PR Parallel: 3 Media Relations Lessons from Running a Half Marathon

John Vernon

In the summer of 2013, Vantage PR’s San Francisco office participated in a 5K race to raise money for cancer research. I wasn’t much of a runner beforehand, but that day, I caught the running bug and I’ve loved running ever since – including racing across the finish line of two half marathons.

As a PR professional, I can’t help but notice some key similarities between the discipline and determination needed to successfully run long distances, as well as that required for a successful media relations strategy.

Here are 3 key lessons I’ve learned from training for and running a half marathon that translate into successfully pitching editors and landing media coverage:

1) Do your research
When gearing up for my first half marathon, I did a major amount of research. For example, I looked up things like which foods make the most sense to eat, when is the best time of day to train, how frequently and how far should I run throughout the week, etc. This research helped me train and ultimately cross the finish line.

Research is a significant part of media outreach, as well. It’s important to take the time to identify the right media you should be reaching out to. It might seem like a no-brainer, but the last thing you want to do is pitch a story about enterprise security technology to an editor who exclusively covers home energy solutions. While you’re tracking down to the right people to pitch, read a few of their recent articles so you can tailor your pitch specifically to them versus blasting a generic email to dozens of editors at once. Plus, take the time to research any timely trends that you can weave into your pitch.

This research will put you in a much better position to get an editor’s attention and ultimately land media coverage.

2) Preparation is essential
Beyond doing research, there are numerous strategies runners can use to prepare for a half marathon. However, no matter what approach they use, taking the time to prepare (i.e., building up endurance out on the trail) is a must. Leading up to my first half marathon, I started my training by running short distances (2-3 miles at a time) and gradually added 1-2 miles month-by-month, ultimately becoming comfortable knowing that I was ready for the big 13.1-mile undertaking on race day. This ‘practice makes perfect’ philosophy translates to media outreach, as well.

Before hopping on a phone with an editor, practice your phone pitch – perhaps even in front of a colleague to get their feedback on your pitch and delivery. This type of preparation is helpful no matter who you’re pitching – a tech blogger, a mainstream reporter, a research analyst, the assignment desk at a TV station, etc. It can also help you build your confidence before you hit the phones, boosting your odds of successfully selling your story idea in a quick and compelling way when someone answers.

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3) Be persistent
During a race, there are plenty of times you might get knocked down and need to pick yourself back up again to make it to the finish line. Anything from getting a leg cramp to feeling tired or dehydrated – you name it. It’s the same thing with pitching media.

When pitching a story idea to reporters, you might get one ‘no’ after another, which can sure feel discouraging after a while. Just remember – editors get pitched hundreds of story ideas a day and obviously can’t pursue them all. The key is to keep at it, adapt and learn along the way.

For example:
• Does your pitch need to be re-worked?
• Are you pitching the right media?

It’s also important to be persistent with your follow-ups until you land that coveted ‘yes’ from an editor who’s interested in covering your story idea.

Regardless of whether you’re a runner as well, keep these 3 tips in mind the next time you plan to reach out to media around a new story idea or announcement.

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