On this month’s PR profile, we are talking with none other than Natalie Bartels of BAM The Agency. She’s a Senior Media Strategist (SMS) and specializes in media relations, along with putting together and executing top-notch strategies for a wide array of PR campaigns. Her experience includes working with both B2B and B2C brands spanning industries such as AI, agtech, medtech, drone/airspace security, and consumer tech.
Natalie has traveled internationally to attend industry conferences and has secured coverage in nearly all top tier and mid-tier outlets such as Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Bloomberg Tech, and NBC Nightly News. Natalie is a Midwest transplant and graduate of Penn with a degree in business and marketing.
Within this interview, we discuss all aspects of media relations. From building and maintaining relationships to staying connected when there’s no news to share, Natalie is sharing her best tried and true tactics for connecting with journalists.
Read below for the entire interview with Natalie:
1.) You started off at BAM as an intern in 2017. How has your role progressed and evolved into what it is now as a Senior Media Strategist?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with the leadership team that’s created a flexible and inspired culture, ultimately allowing me to create the role of SMS within the company. I’ve been able to really ramp up on all things media with this focused role, leading to higher impact coverage for clients in the outlets that have meaningful and lasting impact.
2.) For those who don’t know, what is a Senior Media Strategist and what does your role encompass?
The SMS is responsible for efficiently and effectively developing and executing multi-channel media strategies, working across internal teams and a myriad of client industries, along with external partners. This means having an exceptional understanding of the media landscape, the ability to craft storylines and themes reporters will view as timely and newsworthy, along with an ability to create integrated earned media strategies that will resonate across platforms and diverse media channels.
They have an understanding of varied media methods such as social media and broadcast television. They can effectively execute and oversee a large volume of short-term and long-term/complex tactical and strategic assignments on client campaigns, while communicating and demonstrating best practices to the account teams to implement effectively. Their working relationship with the agency is such that the agency itself is a client, achieving results across the agency’s entire client roster where applicable. In support of said client, the Senior Media Strategist consistently and proactively shares feedback on strategic approaches and recommends tactics to increase success company-wide.
3.) Describe what your day to day is like.
No day is alike and that’s what I love about this role! Supporting across all teams means each day brings a unique set of challenges and I’m constantly diving into new industries and technology. The consistent parts of my day include planning and strategizing for upcoming announcements, identifying trendjacking opportunities, keeping in comms with media besties as well as curating new ones and working internally on upcoming conferences and dinners hosted by BAM.
4.) How would you define “Mutually Beneficial Relationship”?
I believe that the best, and most authentic, media relationships should mirror your day-to-day relationship. That means knowing and understanding a journalist’s style and preferences (both professionally and personally as much as possible), sharing ideas as sources – without being self serving, and always being available to respond quickly when reporters need a source regardless of it being my own client or reaching out to my network to find what is needed for a story.
5.) You are known for building and maintaining great relationships with journalists. Where do you begin when building a new relationship? What’s your process?
Being authentic! I cannot stress this enough and believe it comes through most prominently in my writing style. I forgo the buttoned up business email and make sure the “Natalie flair” and vibe is felt in each email/pitch. I also am upfront about what my objective is and what I can offer – don’t bait and switch. Show your cards and play the game together.
6.) What’s your #1 tip for staying connected with journalists you’ve worked with when you don’t have any new news to share?
Keep tabs on what they’ve been covering and when there’s a story that sticks out, tell them! It’s more about keeping a consistent touch point than always having news or a story to share. They appreciate the value of the relationship more than just being a source – especially just when it’s convenient for you.
7.) What are your top three tips for building a relationship with a journalist?
- Mutually beneficial sharing of ideas and sources
- Consistent and personable touch points
8.) If you could go back and give your old self some PR advice, what would you tell yourself?
Trust yourself. This took me a couple of years to learn, but once I trusted myself to follow my gut and be authentic, the rest fell into place.
9.) Pitching takes a lot of time and effort in order for it to be mutually valuable. What tips or reminders would you pass along to new PRos as they start pitching journalists?
Don’t try and just sell the company and it’s messaging in a pitch. A journalist’s job is not to market a client for you. Push your client to speak to the industry, trend, and pain-points so that it’s a valuable source. It’s also helpful to find a way to make your idea more concise before diving into a full pitch – feel it out and see if there’s appetite.
10.) We all know how much journalists juggle. How can PRos aid in being a better resource to journalists?
Respect the inbox! If you’re thinking “I’m not sure if this is really of interest to them” you’re probably not ready to reach out. Don’t go blanketing inboxes when things get tough. Take that time to step back and think of where the value lies and who it lies with.
11.) What’s the best piece of PR advice you’ve received that you want to share with others?
“It’s PR, not the ER”. In 2020 specifically, publicists were inundated with COVID-19 news 24/7. At times it was scary and stressful and our jobs rely on the news cycle so it wasn’t something we could simple step away from. To avoid burnout, it’s important to understand yourself and know when you need a mental break and taking that time to step away from the screen and news. Find ways to think creatively and critically without compromising your mental health.
BONUS: you’re a new dog mom to Palmer, the cutest Frenchie in San Diego some might say. How many different names do you have for her and what are they?
Oh gosh, Palmer is a literal angel. We call her Smoosh, Squish, McP, PomPom, Potato, and Pamala Harris.
When it comes to media relations, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but there are a few good reminders from Natalie on what you can do to build stronger relationships. If you’re looking for even more content on media relations best practices, read our guide to media relations which offers tips and tricks to amplify your strategy. From the different types of media to the objectives of media relations, this guide has it all.
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