Media Relations Maven
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Media Relations Articles
  Margo Mateas writes the popular “Media Relations Maven” column for Tactics, the official newspaper of the Public Relations Society of America.  
Six Flags Theme Parks

Challenge: Six Flags hired The Maven to train all its North American PR managers. Over two days she conducted The Secrets of Successful Pitching seminar and the 12 Ways to Pitch the Impossible.

Training: In 25 minutes during the Pitching the Impossible seminar, the team generated 157 unique story angles to use in pitching their theme parks to the regional press.

Results: The PR managers report increased confidence in pitching the media, along with an increase in press coverage of their parks.

“Margo’s presentations energized the PR managers at our North American parks and provided them with new tools to improve their pitching skills and build stronger relationships with the media. Everyone on our PR team gave Margo high marks for a lively presentation that delivered practical and valuable techniques.”

Marshall’s / TJ Maxx

Challenge: Marshall’s asked The Maven to train their corporate spokeswoman to better articulate the company’s message to the press. Marshall’s also asked Margo to provide a two-hour media relations training to the corporate public relations department. 

Training: Margo helped Marshall’s develop concise and powerful key messages and conducted on-camera media training with the spokeswoman.

Results: The spokesperson has gone on to do many successful television and newspaper interviews and is much more confident.

“Margo trained our media spokesperson and conducted a media pitching workshop for us. The training was very helpful and gave us several new story angles and new insights into how the media works.

Holland America Cruise Lines (HAL)

Challenge: HAL brought the Maven in to revitalize the PR team’s pitching efforts and to focus on securing more national press.

Training: In a three-hour training, The Maven helped them identify over a dozen national pitching angles, including several major media opportunities. The entire team came away from the training armed with numerous new story angles, enthusiastic and eager to pitch.

Results: HAL has been eagerly pursuing a number of press leads associated with a major launch planned for early 2006. The training expanded their vision, gave them tangible story angles and specific media to pursue, along with the enthusiasm to go for more national press.

"We learned a lot today and came away with a host of new ideas and ways to pitch national media that will change the way we do our press outreach. Thank you for an excellent training."

Eric Elvejord
Holland America Cruise Lines

Kaiser Permanente
Northern California

Challenge: The Maven was brought in on two separate occasions to train PR staff in the Modesto and Santa Clara regions. The training focus was on helping teams to become more comfortable pitching the media by phone and to be more proactive in their outreach.

Training: The Maven conducted the Secrets of Successful Pitching seminar, emphasizing how to reach journalists most effectively. She also reviewed their email pitches and press releases and led them through a brief course in concise and targeted writing methods.

Results: Kaiser Permanente’s PR management noticed an immediate change in how the team viewed media relations. They were more eager to get on the phones and were more confident about pitching, which has produced more significant coverage for Kaiser and expanded relationships with known reporters.

Excellent. Highly recommended for new and seasoned pros.”


Challenge: Unisys called the Maven in 2001 and 2004 to train its corporate PR team on proactive pitching. The first day-long training included extensive dialoguing between departments to facilitate a wider flow of information, so that those pitching the media would have greater access and more lead time to announce new developments and product launches.

Training: The rest of the day involved going through best practices for writing releases and making phone and email pitches.

Results: Unisys’ managers gave rave reviews of the day, as it broke through long-standing barriers between departments and created a new way of communicating for all involved in PR. It also revitalized the staff into making more proactive pitches.

 “Very valuable at pitching skills… Margo kept the pace fast-moving with insight and experience and gave us a lot of useful information we will begin using today.

Kumon North America

Challenge: Kumon is the world’s largest after-school math and reading program. Seeking to differentiate itself from competitors like Sylvan and garner more coverage in local regions, Kumon hired The Maven to work with its North American PR department.

Training: During a day’s training, The Maven helped the PR staff come up with a new way to see Kumon in a completely new light. This helped them be able to enthusiastically describe Kumon and identify a number of viable story angles for regional media.

Results:Armed with new story angles and a concrete way to talk about Kumon and its benefits, the team has been scoring coverage in local newspaper and television outlets.

Margo, after your training, we were able to book a segment on two local television stations. Thank you!”

RBBPR – The PRWeek 2005 Boutique Agency of the Year

Challenge:  RBBPR knew they were getting great coverage for their clients, but with a major national product launch coming up and some clients with “evergreen” stories, they decided to hire the Maven to kick-start their media relations efforts.

Training:   Over two days, the Maven met with all account staff 1:1, – from new hires to the executive management team – and conducted a “Secrets of Successful pitching” seminar. She also offered ideas on the national product launch.

Results: One associate has already doubled her press coverage. RBBPR management says their team not only takes media relations more seriously now, but they actually get excited about it. The national product launch went extremely well and garnered major consumer press. The agency is pulling in tons more media coverage than before. The national product launch garnered national consumer press.

"The training was incredibly valuable. We saw instant results in our press coverage, including on a national level. One associate has already increased her press coverage by at least 50 percent. People are now enthused about media relations. It's really changed the way we do things."

Tad Schwartz

Weber Shandwick Worldwide
Silicon Valley

Challenge: Weber Shandwick called The Maven in to work with a team that had difficulty getting press for a high-tech client. The team had become discouraged and was unable to find new story angles to pitch. Team members were scattered all over the country, working in remote locations.

Training: The Maven worked with the virtual team over the phone. Using an idea from the team’s account coordinator regarding a minor announcement, she laid out a pitching strategy, helped them write the email pitch, and then role-played pitching with each of the team members. 

Results: After two sessions with The Maven, the account coordinator successfully pitched and landed The New York Times. The rest of the team went on to score coverage in CNBC, USA Today and Fast Company. Team members continued to generate coverage on this and other accounts.

Can I just say she is amazing? After just one hour of coaching, the team turned in the most spectacular results any client could hope for – more than we had gotten in the five months prior!”

Schwartz Communications

Challenge: Schwartz Communications, a major high-tech PR firm based in San Francisco and Boston, brought Margo in for a two-day series of sessions on pitching and public relations writing. The firm wanted to increase its success with deep-technology clients and improve staff writing skills.

Training: Margo conducted a Secrets of Successful Pitching seminar and included a segment on how to successfully interview clients to make sure that the firm clearly understood the technology and could relate that to reporters. Margo also conducted a writing workshop which provided a clear process and template to follow for rewrites and edits. She also facilitated dialogue between supervisors and junior staff about communication, client expectatons, work process and writing.

Result: Both senior and junior staff felt the training greatly improved their skills and dramatically increased communication between them. The interviewing techniques proved extremely powerful, as they learned to get more information from their clients in just 30 minutes than they had been receiving by spending an entire day with them. The writing and pitching training was also well-received and proved helpful.

"Every PR person in America should take this training... Margo is able to relate as both a peer but then again as a consultant and keep everybody engaged for what in some cases was four hours at a time... This is a whole paradigm shift for us."

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Weber Shandwick Worldwide
New York

Challenge: The Maven was asked to work with an account executive who needed help doing proactive pitching. The AC was fearful of calling editors and lacked confidence that editors would want to listen to what she had to say.

Results: Working with the Maven 1:1, the account executive identified a story angle and landed an exclusive in The Wall Street Journal for her client.

 “Well, I did it! I can’t believe it, but I got an exclusive in The Wall Street Journal using the poll information we talked about. You got me to see things in a completely new way.”

Weber Shandwick Worldwide
Orange County

Challenge: The Maven was brought in for two days to work with staff 1:1 on story angle development and pitching techniques. One associate was tasked with getting a feature for her client, a private company, in Investor’s Business Daily.

Training: The Maven helped her find an appropriate story angle, assisted her in developing a pitch and practiced role playing it with her.

Results: The story landed on page A-1 of Investor’s Business Daily in the Leaders in Success section.

 “Margo, you helped me land an A-1 feature in IBD for a private company. I did what you said, using the pitch we worked on, and it landed like a dream!”

The Benjamin Group
Silicon Valley

Challenge: The Maven was asked to work with account staff to improve their pitching and phone skills as part of an agency-wide initiative to improve success in media relations.

Training: Margo worked with them 1:1 and conducted a series of training seminars.

Results: One account executive started out by landing a feature in The L.A. Times and then went on to increase his press coverage by over 300%.

 “Margo is a media coach extraordinaire. We set media goals at the beginning of the year that many people thought we could never achieve. Largely due to Margo’s training, we conquered the entire year’s metrics in the first quarter alone!

The American Cancer Society

Challenge: The American Cancer Society asked the Maven to come and do a training for its California PR managers as part of a bi-annual communications summit.

Training: The Maven conducted an abbreviated version of her Secrets of Successful Pitching seminar and worked with the team on developing story angles for several upcoming events.

Results: The American Cancer Society went on to successfully land several of the story angles identified in the training.

“Your presentation, and the impact it had on our staff, resounded as a highlight…it’s a motivational presentation, an “aha!” experience. You’re refreshing and educational.

California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA)

Challenge: CCPOA handles all the media for the state’s largest political lobbying organization. The association hired the Maven to work with its board members and public information officer to reshape the union’s public image and dispel the myth that California’s prison guards are violent and uneducated.

Training: The Maven conducted a day-long seminar focused on re-humanizing state prison guards to the public. She facilitated discussion, gave creative input and led the group in creating strategies and advertising/ promotional campaigns supporting the new approach. She media trained board members and ran them through mock interviews to prepare them to talk with their local media.

Results: The Maven succeeded in shifting CCPOA from a previously defensive posture to a more positive educational campaign designed to help the public understand and empathize with the challenges prison guards face. CCPOA is now eagerly implementing this new approach.

[See Video Testimonial#1] [See Video Testimonial

Weber Shandwick Worldwide
Los Angeles

Challenge: An account team working on a project for Disney wanted help finding new ways to pitch Disney products for Valentine’s Day. The office also wanted assistance in working with a variety of critical personnel and management issues.

Training: The Maven worked with the team for two days. She met with management and staff 1:1 and conducted the Secrets of Successful Pitching seminar. Working with the Disney team, she helped them identify story angles for USA Today Weekend and craft email and phone pitches.

Results: USA ran a story highlighting Disney boxers for men in its Valentine’s Day coverage. The staffer continued to develop a relationship with the editor.

"Before working with Margo, I had given up on ways to get into USA Today. After just one session with her, I emailed the editor and sent out a special Valentine's Day package. Now I know there is always a way to get press -- you just have to get creative!"

Weber Shandwick Worldwide
Los Angeles

Challenge: Weber Shandwick brought the Maven in to do a combination of pitching training and management consulting. The office was having some performance problems with its personnel and asked the Maven to help them gain clarity on the situation.

Training: The Maven conducted a situation assessment with senior and junior staff separately, then made recommendations to improve communication, staff expectations and general accountability among all staff members. She also facilitated discussions among senior managers that resulted in a number of changes which improved morale and addressed long-standing issues.  

“Margo worked with us on some critical human resources and management issues… her down-to-earth, honest approach really helped us get to the nitty-gritty and make decisions that strengthened the agency.”

Tara, Ink

Challenge: This Miami fashion and beauty agency does PR for Arden, Vitton, Wet Seal and others. The agency wanted help managing its growth to a 22-person agency from a single entity begun by noted Miami writer Tara Solomon.

Training: The Maven conducted the Successful Pitching and 12 Ways to Pitch the Impossible seminars. At the end of the week, Tara Ink had a completely new approach to working with and billing its clients, new methods for managing its growing workforce and an arsenal of new pitching techniques.

Results: The agency immediately became more profitable after implementing the new billing rates and contracts. Personnel problems dwindled, agency morale skyrocketed and the hits keep rolling in.

Margo Mateas not only helped our team conquer the fear of pitching, but she actually got them excited about it! We have learned valuable lessons that are increasing our productivity – the numbers speak for themselves.”