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The New Rules of Media Relations: Earn Credibility-Boosting Coverage in Key Outlets

A standing room only crowd flooded the session conducted by Michael Smart, national news director of Brigham Young University and independent media relations trainer and coach at the PRSA conference this month in DC. As listeners stood in all corners and even sat in the aisles, Michael shared some excellent knowledge on how to pitch overworked journalists and PR-averse bloggers. For some, it is a daunting task to pitch media that is inundated daily with hundreds of messages and off-topic pitches. Using these tips however, will allow you to have solid confidence in your pitch strategy.

Rule #1: Listen!

Don’t pitch if you have no idea who you are pitching, that’s a sure-fire way to fail. Instead, identify what your journalist’s favorite topics are. Familiarize yourself with their previous stories, and reference their earlier work and tell them how your pitch relates. Paying attention shows them that you’re not blindly-pitching or “spraying and praying” that someone picks up one of your many pitches—journos want to know that you’ve done research and added value to whatever it is that you’re trying to get covered.

Rule #2: Focus on anatomy. No, not that kind.

Here’s the simple anatomy of a ‘perfect pitch’ email:

  • Have a compelling subject line—getting them to open your email is the hardest part. Auto spam filters weed out tons of pitches and press releases every day. Michael says to “think about what makes you buy a magazine when you read headlines at the grocery store.” Try using numbers (10 ways to recession proof your biz), “how” (How one brave child beat the odds), and answering a compelling question (How did this housewife make $1 million in a day?)
  • One opening paragraph of concise info
  • One paragraph description of the angle
  • The last paragraph should be a call to action and offers to help
  • The entire pitch should be able to fit in the preview pane of someone’s outlook. If it doesn’t, it’s too long!
  • Rule #3: Consider the process.

    If the event or the result isn’t that interesting, how about the process? Is it a new way to achieve something? Is it funny? Take for example, the bird breathalyzer.

    Rule #4: Focus on real people.

    By nature, we are fascinated and interested in other humans. Humanizing stories/putting a face to the name appeals to both journalists and their readers.

    Rule #5: Tie to a trend.

    What is going on in the news lately? Elections? Tie to a political theme. Natural disasters? Tie to aid reliefs. An influx in crime? Tie to crime solving. A decline in the economy? Tie to money-saving procedures. The possibilities are endless.

    Rule #6: Make it easy.

    Journalists’ roles have shifted dramatically over the past few years—they have more duties and much less time. Some positions are more generalized than they used to be (for example, reporters are covering general assignment news instead of specialized fields like health and science). Make it easy for whoever you are pitching. Find real people who relate to your information, and 3rd party commentators to validate your pitch. Offer art or visuals so all the information is readily available without the extra element of having to take photos or make charts. And lastly, no attachments! That is the easiest way to get your pitch in the junk e-mail folder. As an alternative, include links to art or visuals that are helpful to your cause so that the journalist knows it is ready at their convenience.

    Michael Smart has achieved placement of full stories about his organization and clients in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, People, and on CNN and Today.

    About Cision Contributor

    This post was written by a guest Cision contributor.

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