When I first started in PR I didn’t realise one of my biggest strength’s would be media relations. I remember my first cold call to a journalist distinctly. There were so many thoughts running through my mind- what am I going to say, are they going to respond positively, how will I land the pitch. And I shudder when I think of my first press release, which I felt I had under achieved. The main thought that crossed my mind was I am not a sales person why on earth do I need to be going through all this stress?
My manager sat me down and tried to give me some advice but the one bit of guidance that stuck in my mind was her saying, “Imagine seeing your work in the media and knowing you motivated for it.” So the challenge had been set; how do I turn a potential pitch into a successful pitch. It didn’t take me long for my strengths and personality to shine.
Nothing beats getting the green light from client to go ahead with a pitch or press release. Some of the below tips have assisted me thus far as I grow in the industry I refine my methods and tactics.
Remind yourself daily that it’s all about relationships
I have always put relationships first, and the media will sense how valuable they are to you. Deliver information that has been requested as quickly as possible, remember important personal information about the media contact and pitch them only things that you feel would be of use to them. Don’t be pushy as you want the journalist to pick up your call next time. Building trust is critical so always do what you say you will, within the time frame you give, and don’t make promises you can’t keep.
It’s always on the record, no matter how good your relationship is!
(Note: I once worked on a premium brand and a journalist called me for some information. This journalist was known to be tough and respected in the industry. We had a conversation that was light hearted as if we had been the best of friends. I promised I would get back to him without setting a deadline (Mistake #1). The conversation had taken place on a Friday. That Sunday the journalist ran an article that resulted in my boss and manager doing damage control. Everything worked out in the end and I am still in the industry of PR. Conclusion – we all make mistakes big or small the important thing is to admit when you are wrong and learn from the mistakes. Tomorrow is another day to be better.)
Have a good story
Before you pitch to the media make sure that you have a good solid story to sell. If you don’t believe in the story the media will not buy into your pitch; so it’s very important for you to be confident. When pitching the story try not to speak product but more the angle you try to get across. Product should always come 2nd. When you’re brainstorming try looking for possible ideas for angles:
- Current events
- Seasonal topics
- Holiday season & cultural celebrations
Know Your Audience
READ READ READ.
Never pitch to a journalist unless you’ve read their magazine or column. Before you pitch study the publication and the type of stories they produce. Know your clients product and service and time it with the magazines deadlines E.g. if you have a wine client you would understand that white wine goes well for summer. If you had to pitch for a magazine; your deadline would be in winter. This will assist in the type of angles you want to produce. Some angles can be generated months in advance; this giving you the opportunity to be first for editorial content e.g Summer or Spring season
(Note: recently a doctor and expert in Sport Nutrition & Weight Management was coming to SA for a media and industry trip. I looked at my traditional media for that field and my colleague managed to pull some really excellent relevant articles. I applied my mind at the task at hand to get even more coverage. By looking at relationships I had built in the sport media I managed to secure read coverage on out nontraditional target audience. By finding the link outside of the brief we managed to over deliver for our client.) When brainstorming one needs to think out of the box.
Create new and exciting ways to share your client’s story
Look at partnerships that you can leverage off. Publications tend to have workshops for their readers which may require an expert with in your clients company. Offer the expert for free in return ask for coverage as a mutual benefit for all. Always ask questions and listen to your contact when they are telling you about what the media platform is planning; you might just be able to take advantage at no additional cost.
Smile & dial when you pitch over the phone
Pitching will get easier and easier as you practice; we learn from our mistakes and successes. As a junior it’s the best reward seeing your pitching efforts being rewarded by being published in the media. When pitching keep smiling even when it’s tough, and have your notes in front of you so you don’t draw a blank. Time is money so get to the point when pitching- you are not JK Rowling and do not get paid per word. Pitching may be the objective but getting newsworthy coverage for clients is the home run.
Always follow up
Many potential stories are lost because people don’t follow up on the pitch. Always follow up with a phone call. There is a fine line between being persistent and annoying. Leaving messages doesn’t always work so keep calling until you get through. Show your interest and offer to answer any questions or clear any confusion that they may have. Always try to make the journalist life a little easier as they will be more accommodating.
(Note: I once in cotacted a tough journalist who wasn’t interested in small talk or PR fluff but offered me 60seconds of her time. By getting to the point and providing her with the facts I was able to land a big story in Business Day newspaper.)
Pitching is not easy. Find a style that best works for you and build on that style as people do not like dealing with people who are not authentic. The golden rule, build REAL meaningful relationships as media are key to making or breaking your story.