Learn why following up is your most powerful tool when pitching news reporters with our guest, Marjorie Comer, news consultant for Axia Public Relations. Marjorie is an award-winning public relations professional. Clients love Marjorie’s work ethic, speed, and diligence.
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About Marjorie Comer
Marjorie Comer is an award-winning public relations professional. Clients love Marjorie’s work ethic, speed, and diligence. She has worked at Axia Public Relations since October 2011.
At Axia, Marjorie serves as a public relations consultant for the PR firm’s national clients. She’s a skilled writer and works hard to ensure the firm’s clients receive the white-glove experience. She also blogs about public relations trends and best practices.
Marjorie’s contact info and resources:
About your host, Jason Mudd
On Top of PR host, Jason Mudd, is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands and fastest-growing companies. Since 1994, he’s worked with American Airlines, Budweiser, Dave & Buster’s, H&R Block, Hilton, HP, Miller Lite, New York Life, Pizza Hut, Southern Comfort, and Verizon. He founded Axia Public Relations in July 2002. Forbes named Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies for 2021.Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/OnTopofPR)
- Hi, this is Jason Mudd, and you've tuned in to the latest episode of "On Top of PR". I'm joined by my colleague, Marjorie Comer. And we're talking about the power of following up to get more media coverage for your company and your brand. During this time together, we're gonna talk a little bit about how she uses follow-ups to get in front of media and clients and contacts. In addition, we're gonna talk about a couple of techniques for how to stand out when you are pitching the news media. This is a great episode, and I know you'll be glad you tuned in. If you like what you hear, be sure to share this with others. Here we go! Welcome to "On Top of PR" with Jason Mudd, presented by ReviewMaxer.
- Hello and welcome to "On Top of PR". I'm your host Jason Mudd with Axia Public Relations. And today I'm joined by my friend and colleague Marjorie Comer. Marjorie has been working with Axia Public Relations for 10 years. And today we're gonna talk about the power of following up when it comes to being an outstanding public relations practitioner. Marjorie, welcome to the show! We're glad you're here.
- Thanks, Jason! I'm so glad to be here.
- Yeah, we're really glad that you are here and excited about the topic that you and I have been discussing and helping our audience learn how to get more media coverage by improving their media relations by using something that you and I talk about often, which is using the power of follow-up to be able to leverage the power of PR for your brand and your clients.
- Yeah. Follow-up is one of my favorite things. I started at Axia 10 years ago, and the whole reason I'm at Axia is because I followed up with you, Jason. I had sent an email asking about an informational interview and hadn't heard back 'cause I wanted to get to know Jacksonville. My husband had been in the Navy, or was in the Navy at the time, and I wanted to find out some places I could maybe get a job. So I reached out to you about an informational interview, hadn't heard back, followed up, and you said, "Hey, let's get you in here. Let's schedule an interview and had my interview and was hired that day, which was really amazing. And 10 years later here, I am talking to you about following up and the importance of it.
- That's a great story, Marjorie! And I really like it because you're right. I mean, people get busy, or maybe they're even just tentative and not sure yet, and when you can follow up with them, it gives you an opportunity to really shine. So I take notice when people follow up, and I think good things happen when you follow up. There's something I call balanced ambition. And so you have to kind of demonstrate that balanced ambition. You don't wanna follow up so much that you make it uncomfortable or awkward or frustrating for other people, but certainly following up pays big dividends. And I agree with you 100%. That's how you got an interview at Axia, and one of the best business decisions I made. So thank you so much for sharing that story.
- Of course, of course. It's definitely a pleasure to work with you. And like I said, if I hadn't followed up, who knows where I'd be right now?
- Yeah. You never know. Well, good. So talk about following up and some of your tips for working with news media.
- Yeah, so following up, you may have a media list that you may start with, and I kind of have recommended that you look at your media list and you find your top maybe 25% from that media list, and you may send them either an email or prep them with a warm, with a phone call. And then you may follow up after that initial email. So what I tend to do, or like to do with that initial email is I may start with a sentence that ends in a question like, "Hey, would you like to know more about such and such?" It gives them an opportunity to respond, but then it also allows for you to follow up then with that reporter. So that's kind of how I initially start the conversation. And then I go from there. And if I haven't heard back from them, I usually follow a five to nine business day kind of schedule where then I'll follow up again with maybe another tidbit of information and see if that makes them pique their interest. Reporters are busy. They get hundreds of emails each day. Part of it takes care of keeping your subject line short and sweet but also something interesting. So those are two ways that I initially make that contact and then do that initial follow-up.
- That's excellent. So let's rewind a step. You said several things that I understand, but some of our audience might not understand. So when it comes to putting together a news media list, where do you start, and how do you put that together?
- Well, with a media list at Axia, we use a number of different resources or third-party media lists that we will look at, maybe reporters based on their topic or media outlet, things like CNN or "Wall Street Journal". But we also look at maybe some of those localized outlets, for instance, "The Kansas City Star" or "The Jacksonville Business Journal" or "The Florida Times Union". So we look at all of those things, as well as, like I said, some of their beats that they write about. If you want to pitch someone about a franchisor, then you will want to reach out to maybe a business reporter versus a reporter who may cover restaurants. That's not going to fit your needs. So you'll wanna make sure that your media list is groomed well, and you may wanna start with, depending on the news, your larger media outlets that will make a more significant impact. And so then you'll start there. You'll want to maybe cull your list and pitch, like I said, those top 25%. And then from there, once you've originally done that initial outreach, then you may want to then follow up with maybe that top 10%. Those are the people that you really want to make that relationship and that connection with and see a news article for your client.
- Okay. That's great. So you take like a media database service and you go in and you type in your parameters and kind of point and click a little bit of what you're looking for exactly. And the media database, the third-party software or service comes back with results that match the criteria you set up. So I think what you're describing is you might click on certain industries that the media lists might apply to or certain beats that that particular reporter covers, and then it comes back with a list, and what do you do from there?
- So then, like I said, then you have your list, and you may look at it to determine what maybe interests the client the most. And then you'll then look down and figure out the top 25%, because I mean, all day if there's 200 people on that list, then you can't pitch all 200 people. You'll wanna maybe cull that down and even cull it down from 200, that 25%, that's still a lot. So you really wanna look at what is going to have the most impact for your client, reach out to them, connect, like I said, pitch maybe via email, or depending on who it is, you may wanna pitch first via phone. "Hey, I was gonna send you this." Some reporters, they're on the go. They don't check their voicemails. Email is a great way or even reaching out to them via Twitter.
- Well, I'm glad you mentioned reaching out to them via Twitter. So in a hypothetical situation, if you've got a big news announcement you're gonna make, say in a couple weeks from today and you know it's coming, how might you kind of warm up those connections and contacts in advance of just kind of sending them news and hope they cover it, Marjorie?
- Well, like I said, Twitter is a great way to do that. There's a lot of reporters on Twitter. So what I may do is after I've got that media list, then I will make sure I'm following them on Twitter. I will retweet some of their articles or like them as they've come out. I may respond to their tweet to say, or an article, "Hey, really enjoyed XYZ from your news article," and include the headline. I'll also do that in my initial pitch as well if there's something that really kind of ties in that topic and helps to build that relationship.
- That's great, Marjorie. I completely agree. I think it's so important that you build a relationship and a foundation first. Twitter and social media is a great way to do that, just kind of warming up the contact to the relationship and getting to know them. And there's no better way to get to know somebody than to either compliment them in an authentic way or to ask them questions about themselves and what they do, whether it's a hobby or their profession. So I think that's a great tip. And it's kind of like, here, we're talking about the power of following up, but really if you kind of follow up in a way that's kind of warming them up versus just coming to them because you want something or need something from them, I think that's very helpful. The other thing that I wanna add, I think, for our audiences to understand the idea of that just because we wanna pitch a story to a news outlet because it's what our client is looking for, we've gotta turn the tables and make it so that the newsroom, and you know this well, so the newsroom and their audience cares about the topic and what's in it for them. And so sometimes there's a little bit of tension there between what the client wants and what the newsroom wants because what their audience wants. And so you've gotta find kind of that Venn diagram where everything intersects and it makes a lot of sense for the news outlet and the reporter to cover it because it makes sense for the audience at home to receive information, education, and value from that news report.
- For sure. One of my favorite stories, and I don't know Jason if you even remember this, but we had a client that was going to be launching one of their new products at a trade show conference. And I had gone through the media list that we're going to be at the event and had found a reporter and had her bio. And it said she liked gardening. And so when I sent her an email to reach out to her, first I asked how her garden was, added it as a PS. We, I think had like 15 emails at least going back and forth, not only about the client, but just about our gardens. We had some Japanese beetles at my house that year with our garden and some squash bugs. So she and I kind of hit it off. She ended up showing me even a picture of her house and her flower gardens. And I mean, she was in Virginia, and I mean, it was all about building that relationship. And we did end up getting an interview for our client, but it was just a very cool just because I read that part in one of her bios that said that she likes gardening and was able to connect with her, which was an awesome accomplishment.
- Yeah. I think that's fabulous. You're describing the perfect environment of where we're putting the relationships back into public relations. And I think that's so important and critical because oftentimes people just get focused on the side of getting publicity or getting another article or earned media coverage, but really it's about the longterm benefit to society as a whole and to the relationship itself, not just about getting a little bit more ink or a little bit more airtime on behalf of a client. And so I think that's a great technique, and I really like how you described that. I think you've got other stories, right?
- Yeah. I mean, I have a few others. What you said, too, is it's not just about getting another story or another ink about the client, but you also wanna be a trusted resource for these reporters. You don't wanna just, ope, they needed me today because I had a story for them. You want to be able to be that, your client and even yourself to be that thought leader that, "Hey, we're working on this type of story. Would you be able to share some insight?" So I think that that's really important too, and that's building those relationships. And part of that deals with that follow-up. Without follow-up, pitches tend to just die or are buried. I've had several pitches that I've sent that have then led to a news article. We had a client that declined their PPP loan and based on pitch and then follow up with that mentioned in "The Wall Street Journal", included in several articles with that. So that was very exciting all because of following up.
- Yeah, absolutely. I mean, they say, you hear all this talk about in sales, a typical salesperson stops following up too soon and loses their sales opportunity. And I think it really applies also to a lot of other professions, including media relations where I don't wanna say the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but the idea is that it's all about timing. And so you may have pitched them on a great story one day, but they were on special assignment out of the office or unable to work on it. And it was something that piqued their interest, but it just didn't land at the top of the priority list for that day. But if you can stay in front of them in a polite way, then I think it really pays some big dividends. And I've seen that in and my experience also. And so every time I hear somebody mention about how most people, most salespeople don't follow up more than once or twice, and they really had to follow up 12 times to get the deal closed, I think very similarly about our efforts for telling a great story. And you mentioned earlier, you might follow up you 10 calendar days later. And I think what a lot of people may not realize is that works great on like feature stories and kind of more evergreen-type stories. Certainly on breaking news, we have to follow up a lot more regularly or when news is particular timely. 10 days later, it might be dead depending on the topic, but if it's something that's about a product or a feature story, certainly we can follow up with that 10 calendar days later and see a lot of success. Do you agree with that?
- Oh, definitely. Definitely. There's been times we have needed to have a reporter's cell phone number, which has been very handy. But that quick follow-up, knowing, also making sure that you've prepped the client, like, "Hey, this is going to be a quick turnaround so you really need to be available because this is breaking news." Just being able to follow up by phone, by email, any way that you're able to is very important.
- I love that. What you're also reminding me of is the idea that how important it is to have cell phones, right? If you don't have their cell phone number during the pandemic, how in the world are you gonna get a hold of them if you can't reach them with something urgent or pressing. And so that's been one thing I've seen that's been a challenge, both just in regular corporate communications and working with business contacts and colleagues. And also, certainly working with the media is they're not sitting around a desk or haven't been for a sitting around at a desk. And some of those folks don't wanna know or just don't know how to check their voicemail remotely. And so I can imagine how many of their voicemail boxes are full during this period of time during COVID. So I'm sure having cell phones has been incredibly important
- So Marjorie, let's take a quick break and come back on the other side after this quick announcement, and we'll keep our conversation going about using the power of following up to leverage the power of PR for your brand and your company. You are listening to "On Top of PR" with your host, Jason Mudd. Jason is a trusted advisor to some of America's most admired and fastest growing brands. He is the managing partner at Axia Public Relations, a PR agency that guides news, social, and web strategies for national companies. And now back to the show!
- Welcome back to "On Top of PR". I'm your host, Jason Mudd. And today I'm joined by Marjorie Comer. Marjorie has been with Axia Public Relations for over a decade now, and we're thrilled to have her on the show. She's giving some inside secrets and trade secrets as to how she goes about following up with media contacts to get media coverage. Marjorie, welcome back. We're glad that you're here and continuing the conversation. During the break, we were chatting just a moment ago about a story of when we had a client on CBS's "Undercover Boss". And tell us more about your story there and ultimately your tip.
- Yeah, that was definitely a fun client to work with, getting a client on "Undercover Boss", that was amazing, being able to live tweet during the show. But really the preparation before that episode aired, we were reaching out to industry publications and trying to get news coverage, interviews prior to the event. Well, one thing that really worked for me was following up with those, 'cause we had such a deadline as to when the episode was gonna air and preparing before the episode aired. So following up, I think it was my third follow-up, which I didn't follow that 10-day timeline because like I said, it was such a quick turnaround and around the Christmas holiday. So reporters were also out out of town, like most people are, but following up, and I gave specific times like, "Hey, would you like to speak with our client at X time or on X day?" That really helped to secure that interview because they were able to quickly look at their calendar to say, "Oh, I'm available" or "No, how about we do this day instead?" One thing that I have tried to do over my 10 years is that I try to offer, "Hey, please give me three times clients that you may be available" or even the reporter, "Give me three times that you would be available to speak with our client." Because that three times, CEOs or executives of companies aren't always available at that exact time when a reporter may be. So to being able to offer three times is very helpful.
- Well, I love that tip of three options. And I also love going back to what I said earlier about how pitching media is quite a bit similar to sales, and one adage in sales is you always ask for a very specific time as opposed to just a general time. And you hit the nail on the head, you typically can just say, "Hey, are you available Thursday at 2:00 PM Eastern time to interview the CEO?" And a quick no is better than a forever maybe. And so they might say no to that time, but like you said, they might come back and offer another time, or you have the opportunity to offer another time, but it's a very specific ask. And I find that you get a more specific response when you give them a specific option like that. So, yeah, that's a really good tip, Marjorie.
- Thanks! Yeah, that specific ask, getting that yes or no, can then lead to several additional emails and contacts with that reporter. "No, that's not something I'm interested in," but that's also something that a reporter who may be out in the field can then very quickly yes, no, maybe. They can very quickly respond to that to answer your need.
- Yeah, I've never thought about that, but that's also very good. Do you have a other stories or examples you wanted to share during our time together?
- Well one thing I was gonna say, we've talked a lot about following up with reporters and connecting with the news media, but something else that a lot of people may not realize or think about is following up with clients. That is just as important as following up with the news media, because may be waiting for a client to approve a news release or approve a pitch or share some other news with you about a product launch that they're doing or some charity work that they're doing, but you're sitting there kind of waiting on them, and then they feel like maybe you've not done your job. But you may be waiting on them, and it's a funny little dance that you're doing. So one thing that I tend to do is I try to schedule a time in my calendar each week to follow up with my different clients to say, "Hey, this is outstanding," or "Have you had a chance to look at this?" Or "Do you have five minutes for a phone call?", things like that. And once they're scheduled in your calendar, it's a lot harder to overlook that or to just get in maybe get in a rut where you're not following up with clients or reporters. Put things in your calendar because that's where you're going to remember to follow up with them.
- Well, and a lot of our audience, they may not have clients like we do, but they certainly have clients that they're serving internally within their organization. And so a client might be their supervisor, the CEO of the company, a subject-matter expert or thought leader within the organization or division head of a company. And so everybody has clients just like everybody has customers. And at the end of the day, you're right, scheduling time to do that. I think at Axia we have seen from industry research that 2:00 or 3:00 PM on Thursday is the best time to follow up with somebody for an end of the week deadline. So that's a perfect time just to nudge and kind of remind somebody kindly or in a courteous way to say, "Hey, just a reminder, this is due by the end of the week." And you send that or even better yet, schedule that email to go out as a reminder. We all know that people are busy. They forget to do things. The Lord knows I do. And I need a little prompt here and there or a little nudge to get something done. And I think again that falls under that balanced ambition and professional follow-up that we were describing earlier.
- Definitely. And I think it has come to even more light during the pandemic that people are busy. A lot of people are managing their kids at home. They are managing working from home and maybe not just themselves, but their spouse and a number of different things. So really that follow-up is just even more important today than it was 10, 15 years ago. Something else, Jason, that you had mentioned, at Axia we schedule our emails two or three o'clock. Well, something else to keep in mind when you are following up, or as I said, when I sent an email and said, "Hey, are you available at XYZ time?", well knowing what your clients or the reporters, what their time standard is or what coast they may be on is also important to keep up, being on the East Coast or the Midwest or the West Coast or Mountain time. You never know exactly where that reporter may be. So you should try to find out where they are and then schedule based off of that. If you're on Central time and you are trying to schedule an interview with a reporter for East Coast time, the white glove experience is very important, especially with following up. So you may have to do the work yourself where you're thinking in advance. So you may be trying to schedule an interview for the client who is in Central time for 2:00 PM. Well, you'll be emailing or telling the reporter that it needs to be 3:00 PM Eastern time so that there's no confusion. You don't want that reporter to be waiting at 2:00 PM Eastern time. Well, the client's on Central time, and they're only at one o'clock in the afternoon. So then it looks bad on the client as well as on yourself.
- Yeah. I love that tip. That's something that's so interesting. Depends on who you're doing business with, but so many people are doing business in one time zone instead of multiple time zones. And I know sometimes we're doing business in a lot of time zones, and that can be a struggle for me to think through all that math of figuring out who's where, and if you're in one time zone, a client's in another, and a news outlet or another contact that you're introducing to them is in a whole nother time zone, that could be a lot to manage. And so, but what I'm really hearing you say is a good reminder of just being extremely accommodating and being that liaison, that ombudsman, that ambassador for everybody involved. And so like you're saying, I find that the real savvy PR person is considerate enough to think of, okay, I'm writing this to this contact who is in this time zone. So instead of talking about my time zone I'm gonna write it in a way that it's all about their time zone. And I'm gonna do the heavy lifting ahead of time to communicate to them what times I'm available in their time zone. And we have a colleague here at Axia who has been in really remote time zones. And one thing they picked up on very quickly is just because it's a morning where you are, you probably don't greet that person, say "Good morning." You greet them in their time zone, which might be "Good afternoon," for example. And I think that's just good etiquette to put that person above yourself in many ways and think about what they're seeing. So they may say, so for example, you might say "Good afternoon," or they might say "Good afternoon" to you, and you say "Good morning" to them, and I think that goes a long way.
- I agree. I agree. And sometimes even talking about the weather, with my husband's Navy career, we've moved around quite a bit while working at Axia, but some people don't realize that, hey, I'm not in the same city or the same state that they may be in because of my husband's job. So that is important. There've been times when I've been working at Axia, I was in Hawaii connecting with you, Jason and colleagues. And I mean, that's amazing that we're in this time of technology that we can do that, but it is something that you have to stop and think about. So no matter what you may be doing as a business professional, you need to be thinking about your clients first. It shouldn't all just be about you.
- Yeah, absolutely. Be thinking about your clients, be thinking about your contacts and relationships, wherever they might be within other organizations or other newsrooms, and really just put other people first, and especially in your writing, I think putting other people first. We regularly recommend to our clients that you put the audience who you're actually writing to, you make them the subject of what you're writing. You put them in the spotlight as opposed to boasting or bragging about the company. So anyway, wow, this has been a very good episode, lots of practical techniques and tactics that you can use when it comes to practicing public relations. Marjorie, thank you so much for being here and sharing these tips! What's a good way that someone can get in touch with you if they have follow-up questions to what we talked about here today?
- Well, you can hit me up on Twitter, and you can also reach out to me on LinkedIn. Marjorie Comer is my name.
- Excellent. Marjorie, we're so glad you were here. Thank you for sharing some of your smarts today. And with that, this is another episode of "On Top of PR" I'm Jason Mudd, your host. I was really glad to be here, and I'm glad you're here. If you found value in today's conversation, would you please share this episode with a colleague or leave us a review on your favorite platform that you consume our content on? Otherwise, we wish you well and much success in your efforts of pitching news media and performing and practicing public relations. Be well.
- [Announcer] This has been "On Top of PR" with Jason Mudd presented by ReviewMaxer. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode and check out past shows at OnTopOfPR.com.