Media Relations: How to Succeed When All You Get Is Voicemail.

angry_baby1Pitching and media relations 10 years ago was much easier than today. Why? Because a decade ago editors, reporters and news producers used to answer their phones. Today, however, media professionals are plagued with smaller staffs and the need to report news faster. Today, reporters are on deadline 24/7, and have more pressing responsibilities than answering PR phone calls.

Yet for us public relations professionals, getting media on the phone is absolutely critical. How are you supposed to build relationships? How are you supposed to get feedback from media? How are you supposed to land media coverage if you only talk to voicemail all day?

The solution to media relations success does not involve crossing your fingers and hoping for a human voice. It requires creativity and tenacity.

1. In-person meetings: Whether you are scheduling a media tour or scheduling meetings at trade shows or events, in-person meetings are one of the best ways to build relationships. Next best thing is an introductory meeting by phone. Certainly this still requires getting in touch with media. However, we find media to be responsive by email when it comes to scheduling trade show demos, in-person meetings, etc. However, it’s all about the pitch and showing media you can provide them some kind of value.

2. Social media: Follow key reporters on social. It will help you better understand who they are, their stories and sometimes tip you off to what they are working on next. But avoid pitching through social unless media has indicated otherwise.

3. Track and respond to current stories: Follow your key reporter stories and respond with insight as appropriate.

4. Don’t give up: If you have a good story to tell, don’t stop at one phone call or one email. While I’m sure media doesn’t like this tip, you have to continue to reach out. If you are using a program like Cision to distribute your pitches/news releases, you can track who is opening the email and open rates. This helps to access results and strategize email subject lines, and might provide information on what beat reporters are most interested.

Years ago I read a statistic that it takes 7 touch points to get media to respond. I’m sure this number has increased since then. Bottom line… it takes time, it takes tenacity and it takes creativity. Don’t give up!

Jennifer Manocchio


After starting her career with Edelman in Chicago, Jennifer joined Sweeney and quickly established herself as an exceptional industry innovator. In 2004, she opened Sweeney’s first full-service office outside of Cleveland and quickly rose through the ranks to become agency president. Jen leads by example and without fear. She has been critical to agency growth throughout the past decade and continues to lead the agency into the future.