Editor’s note: In celebration of Black History Month in February, PRSA invited prominent public relations professionals to offer their views and ideas for achieving greater racial and ethnic diversity in the profession as well as what Black History Month means to them. A compilation of previous PRSA Black History Month blog posts can be found here.
“Diversity” Media – Yes, this is a real term that folks use in the PR industry. There’s nothing really wrong with the label – per say. I often find it comical when professionals say that they are having a hard time reaching or connecting with this group on behalf of their clients. Now maybe this is because I am a woman of color, founder of a professional women’s organization called ColorComm. I have experience connecting with all media so naturally, I’m on top of it. However, I often hear feedback from peers that it’s simply just hard to connect. Do you have to be a person of color to connect with diversity media and get placements for your clients? My answer: Absolutely not! In my experience, I’ve come to learn that there are four ways to best target diversity media and I’ve outlined them below.
1) Build a real relationship. This sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? I mean after all, with most media contacts you have to start by building a relationship. I think some folks don’t take the time to cultivate and build this relationship because these targets aren’t typically at the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times. But the same rules apply, as if they were. You have to take the time to build this relationship by getting to know the reporter’s beat, their interests, and finding ways to drop them a line when you don’t need them. Don’t just shove a Hispanic person on Hispanic media because they are Hispanic and expect to get better results. If this person hasn’t invested the time to build a relationship, then they too will come back with marginal results.
2) Send General Pitches. Diversity media often times want to be pitched on more than diversity stories. They get these stories all day long and often wonder, what’s new? Look at your pitch and ask yourself: where is the mainstream angle in this story? This will get some of the diversity media excited and perhaps interested in knowing more, and they will appreciate that you’ve thought of them for this angle.
3) Engage Diversity Media In Your Professional Organizations. Chances are that if you are a PR person worth your salt, then you are involved in professional development seminars or a member of a professional organization. These forums are always looking for guests to speak on panels and media professionals to lead workshops. Engage diversity media to sit on a panel. This will help you build a better relationship with the reporter/outlet and give you better insight into their style and how to yield the stories you’re looking for.
4) Ask Questions, Ask Questions, Ask Questions. When your pitch gets rejected, ask why? When a reporter doesn’t want to join the large media call, ask why? When you’ve been declined for the coffee meeting that you’ve been so desperately seeking, ask why? When it comes to diversity media, we don’t ask why—we assume. Knowing the “why” will only help improve your pitch and relationship the next go around.
Just remember that if you’re in PR, one of your strongest skill sets should be pitching the media. Now I understand that everyone is not a pro, but if you’re not, you need to find a way to get there. This is your industry, this is your job, this is your livelihood—so with that said, refine your skill sets until they are solid. If you’re a pro at pitching the Wall Street Journal, you should feel just as comfortable pitching Latina magazine or Ebony.com.
Lauren Wesley Wilson is the Founder and Chief Networking Officer of ColorComm Network. Prior to this role, Lauren was the Communications Director for a Member of Congress. Lauren has been featured in Black Enterprise, Washington Post, National Journal, and others. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is the opinion of Lauren Wesley Wilson and this does not reflect the opinion of ColorComm Network, her employer, or any groups that she is affiliated with.