Posts Tagged 'pitching'

Pitching in a Summer of “Big News:” Cutting Through the Noise When Other Stories Seem More Important

It’s not even August and we’ve had enough headline news this summer to last several months. It all started with the Facebook IPO in May, which was followed by events such as SCOTUS’ healthcare ruling, the Diamond Jubilee, buzz around the Olympics, and the Marissa Mayer news. Oh yeah, we’re also in an election year.

News junkies might rejoice at this continual cycle of “big news,” but I don’t think I’m the only PR person who’s felt like they need a giant, “woe is me” cocktail. After all, when reporters are totally focused on the latest major story, and that story doesn’t involve your client, how can you cut through the noise to get the media’s attention?

I asked my colleagues to share the pitching tips and tricks that have helped them get through this summer. So stop drowning your sorrows and read on for some great insight on meeting coverage metrics and keeping your clients happy when it seems that reporters just don’t want to talk to you.

  • Make the big news YOUR news. Is there a way to tie your client to the big story that everyone’s writing about? Can one of your executives provide relevant commentary, or make projections about the larger industry outlook? Things like healthcare, the election, and even the Olympics are ongoing stories that will be covered again and again, and reporters are going to want new people to talk to and new story angles. So be creative. That said, do pay attention to what reporters are saying on Twitter, Facebook, and their blogs. You don’t want to be “that person” who offers expert commentary just after a reporter tweets that he doesn’t want any insight on the individual mandate.
  • Make new friends, but keep the old. If you aren’t making headway with your media friendlies, now is the perfect time to expand your contact list. Spend some time researching new contacts at your key outlets—is there a rookie reporter who seems to be getting the “leftover” (i.e. non-big news) assignments? Contributors or bloggers who have the flexibility to write about whatever they want? Also, don’t limit your research to just new contacts—be on the lookout for new outlets, too, whether it’s print pubs, newsletters, or blogs. Once you give yourself some time to see what else (and who else) is out there, you won’t feel like you’re beating a dead horse when your go-to contacts aren’t picking up the phone.
  • Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. One of the teams in our NY office had a client launch that essentially coincided with the Facebook IPO. They originally planned to do an NYC media tour with one of the executives, but the only CEO on anyone’s radar was Mark Zuckerberg. What to do? Accept that this strategy simply wasn’t going to work. Rather than push against an unmovable wall, the team focused on tactics that would create momentum, such as pitching relevant targets for launch coverage that weren’t preoccupied with Facebook. The team ultimately secured more than 22 million impressions in just 3 weeks, resulting from coverage in regional print/broadcast media, local search, and business outlets.

The Space Between: Digital and Traditional PR Look Really Similar These Days

By Dave Levy, @levydr

I have at least one or two media contacts with whom I rarely, if ever, email. It’s not that I’m not doing my job; it’s that whenever I have a pitch or want to soft-sound a story idea, I have to shrink the thought into way-less than 160 characters so I can direct message them on Twitter.

It will not surprise you to learn that most of these “Tweet First” contacts are bloggers. A few years ago, blogger engagement was a separate category from traditional media activities. In fact, during the growth of digital PR back six or seven years ago, we had two distinct teams with their own tasks related to either traditional pitching or blogger engagement. I was working in the latter camp, and by way of talking to people who blog, and who were some of the first on Twitter, it was kind of a natural progression to stop emailing each other and then just tweet.

Blogging looks a lot more like mainstream news these days (or mainstream news looks more like blogging, that’s a chicken or egg post for another day). Along with that, the space between what I’ve been doing in my career around online news sources and what colleagues who have filled more traditional media roles has gotten really, really small. Sure, my leading example here talked about how bloggers and I talked through Twitter direct messaging. But it isn’t only bloggers who rely on Twitter for everything from news to getting leads from sources. There are even reporters who have grown in their careers to join traditional outlets by way of being active online bloggers (and, again, plenty of writers who once wrote for large organizations have jumped to independent, online outlets).

When I got into this business, it felt different to be talking to a blogger, but maybe it shouldn’t have. I don’t know if I’m ruining some big secret, but there really isn’t that much that’s different in terms of what we do when we reach out to an online-only reporter. Journalists and bloggers alike are writing stories, and sometimes we as PR professionals have – or think we have – a tip that will help them create content. Ultimately, we have to take the time to get to know the writer, what they consider relevant and the best ways to reach them. That process doesn’t change on the basis of reaching out to either a blogger or a traditional journalist.

As a final bit of homework, I’ll challenge you to think about what pitching a story in a direct message is like. It’s really, really good practice to take your pitch and try and get all the important parts into less than a sentence. If you can do that, you’ll have a better sense of your story and what you are trying to say – no matter who you are reaching out to.


Phone Calls—So 10 Years Ago?

By Megan Lane

Boston, 1999:

As a PR intern at the New England Aquarium, I spent my days faxing press releases to the Aquarium’s media list.  Amid busy signals, failed transmissions and paper jams, the news finally gets out.

I follow up with phone calls and try to create relationships with that voice connection.  Some coverage appears (in print) in local papers.

My friends and I have a phone tree of sorts, and use it to figure out plans for that evening.

On the way home, I fire up my Walkman and listen to the day’s news on terrestrial radio.

Out on the town that night, there’s no danger of embarrassing, drunken communications because I don’t have a cell phone or ready access to an email account.  With no digital camera, we have to wait for prints to come back from the photo shop, rather than immediately upload them.

Sound like the dark ages?  In reality, it wasn’t that long ago. Technologically speaking, it seems like a lifetime, and the way we conduct our personal lives—as well as our business lives as PR folks—has changed significantly.

Boston, 2009:

As an account manager at SHIFT Communications, I now spend my days pitching tailored stories to reporters with whom I’ve developed relationships.  A thought can move from an idea to an interview to the Internet in a matter of hours, sometimes less.  I’m not even sure where the fax machine is in our office.

My friends and I keep in touch on Facebook, and that’s where the majority of our plans are made.

Throughout the day, I get my news from Twitter, and Sirius satellite radio.

Out on the town, I have to forcibly disconnect from my BlackBerry to keep from reading emails, texts and breaking news because everything’s at my fingertips.  You can’t be social if you’re obsessed with your phone.

So what’s the common thread here?  Technology is completely different than it was 10 years ago, as is the way we consume media and execute our jobs as savvy, creative, informed PR pros.  But the one thing that PR hinges upon—indeed, the one thing that business hinges upon—is relationships.  And this is where I like to party like it’s 1999, get on the phone and really make a connection with the person on the other end.  Emails, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are all great tools for opening the door and getting a reporter’s attention, but it’s face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact that cements a relationship, and an opportunity.  It’s easy to overlook this basic tool in this age of instant high tech.

We’re beyond the days of “smile and dial” at least when it comes to banging out a blanket pitch to an untargeted media list (well, we are, at least).  But research, rehearsal, smiling and then dialing is the right way not only to pick up interest in your current story, but to find out what makes reporters tick as individuals.  Know your reporter’s work.  Have your pitch down cold.  Be friendly and confident.  And if you get hung up on, try again next time.  It really does pay

So when you’re pitching, as tempting as it is to point and click, try this instead: Think. Breathe. Smile. Dial. Succeed. It still works.