PR Training

2 Media Relations Rules to Break in 2020

I was in a meeting recently where a peer started making a point I disagreed with.

It quickly became clear that he relished playing a contrarian role. At first it annoyed me, but after a while I realized some benefits to being a contrarian, especially in media relations.

This exchange reminded me of a few of the “devil’s advocate” tactics that I’ve seen be successful in media relations. Many PR people initially bristle at them because these approaches can seem out of touch. But if you can set aside your initial hesitation and do some experimenting, then you will likely see some improved results. Here are two:

1. Use the phone more.

Yes, a huge majority of journalists dislike getting cold pitches. So don’t use the phone for that. But the further an online/email conversation gets, the more open they can be to an actual chat. No, not all of them. But some of them actually prefer the phone.

One top-tier journalist told me this month: “I get 700 emails a day. If you want to stand out to me, pick up the phone.”

It’s important to remember this is more likely applicable to older journalists, who had to rely on the phone for sources and interviewing early in their careers. In fact, when I started reporting there was only one computer in the whole newsroom where you could check your email! 

A tip: You can often calculate a person’s general age range based on their college graduation year on LinkedIn.

2. Pitch during unorthodox times.

Try sending out pitches on Friday afternoons, before holidays or at other unusual times.

Because few people pitch on these occasions, you’ll have less competition. A very successful pro once told me at the end of the summer that she always avoided pitching in late August during the congressional recess because the Washington, D.C.-based reporters she worked with tended to follow this annual rhythm. But this year she tried it, and enjoyed even better success than usual.

So, if you’re a pitching veteran and you feel like you know the rules, consider breaking a few this New Year. It could pay dividends.


Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Get more media pitching knowledge from Michael Smart here.

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1 Comment

  • I really enjoyed reading these tips on how to better our media relations practices by breaking the rules. It’s important for PR practitioners to get out of their comfort zone and take the first step in building better relationships with the media. One phone call, or pitch on a holiday, could help us stand out and lead to great success for the story we want to tell.

    – Faith Saucier, writer/editor for Platform Magazine

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