Dec 17, 2019 / in Best PracticesUS Blog

Last week I had the opportunity to participate on a pitching roundtable featuring a talented group of communications professionals. The pitching roundtable, which was held at the PR News Media Relations Conference in Washington D.C., covered the always relevant topic: How to drive engagement and garner coverage from PR pitches. 

In today’s always-on media cycle, news travels fast. Journalists receive hundreds of pitches a week, media outlets publish thousands of stories a day. It’s become increasingly difficult to stand out. Below are five actionable takeaways that you should incorporate into your media relations strategy.  

1. Get to the point and don’t bury the lead 

As Monica Melton, Assistant Editor of Innovation at Forbes, said “we are inundated with requests.” The average journalist receives hundreds- if not thousands- of pitches every week. PR Pros have a few precious seconds to grab the attention of their target journalist. To stand out, it’s critical to get to the point. Lead with the hook or news peg. Melton loves to receive data and analysis, and she wants to see it right away. It sounds basic, but a pitch should always include the who, what, when, where and why.  Make it very clear that your pitch is relevant to the journalist and their audience. 

2. Find the right balance between 1:1 outreach and comprehensive distribution 

A media relations strategy should not be a one-size-fits-all approach. PR pros who limit their outreach to a handful of target journalists will miss editorial opportunities, while PR pros who opt for broad and generic outreach will fail to resonate with many of their target publications. An effective media relations strategy should incorporate both tactics. High-quality, personalized outreach to your target journalists paired with a comprehensive, multichannel distribution campaign; a well-rounded PR campaign should include email and the newswire. 

3. A few questions to answer before every pitch 

Journalists are taught to know their reader. For PR Pros, it’s crucial to know your reporter. Laura Brusca, VP of Corporate Communications at Forbes, shared a few great questions that she answers before every story she pitches. These questions will help you identify the right journalists, set the proper expectations for your executives / clients, and improve your ability to articulate your story. 

  • What is your dream headline?  
  • What story do you want to tell? 
  • Who is going to tell your story the correct way?  
  • Where do you want to see it? 

Brusca followed up these questions with a great quote, “it’s not news until you say it’s news.” As PR pros, you own your narrative; publish it when you’re ready, when the timing feels right. It’s always better if your story is told the way you want it to be told. 

4. Multimedia is a critical component to your story 

Tom Butts, Content Director of TV Technology said it best, “it is inexcusable to not include graphics in your pitch.” Multimedia is no longer a nice to have, it’s a most have. 9 out of 10 audiences prefer visual content. 7 out of 10 journalists rely on multimedia in the stories they publish, yet the majority of press release are text-only.  

In the Q&A, several questions arouse multimedia best practices, especially around what’s the best way to deliver multimedia content. Most PR pros have experienced the dilemma: Do I attach or embed? Is this image too large? How do I include video? Here are a few answers to those questions: 

  • Hyperlinks: The cloud is your friend. Rather than cluttering your pitch with multiple attachments or embedded images, make it easy and link to your assets. A simple hyperlink – “click here” for photos, videos, logo, etc is perfect. 
  • Embed: When you’re distributing a press release over the wire, and you’re aiming to engage readers; embedded multimedia assets are proven to boost views and engagement. 
  • Attachments: If you’ve already working with a journalist on a story, make it easy for them. Attachments are suitable when working 1:1 with a journalist. Quickly attaching a photo or image make it easy to give them what they need. 

5. Press Releases are very powerful 

Every session at the PR News conference seemed to allude to the power of the press release. Howard Mortman, Communications Director at S-SPAN, told a story of using the Cision Communications Cloud to identify journalists in locations where he has no connections, and he leverages the good old-fashion press release to engage these reporters.

Cision’s 2019 State of the Media Report, which surveyed nearly 2,000 journalists, echoes this sentiment, revealing that press releases are the most valuable and trusted source of content.  In the eyes of a journalist, the press release is the full package. It contains everything that a journalist needs (headlines, quotes, stats, images, contact info, etc.)  to write a story.  

If you want to learn more about how to put these rules into your daily pitching practice let’s talk!


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