Learning the Ropes of Media Relations: 5 Key Takeaways from My Summer Internship

"Brandterns" (a.k.a. interns) at Pittsburgh-based Gatesman agency: Cassie Bachik, Bethany Stokoski, Colleen Zewe, Angela Kilburg, Sarah Collins, Samantha Gatesman, Andy Mendes and Jonathan Panchura.

“Brandterns” (a.k.a. interns) at Pittsburgh-based Gatesman agency: Cassie Bachik, Bethany Stokoski, Colleen Zewe, Angela Kilburg, Sarah Collins, Samantha Gatesman, Andy Mendes and Jonathan Panchura.

By Bethany Stokoski

When an agency’s mantra is “good enough sucks,” you know you’ll be hitting the ground running on day one of your internship.

As a public relations/social media Brandtern at Gatesman this summer, I was able to roll up my sleeves and conduct real client work. The Brandtern program is rooted in mentorship, and my supervisors provided me with the necessary guidance to understand and succeed in media relations efforts. By my second week, I had already drafted pitches, and now in my tenth week, I have secured both national and local media placements.

The experience I gained has helped me develop five takeaways to media relations:

  1. Cision isn’t the end-all-be-all When creating media lists, be sure to cross-reference the outlet’s website to ensure your contact’s beat hasn’t changed. In addition, as newsroom turnover is high, the contact listed may have moved on from the publication. Lastly, there may also be relevant reporters on the site that weren’t included in Cision, so it’s important to do some digging beyond your initial search. Remember, Google is your friend!
  2. Revisions are inevitable Sometimes you draft something and are certain it’s spot-on, and then your supervisor returns it covered in comments. Although it’s important to strive for minimal edits, it’s also important to remember that everyone gets revisions, even senior-level executives. That’s the beauty of agencies. You get feedback from seasoned PR veterans to ultimately make your efforts as successful as possible.
  3. Journalists can sense fear When pitching journalists over the phone, think of it as a conversation. Even if you have a talk track, still try to be conversational and personable rather than reading directly from it.
  4. Consider the timing of your pitch Journalists typically have two editorial meetings per day, so try to schedule your pitching efforts around them. If possible, send an email in the morning so that your contact can pitch their editor that day. When making follow up calls, aim for about 3 p.m., as most journalists are out of afternoon meetings by then and broadcast news desks have changed over.
  5. An interview doesn’t guarantee a placement When scheduling an interview for a client, refer to it as a “media opportunity” rather than a “placement” until it officially runs. The news cycle is constantly changing, and your expected placement is always at risk for being replaced by breaking news.

Of course, these are just a few of the many considerations to take when conducting media relations efforts. For aspiring PR professionals like me, remember that practice makes perfect. Pitching reporters may seem daunting at first, but as you grow more comfortable with it, you’ll realize just how rewarding it is when you see your placements live.

Bethany_Headshot Bethany Stokoski is a senior at DePaul University studying public relations and advertising. She is currently a public relations/social media Brandtern at Pittsburgh-based Gatesman, one of the fastest growing, mid-size, privately owned agencies in the U.S.

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