Takeaways from the Ragan Media Relations Conference

By Deanna Tomaselli

From April 3-5, I traveled to New York City to attend the Ragan PR & Media Relations Conference hosted by KPMG. You may have caught it on our Instagram stories! Here, a variety of speakers and panelists shared insights and best practices for cultivating relationships with members of the press, grabbing media coverage and getting brand stories told. Here are some of the highlights:

Write enticing copy with the AP

Amir Bibaway from The Associated Press kicked things off with practical tips on writing enticing copy. Amir actually reads every single pitch he receives, and that’s a lot. It’s nice to know someone is reading our stuff. Per Amir, “Nothing is easier than to stop reading!” And he’s right – journalists will drop off after reading a pitch that’s way too lengthy and confusing. So, what are they looking for?

  • Entice the reader from the first sentence and give a hook.
  • Tell a story.
  • Anecdotes are great – if they are true.
  • Numbers and data are EVERYTHING.
  • Always include visuals, quotes and photos.

Amir also stressed to pick up the phone! This is debated in the PR community but personally, I agree with this. More often than not they may have missed or forgotten about an email, so a quick phone call can allow you to cut through the clutter and remind them. Amir also said to be aware of deadlines, and if the journalist says it’s not relevant, reply and ask them what else they are working on to keep the conversation going.

Tying social media into your PR efforts with Muckrack

Greg Galant, co-founder and CEO of Muckrack, spoke to how social and PR can work together in your media relations efforts. Don’t spend too much time on Twitter? Rethink your approach! Per a recent Muckrack report, 70 percent of journalists still use Twitter. Here you can see what they’re tweeting and do your research, and also interact with them and share their stories. And if you’re really lucky, slide into their DMs. Speaking of, here are some fun facts from Greg from that recent Muckrack report:

  • Journalists LOVE being followed and they love when you share their stories. They need eyeballs on their articles.
  • Follow and engage with journalists BEFORE you pitch them, that way you establish some sort of relationship/recognition with them.
  • Follow #journorequest for hot leads.
  • Best time of day to pitch? Morning.
  • 93 percent of journalists prefer email.
  • Make your pitch under three paragraphs – the shorter the better!

Why do journos reject a pitch?

  • Not personalized.
  • Confusing.
  • Too lengthy.
  • Bad timing.

Get to the point!

Joel Scwartzberg, senior director of strategic and executive communications with the ASPCA didn’t bring in any cute puppies, but he did bring Albert Einstein. One of my favorite quotes I always think of in PR is how Joel opened his presentation: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Joel and Einstein are right. Joel gave us a quick quiz to ensure that the statements we are pitching are in fact grammatically correct (Can it follow, “I believe that…”) and also true and feasible. Starting with something correct and true, then you have to ask yourself, “What is the highest value we can attach to the message to make it the most compelling?” He also stressed to avoid “badjectives” like great, important, etc. Not relevant! So think like Joel and be succinct, compelling, and add value.

The Pitch Tank

One of my favorite parts about media relations conferences from Ragan is their “Pitch Tank” sessions. Here, you can stand up in front of the entire room and panel of journalists, Shark Tank style, and say your pitch out loud. This is a unique way of getting immediate feedback. The panel gave great insight into what makes a great pitch:

  • Make it visual.
  • What are you bringing that’s NEW?
  • Don’t use superlatives.
  • Do your research.
  • If possible, don’t cold pitch.
  • Treat a journalist like a PERSON, not slimy sales pitch-esque.

If a journalist is interested, they have to sell the story too, to their editors or producers, so equip them with the best possible information and hooks to ensure it’s sold all the way through.

The Media Relations Conference was a great three days of learning and interacting. Check out the hashtag #raganPR on Twitter for lots more tips and tweets. What tips will you take away from this? What are some tips you’d recommend in making a great pitch? Let us know in the comments.


Deanna Tomaselli is an account supervisor at Havas PR and an active member of the PRSA Pittsburgh board. She shares industry insights and career learnings on PRettyinPgh.com.

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  1. […] Back in November, I actually won attendance to another conference hosted by Ragan in DC, and they put on a great event, so when I was deciding what conference I wanted to attend earlier this year, Ragan seemed like a no-brainer. And they again delivered. Read my highlights over on the PRSA Pittsburgh blog. […]

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