The Harbinger Group

How to Maximize Media Coverage at Events and Conferences 

In the last decade, media outlets across the United States have encountered significant difficulties, including closures and decreased staffing in newsrooms. The Pew Research Center reports that since 2008, newsroom employment in the U.S. has declined by 26%. Reports also note that our Nation has lost one-third of its newspapers since 2005, and most only employ six or fewer journalists. This massive decline of media outlets can make it challenging to secure coverage, particularly for highly competitive media environments such as major conferences and events.

Through an interview with our earned media experts, John Arango,  Kellie Kennedy, and Eileen Rochford, who have 70 years of combined experience, we learned seven tips to maximize media exposure for events and conferences:

1. Identifying and Targeting the Right Media Contacts

When planning media outreach for an event, most shows provide media lists, which serve as a useful starting point. However, it’s important not to blindly send out press releases or invitations to everyone on the list. Doing so may result in a large number of responses from journalists or media outlets that may not be the best fit for your story, leading to awkward situations. To avoid this, our agency thoroughly researches the media lists and selects the most relevant contacts ahead of the event. 

In addition to knowing that you’re suggesting a relevant story idea to the journalist, this research can uncover specific, ongoing media opportunities where your company could be a fit.

“I was recently pitching a local story about a client’s community relations work. Through research, I discovered that a target journalist wrote a weekly story about local heroes,” said John Arango, Director of Earned Media at The Harbinger Group. “In our pitch, we were able to explicitly recommend our client for this column, which helped break through the clutter, made the journalist’s job easier (because their job is to find subjects for this column) and resulted in an impactful feature article about our client.”

Also, you can reach out directly to news desks in the surrounding area to identify the most appropriate journalists or reporters. Another helpful strategy is to research the previous year’s event to determine which media outlets covered it. This information can help you refine your media outreach strategy and target the most suitable reporters for your story. 

2. Crafting a Standout Pitch

When you’re beginning to write a pitch, it’s important to remember there are six elements reporters consider when determining whether the news has value:

  • Timeliness: Stories that are trending or relevant at that moment in time. 
  • Impact: Does the story impact a group of people?
  • Prominence: Is the subject of your story well known?
  • Proximity: What area does this story affect? Does the reporter cover this area? Is it a small town? 
  • Conflict: what is the problem? How is your company solving this issue? What is being affected? 
  • Human Interest: Can you include a story or interview from someone who has been affected by this news? 

 

A standard pitch should always include the key details:

  • Who, What, Where, When, and Why. 
  • An attention-grabbing subject line that summarizes the main point of the story. 
  • Background information on the organization or person you are pitching for 
  • Your contact information: name, title, phone number, and email address.
  • A clear CTA telling the reporter exactly what you’re looking for. 
    • Example: “If you are interested in interviewing Joe, please contact me, and I can put you in touch.”
  • A unique angle, what about your story stands out against others who are attending the same event and who are pitching for similar stories? 
  • Connect why the reporter is the right person to cover the story and why it fits the outlet. 

 

When pitching an interview, it’s crucial to link the spokesperson’s expertise to current industry trends.  Journalists are busy people who read pitches quickly, if at all. Rather than using vague or cliche terms like “industry leading,” which lack meaning and are easy to gloss over, think about how you can convey your spokesperson’s expertise in a concise way that’s relevant to the journalist and their readers. This means showing the client’s expertise rather than telling.

“Through pitching stories for our client Powering Chicago, I’ve found communicating that Powering Chicago members have been installing EV chargers since 2008 and have been trusted to complete projects for notable organizations like Guaranteed Rate Field resonates with journalists more than solely saying they are Chicago’s No. 1 source for EV charging installations,” said Arango. 

By highlighting how your spokesperson’s knowledge and experience relate to a highly relevant or trending topic, you increase the likelihood of attracting media interest. Clearly demonstrate how the spokesperson’s unique perspective can shed light on a pressing issue within the industry to make your pitch more compelling and increase the chances of it being accepted.

Another strategy is to identify what the larger narrative of the event is. Our client Powering Chicago recently attended The Chicago Auto Show. Our earned media team needed to determine the value that Powering Chicago could bring to that conversation — that value was education surrounding electric vehicles (EV’s.)

While EV’s have been trending for the last two years with an increase of automakers showcasing their models at the show, there is still a gap between what the market is offering and what consumers know about Electric Vehicles.  So we positioned Powering Chicago as the industry thought leader to explain what drivers need to know about electric vehicle charging and installations. This was a successful angle and intrigued the media because there are not many players at The Chicago Auto Show who can focus on the educational aspect.

3. Effective Follow-up Strategies

Sending your pitch is just part of the process. It’s just as important to be persistent in following up with the reporter to gauge whether they will cover your story. 

While persistence is key, it’s important not to cross the line of intrusiveness. It’s okay to send one or two follow-up emails. In between sending those emails, we recommend trying to call the reporter. This can help you confirm whether they are interested. If they don’t answer, leave a message with who you are, the key details of your story, and your contact information. 

4. Maintaining Momentum After the Event

After the event concludes, there is still time to secure coverage. To get started it’s important to follow up with everybody the spokesperson met with to help guarantee those stories are published. Here is an example of what you can send: 

“Hello [Insert reporters name],
Thank you again for taking the time to meet with [Insert spokesperson name] on [Day] during [Event Name]. I am following up to see if you have any additional questions. I’m also attaching some images from the event as well. 
Best,
[Insert your name]”

You can also leverage other event coverage to determine which outlets and reporters found the most important points of the story and develop new story angles within the coming weeks.

5. Common Media Pitching Mistakes 
  • Not following up after sending a pitch.
    • Reporters are extremely busy. They receive hundreds of emails per day, and especially with newsroom staff shortages, it’s easy for them to miss an email. 
  •  Limiting outreach to a single contact per media outlet
    • There are most likely multiple contacts from a media outlet who cover the same topic or beat. Reaching out to various reporters can increase your chances of your story being covered.
  • Failing to personalize pitches when appropriate
    •  In 2021, Muck Rack surveyed 2,482 journalists. Their results show that 21% of journalists rejected relevant pitches due to the lack of personalization.

 

6. How to personalize your media pitch 

There are a few ways you can personalize your pitch: 

  • Share a story they’ve written and provide a comment on it. This can be an interesting point of the story, what you liked about it, and so on. Then, you can share how your client may be connected to the story topic.
  • One way to make research more effective is to use a tool like waldo.fyi to track the top 10-20 reporters covering the topics you pitch often. Request biweekly summaries of their articles, including topics, highlights, interviewees, and links to the original stories. This approach saves time while keeping you informed.  Reviewing the original articles is crucial for understanding nuances in language and questioning style when preparing pitches and spokespeople for media interactions.
  • Always include the media outlet they work for in your email. You want to explain why the pitch is a good fit for their outlet.
  • If they have a specific section they write, mention that you thought this would be a good fit for that section or the type of story they do.

Overall, the more they sense that you’ve done your research, the more successful you will be with your results. 

Examples of emails you can send: 

  • “I read your story on [Topic].  [Insert what you liked about the story.] I thought you would be a great fit for this story opportunity. Here is more information:  [Insert information]”
  • “I noticed you cover stories in the [Insert location], you may be interested in covering [Event Name], which is taking place in [insert location]. [Insert additional information regarding the story idea].” 
7. Building and Leveraging Media Relationships

Building relationships with reporters can help you to receive coverage in the future. Start by: 

  • Adding reporters as media contacts to your master media list so you can reach out at a later date with other story ideas. 
  • Regularly update reporters with news and relevant content, even when you’re not actively pitching a story. This could include informing them about recent developments or sharing engaging content, like an interesting YouTube video related to their interests. 
  • Be a reliable source of information, when a reporter reaches out and asks you to be a source, ensure that you provide them with background information before the interview and follow up to see if there is anything else they need. 
  • Always thank the reporter for their time and for their coverage. 
  • When you’re working with a reporter, try to get to know them better, then the information you learn, you can use to break the ice for future pitches. 
 
“Remember that reporters are human, so use many of the same techniques you’d use to make friends! Inquire about them and remember things you’ve discussed – while always being professional,” said Kellie Kennedy, EVP of Strategic Earned Marketing. 

The goal is to maintain engagement and build a relationship with them over time.

Despite media outlets and newsrooms condensing, the fundamental relationship between PR professionals and journalists remains unchanged. PR professionals aim to make journalists’ jobs easier by providing valuable, relevant stories, and in return, they are rewarded with coverage for their clients. However, the increasingly competitive landscape means that PR professionals must become more strategic with their approach. contact our earned media team today to let us help you get started and raise your brand’s visibility by maximizing your organization’s media coverage.