Media Relations in a Digital Age: New School Approach to Old School Tactics

By Sandra Fathi, President, Affect

At the heart of any great public relations campaign is media relations. The ultimate PR goal is to garner media coverage that will drive brand recognition and build awareness of your clients’ products and services. While we need to stay ahead of the trends and target audiences on new platforms, it’s important not to throw some of the tried and true ‘old school’ tactics to the wayside.

Below are three PR tactics that are being dubbed out of date and old-fashioned, but are still essential to any successful media relations campaign.

Phone: 30-Second Gratification
For important, time-sensitive pitches, pick up the phone. While using the phone to pitch a story may seem obsolete, most reporters are bombarded with information from social media and receive so many emails every day that they can’t possibly read and respond to each one. More than a handful of big news stories have been picked up from tweets, but social media platforms are crowded and have their limits.

A live phone discussion gives you a personal connection and allows you to explain sensitive information, immediately answer any questions, gauge the tone of the conversation, modify your pitch if needed and get the journalist to verbally commit to a briefing. At the end of the conversation, you can confirm the reporter’s email address and then follow up with a note that details your discussion. A phone call ultimately makes the conversation more memorable and may mean the difference between getting coverage or not.

Hint: If the reporter doesn’t answer, don’t leave a message. If you don’t leave a voicemail, you can continue to call back until you get someone live.

Email: Easier to Connect  
While making that call is important, we also know that more and more journalists are hard to reach by phone these days. In fact, some never answer their phones at all. And when it comes to emails, they are inundated with hundreds a day. That’s why it’s more important now more than ever to be a master of the email pitch.

Email allows you to include a good hook and provide background information to grab the reporter’s attention. Messages should be concise yet comprehensive while calling attention to the reporter’s previous work and also including any relevant links, press releases, key dates and contact information. Subject lines are critical to the success of your pitches actually getting opened and read. Keep subject lines brief, catchy and tailor them like a headline of a story.

Hint: Don’t send attachments, or your email will most likely end up in the spam folder. Send links to additional resources for more information.

In Person: Relationships Rule
Set aside time for in-person meetings with journalists. Many of us can get stuck behind our computers and attached to other devices that make us virtually accessible. It’s easy to forget about the importance of seeing someone face-to-face. While in-person meetings also require reporters to tear their eyes from the computer screen and give you their full attention, they set a positive tone for future outreach and help when trying to secure media coverage for your client or getting a reporter to respond to your emails.

Relationships aren’t everything, but whether you’re meeting a reporter yourself or coordinating a background briefing for your client, making time to meet in person will help create a stronger working connection and ensure greater engagement.

Hint: Offer to take the reporter to lunch or a quick coffee if you can. Alternatively, consider tradeshows an opportunity to meet key press face-to-face for a scheduled appointment or an ad-hoc meeting in the press room.

Producing results through media relations can be challenging, especially given today’s 24/7 media cycle and ever-evolving social media channels, but there are key tactics that every PR pro can use to ensure success. From old to new, we have more tools than ever to work with and every day brings something different. As we embrace the digital age and remain grounded in our traditions, it’s important to recognize what still works. Taking a ‘new school’ approach coupled with the proven ‘old school’ tactics will ensure all your campaigns are a success.


About Sandra Fathi: Sandra is the Founder and President of Affect, a public relations and social media firm based in New York. Established in 2002, the company specializes in business-to-business and business-to-consumer technology, healthcare and professional services. She can be reached at or @sandrafathi.


1 Comment

  1. Maury Tobin on November 12, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Thanks Sandra for your insightful piece. We produce Radio Media Tours and other digital media and the phone is still a crucial tool to seal the deal for us.