Below is an excerpt of an article originally published on PR News. Read the full article on PR News.
Great stories—about medical breakthroughs, heroic acts by children, emerging infectious diseases—are relegated to the trash bin, while “Grumpy Cat” is featured on national evening news. There are plenty of reasons this happens. Newsrooms are shrinking. Reporters are more harried since they are asked to write, blog, tweet, appear on video, among other duties. Brand priorities change and resources are limited. But most likely the problem lies in the execution of the pitch.
It is easy to understand why many organizations shy away from media relations in favor of brand journalism to tell their story, instead of seeking earned media to share this information. While these can be complementary approaches, a strong media footprint brings with it independent third-party validation. As such, news articles often are viewed as more trusted and can have more influence than advertising, social media or some forms of brand journalism.
An inPowered study found that reviews and articles from third-party websites and blogs improved consumer familiarity nearly 90% more than owned channels, such as websites or social media platforms.
Master the Pitch
Media relations is part storytelling and part selling, but for an in-touch profession, PR relies on surprisingly few tools to get the job done: namely, email, social media and phone calls. Any pitch needs to be capable of attracting a journalist’s eye in 15 words or fewer, regardless of the type of outlet. With smartphones and social media, brevity is key to media relations, but it doesn’t replace the need for carefully crafted, well timed pitches. Initiating and nurturing strong relationships with journalists and securing earned media coverage remain crucial in the age of social media and mobile technology. Since many journalists evaluate pitches on their smartphones, a lot are deleted with a simple swipe immediately after the subject line and a short excerpt are skimmed. Some tips:
- In email pitches, the subject line is most crucial. Subject lines should be descriptive and to-the-point, avoiding hyperbole or buzzwords. The pitch itself can go into more detail, but should remain focused and easily skimmed.
- Pitches must compel and offer multiple angles. Why should the journalist, and their readers, care? Why now? Add context; it can demonstrate how the pitch fits within a topically broader trend, inspiring the reporter to consider how to use the information. Providing multiple potential angles for the reporter’s work adds value to the pitch.
- Forecasting an ideal news environment can add immediacy to your pitch. Understanding and planning for these eventualities, such as major industry meetings, legislative calendars or even seasonal events, can help avoid releasing your news at the wrong time and succeed in securing coverage at the perfect time.
- Timing also means understanding publication schedules of the outlets that you pitch. While most media outlets have a digital presence, many newspapers, trade or broadcast stations look to publish longer, well-researched pieces in their flagship publications. Planning by you is critical here.
- Ask. And do it clearly. The end goal is maximum media coverage, but that’s not where to start the conversation. Do you want the reporter to learn more about your issue? Spend 30 minutes to meet with your organization’s leadership? Attend a briefing? It’s easy to get caught up in crafting a beautiful narrative that places your issue in the center of the world, but never actually gets to the point of why you’re writing, calling or tweeting.
The chasm between journalists and PR professionals will continue to grow. Consider this: the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2024, the PR profession will grow 6% from 208,030 professionals, while the pool of journalists will shrink 9% from 54,400. It’s essential to hone the art of pitching to break through the noise of competing interests and achieve earned coverage.