In 50 B.C. Julius Ceasar published an autobiography as campaign fodder for political aspirations. In 1776 Thomas Paine published the American Crisis, printed collateral urging the American public to fight the British. In 1936 Oscar Meyer designed a giant hot dog on wheels -- the Weinermobile -- to broaden category and brand awareness. What is the common thread of these historical anecdotes? They are all examples of well-executed public relations (PR).
Though the channels we use to communicate in PR have changed as a product of technology and the Internet, the goal is written in stone: the maintenance of a favorable public image. Public relations serves a range of institutions from Fortune 100 powerhouses, to trade unions, government agencies, hospitals and even nonprofit organizations.
No matter what type of business you are pitching, you want to generate good press for your organization to boost perception and to scoop up consumers at the top of the sales funnel. Whether you are pitching company soirees, spokespeople, bylined articles, products or press releases, the nuts and bolts of a good pitch are clear cut. In my career, I've pitched news for a marketing agency, the city of Minneapolis and a for-profit higher education institution -- all of which I've generated good press for by following a well-defined process.
I'm here today to walk you though my approach to media pitching, from research to storytelling. You'll start first with a brand blueprint and then define your news and pitch targeted media contacts.
Create a Brand Blueprint
First, start with a clear understanding of the business you are pitching. Before you communicate your campaigns to the media and various stakeholders, it's crucial to set the stage for PR success. You can get to the core of your brand through:
- Market research: Perform qualitative and quantitative research of employees, stakeholders and prospective/current customers to define how you are currently perceived. Utilize tools like Experian and Nielsen for audience analysis and perform affinity mapping to define your audience.
- Competitive analysis: Assess the brand messaging and marketing mix of your top three competitors and marketing strategies through a SWOT analysis.
- Defined resources: This encompasses what you have to work with including your in-house team's budget, timelines, personnel and external partners. By identifying these resources, you'll be able to hone your brand positioning, tone, voice, stories and most importantly, set the foundation for the types of news you will pitch throughout the year.
Define What's Actually Newsworthy
After your business has better "self awareness," you can then start to brainstorm news campaigns. Collaborate and brainstorm campaigns that tie back to your organization's core voice and message, while also defining general goals for your PR campaigns.
As a PR professional, one of the most important traits you can possess is the ability to know what's newsworthy. An article on MediaCollege summarizes the key aspects of defining what's newsworthy, which I paraphrased below for your use:
- Timing: Topics that tie into current events are clutch for your PR campaigns.
- Significance: The number of people affected by the story is important. Are you pitching news about your business that only affects a small number of people? Think bigger picture like how this affects a whole economy, versus just your organization. A reporter at The Arizona Republic once gave me this advice after pitching company news.
- Proximity: Geographical relevancy matters. Stories that happen near to us have more significance. A story that affects a certain populace matters too.
- Novelty: Another old news business saying goes, "When a dog bites a man, no one cares. When the man bites back -- now that's a news story." The idea, of course, is that any deviation from the normal, expected course of events is novel, and thus newsworthy.
- Human Interest: These types of stories appeal to emotion. They aim to evoke responses such as amusement or sadness. Television news programs often place a humorous or quirky story at the end of the show to finish on a feel-good note. Newspapers often have a dedicated area for offbeat or interesting items.
Once you have a list of options, create an editorial calendar to plan out news and campaigns.
The Perfect Pitch
Each campaign needs to be supported by individual, personalized pitch emails to the media.
- Introduction: State who you are and what organization you represent.
- Intention: Why are you reaching out to this journalist?
- Create value: What benefit do you provide the journalist?
- Call to action: What do you want the journalist to do? Ask them.
- Closing: Sincerely.... Regards... Chat soon...
In addition to creating a solid structure for your pitch email, add ethos to your messaging. Include these characteristics:
- Relevancy: Does the proposed story you provide speak to their readers?
- Value: Why is your pitch valuable to them?
- Clarity: Are you clearly stating your reason for reaching out?
- Human connection: Do you sound like a robot or a real human? Are you connecting interests with the journalist?
- Exclusivity: Are you communicating that you are providing this content to ONLY this publisher?
Now that you've learned the steps to master a PR pitch, it's now time to execute. Good luck, and check back on the iAcquire blog for more digital PR tips.