How to Do PR Outreach (w/ Expert Tips, Tools & Examples)

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Effective PR is all about relationships. Apart from maintaining the existing connections, however, sometimes you have to reach out and make new ones to grow your network. Here’s when PR outreach (also referred to as media outreach) comes in. 

Below, PR experts shed some light on the meaning of PR outreach, along with best practices and real-life media outreach examples.

What is PR outreach?

PR outreach is the process of reaching out to relevant journalists, influencers, or media outlets with the purpose of introducing your business, building relationships, and increasing brand awareness (mostly through media coverage). 

Even though the meaning of PR outreach hasn’t changed much over the years—the desired outcomes, channels, and tools used for media outreach definitely have. 

In the past no one really prioritized getting backlinks, securing coverage only in online magazines, or using social media to reach out to the reporters. The truth is: There are plenty of ways to do PR outreach these days, but this doesn’t make the job easier. 

How to do PR outreach, then?

There are at least a few PR outreach tips you should follow to reach out to journalists the right way. First of all:  

1. Have a PR outreach plan

You can’t expect to get much coverage if you just pitch your stories to people who don’t know you or your business at all. In fact, the results of your PR pitches are likely to depend on the relationships you build beforehand. You might not need a detailed media outreach strategy, but it’s still important to plan your PR outreach activities in advance. 

Start with figuring out what you’re going to tell the world about your brand in the next few months, and where you’re going to publish your news. Then, focus on your media contacts—if you already know relevant journalists, divide them into categories (according to the topics they cover, for example) and create targeted lists for your PR outreach.

To get the conversation going and plan PR outreach accordingly, you might simply want to ask your contacts about the kind of stories they are interested in. Make sure you address their needs in the long-term content strategy for your newsroom, where you should keep all important information about your business (including a media kit, all published press releases and reports, as well as contact details of your PR team).

With PR tools at your disposal, you can easily create a fully-fledged online newsroom and invite your media contacts to follow it.  Joanna Drabent, CEO @ Prowly

2. Experiment with different channels and content

PR outreach is often done via email. But, there’s a catch—not all reporters find email pitches valuable (in fact, this survey from Fractl revealed that just about 20% of writers find email pitches to be very important to their work).  

What does it mean for your PR outreach plan? Basically, you shouldn’t limit yourself to just emails.

While they are the primary contact method for most journalists, try to incorporate other channels (social networks, phone, networking events) and experiment with the content of your email pitches. You can consider the following:

  • Press releases
  • A sneak peek of an interview with your spokesperson/CEO/anyone who has something relevant to say 
  • A compelling story idea
  • A report or any original data that might interest the media  
  • Resources that may be harder to find for the reporters (i.e. third party sources—consultants, analysts, academic subject matter experts) 
  • A reference to their previous work
  • Visuals 

The exact content doesn’t matter, as long as you’re clear on your PR outreach goals (i.e. arranging an interview with an executive, promoting a piece of original research, or releasing a new product announcement), and you prove that you can be a valuable source. 

Keep in mind that media outlets thrive on exclusivity, so getting the journalists access to unique content can easily help you stand out in their inbox. At the same time, don’t give away all your answers just yet—always give the reporter an incentive to contact you for more. 

3. Avoid mass pitching

No matter the channel or tools you choose for your media outreach, it’s crucial not to “overuse” them. Keep in mind that effective PR revolves around relationships, and these require a personalized approach. 

To start with, always pitch the right story to the right person. This way, you’re more likely to get coverage and be seen as a credible source of information.

With Prowly, you can get contact recommendations based on the contents of your press release and always pitch relevant journalists that are likely to be interested in your story.

Once you’re clear on what to pitch and who to contact, try coming up with different angles to tailor your message to its recipient. 

If I had to give out one tip on how to do PR outreach the right way, it would be to truly personalize the correspondence and make it personable to the particular reporter, editor, or producer. I am against mass emails and have seen more success when pitching them specifically based on what they traditionally cover and personalizing my media angle to their audience. – Leah Frazier, President @ Think Three Media 

This brings us to the next point: 

4. Do your research

You might think otherwise, but a lack of research before media outreach is one of the biggest mistakes PR professionals make. In fact, 80% of publishers say a pitch irrelevant to their beat is a very common reason for declining a pitch.

Don’t make the same mistake. Before you start reaching out to journalists, at least check their previous work and what they publish on social networks. This should help you make a personal connection, especially if you come across as friendly and genuine.  

As Aly Jamison, Public Relations Manager @ RAIN Group explains: 

Journalists know when they get something that’s generic or if you put in the extra effort to research them. I typically look at their LinkedIn profiles to see if I can uncover any similarities to mention in the beginning. I also review their Twitter account (not only their bio but also recent Tweets) because sometimes you can find other details to show that you did your homework.

For instance, she recently reached out to a reporter to share new virtual selling research. She noticed in their bio that they’re a Los Angeles Lakers fan. Given the timing of the playoffs (they just came off a huge win), she used that in her opening to form a connection:  

Email pitch re-created in Prowly
The email pitch re-created in Prowly

She received a response right away, indicating that they’re planning to use the research she provided in an upcoming article. While it takes a little extra time, doing your research and customizing pays off.  

5. Make it timely

Media pitches also need to be relevant to the times, which is why you might want to connect your pitch to something new that just has happened, or offer a brand new asset to an existing story. Jennifer Mancini, Founder @ Mancini Media Strategy explains why: 

Publications are in constant competition to provide their audience with the newest information and breaking headlines. Chances are, if your pitch isn’t eye-catching and addressing a current issue, it won’t be given a second thought. A good way to make sure this doesn’t happen is by constantly monitoring the news cycle. See what different outlets are covering so you can stay on top of it. 

6. Have them at hello

According to Fractl, the majority of top-tier publishers receive between 50 and 500 pitches per week, while most of the writers cover one story at most per day. To beat the odds when reaching out to journalists, it’s important to capture their attention right away.

Grab their focus with a stand-out subject line and make it catchy (I’m personally a fan of alliteration) or customize it. Using a general two-word subject like “Story Idea” is probably not going to get a reporter to open up your email or at the very least, they’ll skim very quickly looking for keywords of what the pitch is actually about. The easier that you make a reporter’s job for them by supplying all of the information upfront and eliminating the need for redundant back-and-forth emails, the more inclined they’ll be to write about the topic at hand.  Kristen Skladd, Senior PR Executive @ The Gab Group 

7. Structure your pitch

It’s important to realize that a journalist on a busy schedule will most likely scan your pitch first to see if it’s worth a closer look. Make sure you structure it the right way to make the most important details stand out immediately. 

Sandra Coffey, Media Publicity Mentor, usually divides her pitches into four paragraphs: 

  • Paragraph 1: Lead off with your story and, ideally, mention a piece written by the journalist that relates to yours. Here, you are showing your relevance.
  • Paragraph 2: State clearly what you want the journalist to do. Do you want them to interview a new hire, cover an event, do a story on a study you have done? This gives the journalist an idea of how much time they will need to actually cover your story. 
  • Paragraph 3: Explain why this story is important. Really ask yourself what is the most important thing a journalist needs to know about it. This is a good place to link to your site, your report, or any other resource that might be valuable. 
  • Paragraph 4 – Sign off. Yes! You are finished. Try to have an interesting sign-off but this is not essential. Being polite works just fine. Remember to put in your contact details, though. 

By sending in a short pitch that is relevant to them, you are giving yourself the best possible chance of staying on their radar. Sandra’s advice is that it should be no longer than 200 words (anything over that and you need to edit it back). 

8. Be patient

Relationships aren’t built overnight. Make sure you follow up but don’t constantly email the journalists for a publishing date even if they decided to cover your story. With media outreach, there are no guarantees but you can increase your chances of getting coverage by following the above-mentioned PR outreach tips.

Ultimately, it all comes down to patience. Never harass the media to determine whether your story will run. Kristin Marquet Chester, Owner @ Marquet Media, LLC

PR outreach tools 

Since 59% of PR pros feel that technology will drive considerable change to the industry, it should come as no surprise that PR outreach software like Prowly is used frequently to find new contacts, manage media lists and send email pitches

Jennifer Mancini recommends the following PR outreach tools: 

1. Besides LinkedIn, there are some great tools and tips I teach my clients to source contact’s emails on their own. Straight up Google-search it. Often, you can pull up the business page or individual’s personal page where they will have contact info listed. There almost always is at least an option to contact them from a form on their page.

2. If you’re trying to reach a reporter, journalist, or someone in the media, go to their profile on the outlet’s site that they work for. Often there will be a link to email them directly or to connect with them via social media.

3. Leverage PR outreach software like Prowly that allows you to access contact emails.

PR outreach email templates

It’s tempting to use a PR outreach template when you’re looking for an easy solution to get media coverage.

Google “media outreach email templates” and you’ll find a bunch of ready-to-use templates.

But here’s the thing. They’re not effective. And when you’re pitching to journalists, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. You have to stand out from the crowd.

If you’ve read the previous part of this post you should know by now that personalizing your PR outreach email is the only way to go. It’s obvious when somebody is using a template and didn’t even bother to check what we’re currently writing about. These emails land in the junk folder.

It’s the same with media outreach, so keep this in mind. Put in the extra effort—the person on the other side will appreciate it.

Media outreach examples

As can be seen, there’s a lot to keep in mind when planning PR outreach. It’s not an easy task, especially if you target top-tier publications and contact the journalists or editors for the first time. It’s not impossible, though. 

Here are two examples of successful PR outreach attempts. If you’re looking for more, check out media pitch email examples from real PR experts.

Media outreach example #1 

Securing the publication in media outlets like Vogue is never easy. The email pitch I sent was successful mainly thanks to the ongoing conversation that we had for over a week. Even though we were facing time-zones troubles, we didn’t only secure the coverage but also build a relationship in the process. The ideal situation is when the journalist is treating you as a source to write, not an intrusive press officer who will revolt his or her article into an unpredictable story at the final end. – Karolina Kroliczek, Founder @ PR Insight in London  

PR outreach example from PR Insight

Media outreach example #2

The client, Scots vintage specialist Scaramanga, provided vintage items to be used as props in the Disney live-action movie Dumbo. I linked the storyline of the movie (a baby elephant being separated from its mother) to having the client help real-life homeless elephants by donating 25% of the profits from sales of similar items during the UK cinematic release of the film to European circus elephant rescue charity Elephant Haven. – Alan S. Morrison, Owner @ ASM Media & PR

Media pitch example re-created in Prowly
An excerpt from the press release re-created in Prowly

The results? Total possible reach 2.99 million people, earned media in 5 Scottish titles, shared media by 2 organizations, and £300 raised for the elephants. 

→ See more examples of successful media pitches

PR outreach tips – key takeaways 

  • Have a PR outreach plan that incorporates different journalists, channels, and content.
  • Avoid mass pitching. Personalization is the key to success!
  • Do your homework. Always research where your story can fit and pitch the right person.
  • Make sure you’ve got the timing right.
  • Structure your pitch. Don’t ramble on for paragraphs, try to grab the attention immediately.
  • Use PR outreach tools to facilitate the whole process. 
  • Get creative – let the media outreach examples inspire you.
  • Be patient. Seeing the results of media outreach simply takes time. 

That’s it. I hope you’re ready to maximize PR outreach with all these tips, tools, and examples. Once you’re at it, you should definitely give Prowly a try (especially since it’s free for 7 days).

Cover photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash