Jason Mudd, APR, is a trusted adviser and dynamic strategist for some of America’s most admired brands. 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 in July 2002. Forbes named Axia as one of America’s Best PR Agencies.
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More about Jason Mudd
Clients love Jason’s passion, innovation, candor, commitment, and award-winning team. In an increasingly tech-forward world, Jason’s grasp of technological demands on companies provides his clients in multiple sectors a unique advantage toward reaching their top audiences. After teaching himself HTML in 1994, Jason helped pioneer internet marketing strategies as an early adopter of e-commerce, search engine optimization (SEO), and social media, inspiring tech giants like Yahoo.
At Axia, Jason attracts, develops, retains, innovates, and leads top PR talent and clients. He oversees strategic communications for the firm’s national clients and provides high-level consultations to client leadership teams at billion-dollar global brands, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer, including spokesperson training, crisis communications management, analytics, social media, online reputation management, and more.
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Episode recorded: October 7, 2021
- Welcome to "On Top of PR" with Jason Mudd. This solo cast episode is brought to you by media monitoring company, Burrelles. Learn more at burrelles.com/ontopofpr. And now, here's Jason Mudd.
- Hello, and welcome to "On Top of PR." I'm your host, Jason Mudd with Axia Public Relations. Today is a solo cast where it's just you and I, and I'm sharing topics, tips, and trends in public relations. Today, I wanna talk to you about why didn't our news release get coverage. I get asked that, sometimes, from different companies, and I wanna be able to address this question that a lot of people ask. And so, let's dive into this topic today. So, why didn't our news release get coverage? Well, first of all, I think we have to set the table with understanding the environment and newsrooms.
Newsrooms are very busy, they're very hectic, they're very stressful, and research shows that for every 100 pitches or news releases, an individual in the newsroom receives, they only have time to write about one, maybe two of those, or to cover one or two of those topics. So, you have to really make sure you're standing out from the crowd, number one. And that's what I really wanna focus on today is how do we make sure our news stands out from the crowd and from the competition, because truly, you're in competition with other new stories that are being pitched, or even being assigned by an editor to a news reporter. Again, these tips are gonna be true and relevant, whether we're talking about some kind of web content, or a newspaper, or radio, or television, or even a blog or a podcast, or video casts. So let's jump right in. So why didn't our news release get news coverage? Again, I mentioned it's probably because of the competition and how do you stand out. Well, the way you stand out is you make sure you have number one, a newsworthy topic. So in the show notes, we'll put a link to our elements of news, article that we've written that's very popular, one of the most popular items on our website, actually. And so, we're gonna include that with the show notes here, and you can dive into the 10 elements of news and what makes something newsworthy. But at the end of the day, something is newsworthy when it's unique and interesting to the, ultimately, the audience that's consuming the news article or the news story itself.
So if it's not interesting to people outside of your organization's walls, it's probably not gonna be newsworthy. And I think that's what's important, and kind of the guiding light for you to think about. Also, when you're sharing content, you wanna make sure it's helpful to that audience, either makes their day more interesting or entertaining, or it helps them be better at their job or helps them better manage their finances, or it just does something to help them, the audience or the consumers, whether that's consumers of the content that are consumers in the marketplace, or it's consumers within your industry, B2B buyers, business to business buyers, ultimately, that news needs to be impactful and relevant to them. And you'll see that content in our 10 Elements of News, and I believe we've done a previous solo cast on that topic, which we'll also link to in the episode notes. But other than the topic, it's also about relationships, and contacts, and connections. So for example, if you send your news release to a newsroom contact, and then you don't have a relationship there, they're probably just gonna look at you as being just one of many, instead of one of a person that I have relationship with, and I've worked with before, and I like them, and I trust them, and I wanna help them, or I wanna be part of what they're doing. And so you can't, you know, I could have a great relationship with a producer, and I could have been the best man in his wedding, for example, and still, if my story is not newsworthy, it's still not gonna get coverage. And so, you still have to have a newsworthy topic, but if it's kind of in the middle, or they're a little tentative about covering, what would push it over the edge is if they have a pre-existing relationship with you. So when it comes to relationships, you wanna build those relationships up front before you haven't ask, before you're asking for a favor, in many ways, you wanna find a way to be helpful, and trustworthy, and be a reliable source for that reporter or that newsroom contact before you're asking them to cover your story.
Now, sometimes you might say, "Well, that's not possible cause I didn't know I needed a relationship with this person until we had this piece of news, or until they got assigned this beat, or until they joined this news organization." So the first step is to be prepared, start preparing for those relationships, identify maybe five or 10 contacts that are in newsrooms in your industry, or that reach your target consumer and start getting to know them now, start following them and engaging with them on social media, so you have relationship there. Reach out to them and just say, "Hi, I'm Jason Mudd I'm with Axia Public Relations. We work with clients in the industry that you cover." Or, "We work with companies who serve the consumers that read your newspaper or watch your TV show, or tune into your podcast, I just wanna make myself available to you, if you ever need insights into the industry, or if you need an introduction to insiders within that space, I'd be happy to introduce you, whether they're a client of mine or not." And then, you're just offering to help, and then, occasionally, you might touch base with them and say, "Hey, what are you working on that's exciting this week? Maybe I know someone that would be a good source for you." "Maybe I can facilitate an introduction." And then, perhaps as you hear things within your industry, or your community, or in the beat that they cover, you can bring and make those introductions in a non self-serving way. In other words, making those introductions to people that aren't paying clients of yours, or not people that you work for, or not your employer, for example, just to build that trust in that relationship on. You know how build a relationship because you have relationships in your life, so how did you make those relationships? How did you connect with those people? How do you stay in front of those people? Do the same thing with a reporter. Now, obviously, you can't offer to bribe them, or buy them something, or do something nice for them that has a monetary value, but you can start to become a trusted source, and if they'll allow it, maybe you could meet them for, you know, a meal or drinks, or a networking conversation through zoom or something like that. But you know how to build relationships, you're in the PR business. So start building relationships with those people before you need something.
Secondly, again, the topic has to be newsworthy, explore the elements of news, but then, pitch them at the right time, and in the right way. So let's talk about that. So, if you're pitching everybody, then you're really pitching nobody. And we've talked about that before, we talked about that, or we will be talking about that with an upcoming episode, with Ashley Billings, from Axia Public Relations, and the idea there is that you wanna have, you know, the right way to pitch them. And so, you wanna make sure you're pitching the right contact. So if you have a new story about personal finance, you don't wanna be covering the government reporter, or the government beat writer at a TV station, or a TV news show, or a newspaper or magazine. You wanna go straight to the source, straight to the person who's actually doing the work. Now, if you don't know that personal finance writer, okay? But you know the government finance reporter, or the government reporter, then you could ask that government reporter, "Hey, could you introduce me to your colleague that covers personal finance?" And they might say, "Sure, I'd love to do that because you've been a great source to me, or a great friend, or we've got a great relationship." Or they might say, "Hey, because I have a great relationship, let me just tell you that I don't have a great relationship with that personal finance reporter. And therefore, it might not make sense for me to be the one to introduce you." And so, that's an example of leveraging your relationship to get to the right contact. Now, if you can't break through to that contact, you might wanna try their editor who you may have a relationship with, or just go to their editor and say, "Hey, I don't yet know Joe Smith, could you introduce us? Or, "I've got this story, I thought about taking it to Joe Smith, but I wanted to start with you, and make sure that Joe Smith is the right contact." But, you know, one thing I've learned is that in almost every newsroom, there's kind of somebody in that newsroom, who's just a super nice person, a connector who is helpful that wants to connect you with the right people, and if you can get to know those people in the newsroom, they can be very valuable to you. And so could an assignment editor, or an assignment producer, or somebody who's just in charge of kind of giving the assignments because they might know what that person's working on. And they might assign it to a different beat writer than the normal beat writer, because the story you're pitching is newsworthy, but the other reporter who is on, who normally covers that beat, they might very well be tuned in and focused on another deadline or another priority story, and just not able to get to your story right now, or the timeline you wanted to get into it.
Speaking of timing, you know, there's some assumptions that you never wanna pitch on Mondays, and you never wanna pitch on Fridays because those are very busy days, and while I think those that's thoughtful and considerate, if your news is newsworthy enough, they're gonna cover it no matter what day of the week it is, as long as it's newsworthy enough, if it's not as newsworthy, you might not wanna be competing with a Monday morning or a Friday afternoon. I can tell you from experience, we've gotten a lot of really good news coverage for our clients by pitching a story on a Monday or Friday, because the story had legs, and it had meat to it, and there was substance to it, and it made it newsworthy enough that they were interested in it. I've also seen where we've gotten great news coverage without even having to prepare or submit a news release because our pitch was strong enough, and our background information was good enough that they were able to just run with that story without an official news release. And so, I think sometimes we focus too much on the formality of a news release, as a way to getting media coverage, instead of the importance of relationship, and having a topic that's very newsworthy. In addition, just speaking of timing, again, we've had situations where we followed up of reporters, several times, and maybe on the fifth followup attempt, they're like, "Hey, I'm so glad you stayed on top of me for this, I'm so glad you followed up today because, the last few times you followed up with me, I was on a special assignment or I was on sabbatical, or I had this other thing I had to do first, and I couldn't lose my laser focused on this." You know, either it was an enterprise, meaning a big, meaningful story that they were working on long-term, and they had to stay devoted and focused on that, or maybe they're working on a special section, or a special report that they were working on. And then, by following up on this topic, and staying in front of them, professionally, and consistently persistent, with balanced ambition, that person said, "Hey, you know what, now I'm ready to do that. Thank you for staying in touch with me on it." And so, following up is a very important part of the process as well.
Now, let's focus on what you can do with the news that maybe didn't get covered. So, first of all, what I would do is try to reinvent the story, reinvent the angle, find a new angle that you could pitch them that might be more interesting. And, nothing's more beneficial than listening carefully to the reason why your story didn't get covered in the first place. So I will often ask reporter, "Hey, I sent this to you, and it didn't get picked up. For my feedback and for my own professional, and personal development, how might we improve this pitch to you next time? And then you're quiet, and you listen carefully to every word they say. And what you will hear is they'll say, "Well, I didn't cover it because it sounded too promotional." "It wasn't newsworthy enough." "The timing wasn't right." "We covered that topic recently." And so, as you're listening for why they didn't cover it, that gives you a chance, one, to learn. Two, to make a better connection relationship, because it seems like you care, and you're interested in learning more about them and their role and their decision-making." But ultimately, you're gonna uncover a formula or factors that play into the editorial, decision-making of what stories they cover, and why, and specifically, why not yours. And in real time, I've found that we've been able to pivot our story or shift and position our story a little bit differently, or our pitch a little bit differently to where it starts to fit into something they haven't covered before. Something they're interested in, something that makes sense to them given the new timing, meaning we pitched this before and they weren't interested. Things have changed in their priority lists, things have changed in the newsroom, things have changed in the world to where, now, our pitch might work with this different positioning than it didn't work before. And so, that's one thing you can do is just listen carefully and learn from that experience, so that when you come back, you have that additional insight, and that newer angle and way to position your news story. The other thing is, I think a lot of things that companies are announcing, again, aren't interesting to people outside of their four walls, outside of their organization. So, if it doesn't interest the community or the industry, or just people overall in general, in the world locally or nationally, or globally, then it's not as strong of a story as you might think it is. And so, those things should be repurposed to a company newsletter, your company intranet, maybe you have a private social media page or private social media group where you could share this news, maybe it fits better on your blog, maybe it's something you could cover in your internal or external podcast, maybe you have a private blog for employees only, or for employees, investors, and maybe even your vendors. So, I would look at options like that for how to get your news out there when the news is not that newsworthy to individuals and organizations outside of your organization's four walls. And, I think that's one of the biggest mistakes in media relations, is pitching things that just aren't that interesting to everybody else, but are really interesting to you. And so, it could be things like, you know, members of the team were rewarded with a, you know, a trip, or members of the team got a certain certification. Those are all exciting things that should be buzzworthy within your organization. But as you get further outside your organization, probably not as interesting. The fact that, you know, the red team won the company's softball tournament, or that today is Hawaiian shirt day, or that on Friday, you're having an employee appreciation barbecue, probably not that interesting to people who weren't able to attend, if that makes sense. So, you really gotta think critically about which items you're taking to market to newsrooms, what information, and what news stories are you trying to pitch to newsrooms, keep in mind, most newsrooms, unless you're a household brand name like Google, Microsoft, Tesla, Starbucks, et cetera, Walmart, Target, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, you're probably not gonna have multiple news stories written about your company by the same news outlet in given amount of time. So, you know, you gotta think about that too. And like, what's the one story we wish this one news outlet would cover this particular quarter about our company, and you may have to hold onto that story and save that story until the timing is right to pitch that one story, instead of pitching them a bunch of things that they're just gonna say, no, no, no, no, and no to, you gotta find that one home run.
The other mistake, I think people make, I didn't think to mention this earlier is developing a custom pitch to the custom news outlet. Forbes Magazine is different than Fortune Magazine, both in the way they write articles, the types of articles they write, and the audience they're writing for, just as Ink is different than those magazines and Business Week is different, and the Wall Street Journal is different than the New York Times, and a particular show on CNBC is gonna have much different news format than news show on NBC. And so, what you got to do, is you gotta, not only, figure out what's the best news outlet that to pitch the story, that's likely to cover it, because it's something they would normally cover, and something they're interested in, but then, who's the right person there to pitch that story to, and what kind of stories do they typically do, and how do they tip, what's the tone and style of those stories? And then, "How do I customize this pitch?" "How do I tweak this news release, so that it appeals exactly to them, as if I, specifically," and you should be doing this, "specifically, wrote it for that person that I want to be covering it." Because if your pitch is just generic, if your news release is just generic, and it's for all kinds of audiences, or all kinds of newsroom contacts, it's probably gonna fail big time. So what I recommend you do, is you envision that person that you're writing this for, and then you write it, specifically, for them. And as you're writing it, you're thinking about them as a persona, as a target. And when you've got it just right, you rest on it, and then you come back to it, and you tweak it, and you craft it even better, and make it tighter, and make it stronger. And then, when you're done, you start all over again for the other contact you're trying to pitch, and you make the hyper custom for them, and what they like to do. If you got a PR agency, work with them, of course, maybe they're taking the lead, and they should be pulling up a briefing book about this individual, so they can see what are they written about in the last seven days? what have they written about in the last couple of months? What were their angles? You know, what are the topics they're interested in? And again, write it just for them, almost, like you're serving their favorite meal to them, to where it's so irresistible and so delicious, and they're so excited to have it that they're gonna write about it, and they're gonna tell others about it.
So, I think that's enough insight today on why our news release didn't get covered. If you have more questions about working with the media, and earning media coverage, we're gonna put a link in the show notes to our ebook, which is all about media relations, and what newsrooms tell us about why some new stories fail, and why other ones succeed. And if you have any follow-up questions about this topic, I hope you'll leave a comment or ask us through social media. We'd be thrilled to get back to you and answer those, and maybe even record a solo cast, just like this, just for you, based on your unique topic and question. So this has been Jason Mudd from Axia Public Relations, helping you stay on top of PR. Thank you for tuning in. This has been "On Top of PR" with Jason Mudd, many thanks to our solo cast sponsor Burrelles for making this episode possible. Burrelles has a special offer just for "On Top of PR" fans. Check it out at burrelles.com/OnTopOfPR