When The Pitch-tables Turn: A PR Pro Gets Her First Media Pitch!
This past week, I squealed with glee as I checked the email for my comedy podcast, talk•fool•ery (Warning: almost every episode is NSFW, but the toons are safe). For the first time ever, this little podcast received pitches from PR pros. I had never been on the receiving end of a media pitch before!
As the excitement waned I realized: these PR pros had never even listened to our podcast. Their pitches were not relevant to our irreverent style, at all. Only one of the several pitches came close to being a fit for us.
It made me think of Gawker’s PR Dummies (I had wondered where off-topic PR pitches came from). My media relations mentors have drilled into my head: know your outlet, research your media contact, know their coverage style and beat.
I’m not here to make fun of any of the PR pros who sent us pitches—it’s your job, I get it—I am here to kindly suggest every PR pro follow a few simple rules:
• As suggested by Regan Lal, research the reporter and outlet: Journalists are changing beats all the time, so do your homework and know where they are now.
• Make sure your pitch suits the reporter’s style: if they’re a tech reporter, but only cover hardware, don’t send them pitches on a website or a new software launch.
• Don’t do mass emails: reporters can see if you’ve just bcc’ed them. It’s a dead-giveaway when the pitch doesn’t include their name, their outlet / segment name, or anything else to personalize the pitch. So personalize—they’ll notice and appreciate it.
• Keep it short! Attention spans are shrinking. Communications professionals’ job is to tell our client’s story and keep the recipient’s attention. A great PR pro can craft a compelling media pitch in three (short) paragraphs. Make this your goal.
There are a million different styles for your media pitching, but these basics will get you going.
And if you think it fits talk•fool•ery email: firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll let you know.
How a PR Newbie Got Over His Fear of Reporters and Landed His First Big Media Hit
This post is something of a follow-up to my colleague Regan’s recent post entitled Talking to Reporters. A post that, all too conveniently, went up shortly AFTER my first real experience talking to reporters.
Like the title says, this is the story of how, as a new public relations professional, I landed my first big media hit.
But that’s getting a little ahead of ourselves. Let’s go back to the part about talking to reporters.
Reporters can be intimidating.
When I was faced with the task of actually picking up the phone and calling some of these men and women, I’m not ashamed to say I was rather nervous.
But hey, it’s part of the job right? Besides, it’s not like I was walking into this completely unprepared. I had my pitch, my notes and most importantly, I really believed in my client and their story.
So, I took a deep breath, dialed that first number, launched into my pitch and… was immediately shot down. She probably said something to the effect of, “That sounds like an interesting story, but it’s just not right for us.” However, I maintain it was more along the lines of, “You are dumb, no one will ever love you and you ALWAYS look ridiculous in hats. Don’t ever try to pitch a story to me again. And stop trying to wear hats.”
Not a great start.
But no reason to give up. These were professional storytellers and I had a great story for them to tell. We were working towards the same goal, so what did I have to be afraid of?
Armed with this new sense of self-assurance, I jumped into my second call. This time I had a nice, relaxed conversation with the reporter. And wouldn’t you know it? She agreed to book my client for a two-segment television interview.
I won’t presume to tell you how to best pitch to media. But I will tell you one thing: Reporters are nothing to be afraid of. Once you get past that initial fear, they become a person on the other end of the line.
Talking to Reporters
So, reporters are people, just like you and me. But, they’re not, when you’re trying to pitch a story. Of all the skills that make a successful PR practitioner, talking to media is near the top. However, picking up the phone and pitching a reporter is one of my least favourite things to do.
I think it stems from a fear of rejection. Reporters are busy, they want interesting stories and they want information now.
So, what do you need to get your point across, succinctly, to get that coverage?
Believe in your story – if you don’t believe in what you’re selling, the reporter won’t either.
Pitch a story idea, not your client – find the interesting angle that gives your story a unique perspective (i.e. instead of a straight corporate profile, think industry trends and how your client can comment or contribute to that conversation).
Research the reporter and the outlet – customize your pitch and know who’s best suited to cover your story (i.e. the science reporter doesn’t care about your product launch pitch).
Be tenacious but not aggressive – following-up on an email with a call or a voicemail is ok, calling and leaving five messages is not.
Build relationships and be flexible – a reporter may not be interested in the story you’re currently pitching but have a conversation and together you may find an angle that will work.
Even with this all in mind, sometimes reporters just aren’t interested.
If you do land a story, be gracious, thank the reporter for their time and work with them to get them what they need. A thank you note after an interview or an article comes out, doesn’t hurt either.