey.

Added Castano, “Show [the product]” with a graphic or video, but make sure to create a package that’s easy for journalists to use. As Miserany said earlier, try to be helpful.

Note: To hear about SurveyMonkey's free data and details on the News Direct platform, watch this free webinar here

Seth Arenstein is editor of PRNEWS and Crisis Insider