Making Every Pitch Count

Previously on The Reach Blog, we talked about four ways you can refresh a story to make it more appealing and timely to the press. While one of the key elements to successful PR is telling a good story, just as important is being able to get those stories out in the media. After all, that’s what stories are for – sharing! 

Broadreach had the opportunity this past fall to hear from one of the industry’s best, Michael Smart of Michael Smart PR, at the Maine Public Relations Council’s 2015 Annual Conference in Freeport. Addressing a room full of Maine’s PR professionals, Michael challenged everyone to look at how the media landscape has changed in recent years and to find new ways to add value for media influencers. That, Michael said, is the best way to consistently get on their radar and achieve results. Today, modern media operates under greater pressures than ever before – facing reduced staffing, growing responsibilities, crammed inboxes, tighter deadlines, and more. At the same time, PRs increasingly grapple with mounting demands for attention while battling frustration, fear of rejection, and a lack of control over outcomes which, in the end, are their ultimate goal. If you’re in communications and have experienced this same struggle, here are some tips based on Michael’s “Media Relations Road Map” for navigating around pitching roadblocks in order to successfully position yourself (and thus your client) as someone worth listening to: Get On Their Radar (Without Stories to Pitch)

  • Find the outlets most important and relevant to your target audience(s)
  • ID key influencers at those outlets
  • Be familiar with the influencers’ work – just don’t spend all of your energy consuming just their news
  • Instead of cold-calling and mass pitching, cut through the din by approaching specific influencers through their least-crowded channels; e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, targeted emails with grabbing subject lines

Determine What to Pitch (Know Their Beat)

  • Create newsworthy angles when you don’t have an obvious one (be creative!)
  • Keep in mind that being familiar with an influencer’s work can also help you see the trends they pay attention to and help you find connections between their interests and your story

Solidify Relationships (So They’ll Be Willing to Take Your Calls)

  • Thank an influencer without thanking them; nothing says “thanks!” like driving traffic to a reporter’s work
  • Always ask intelligent questions
  • Elicit their needs and interests in conversation

Create Compelling Content (It Makes Their Lives Easier)

  • Offer influencers a “story” their audience will actually want to read
  • Add exclusivity value to their reporting with sources only accessible through you
  • Share influencers’ content directly with your own audiences; social media is an excellent tool for this, as it allows you to tag outlets and specific influencers
  • Take advantage of your website, blog, company newsroom and SEO to drive traffic to your media placements

Make the Pitch

  • Anatomize your emails to ensure sure you’ve answered all of the W’s – Who, What, When, Where and Why 
  • Use language you know will get influencers’ attention, starting in the subject line
  • Do the legwork for them; offering up pre-packaged and compelling content can go a long way
  • Know their preferred contact method, but don’t be afraid to try reaching out via social media
  • Follow up without being annoying; some reporters hate follow-up calls, so try to be mindful of their personal preferences before picking up the phone

Take it from Michael: in PR, a “good story” is only as valuable as the attention it attracts, and with the media’s attention span shorter than ever, you’ve got to make every outreach count. Knowing who you’re talking to, the challenges they face, and how you can make their lives easier will go a long way toward getting your stories heard every time. — by Josiah Petrin, Broadreach Apprentice