The Smart PR Pro’s Guide to Turning Pitches Into Placements
Reporters at top publications receive dozens of pitches each day. That’s a lot of competition.
Breaking through and earning coverage doesn’t require pitching more, it requires pitching smart.
Renowned pitching coach Michael Smart recently hosted the “Pitch Smart: Media Outreach Training” webinar that focused on how to win reporters’ attention and drive placements by targeting, developing and writing customized pitches.
Here are just a few of Michael’s tips from his webinar:
Creating exciting pitches from boring content
Sometimes the ideas and topics you’re asked to pitch are yawn-worthy. That doesn’t mean your pitch has to be. Michael showed how three businesses got creative with pitches to get a major media placement.
1. Exploit pop culture
The climactic fight seen in the first Avengers movie took place in New York City. It’s not much of a spoiler to say that Captain America and the gang won the battle, but in so doing crushed buildings and cars.
An actuarial firm decided to take the momentum of the blockbuster movie to create a pitch. They determined that it would cost $60 to $70 billion to repair the damage to Manhattan and created a long-form report detailing the damage and costs.
They had fun with the report, pitched the media and earned tremendous coverage.
2. Create snackable content
Another of Michael’s pitching students saw a commercial promoting Discovery’s Shark Week, and the wheels began turning.
She used her clients’ beverages as the central ingredients of healthy Shark Week-themed cocktails and pitched them. One reporter loved her idea so much that she developed a story around healthy snacks for Shark Week, heavily featuring the pitched recipes.
3. Use existing ideas
Sometimes you don’t need to create anything new. If you can draw a parallel between something you’re already doing and something familiar in pop culture, you’ll earn placements.
For example, instead of looking at resumes, an insurance company chose employees for a particular team by having hopefuls give a stump speech and answer questions from panelists. The format was reminiscent of American Idol.
The company pitched the idea, and CNN Money ran with it, creating an article about taking inspiration from reality TV shows to do business better. It heavily featured the insurance company that pitched the idea.
Save time with the 80-20 principle
Pitches are not one-size-fits-all. Even the intern on his first day knows that.
Even still, Michael says he often hears people say, “I know I should customize my pitches better, but I just don’t have time.”
But if your generic pitches aren’t working, why not change your strategy?
Michael recommends spending 80 percent of your time focusing on the top 20 percent of your media list. Michael’s strategy mirrors a principle that impacts many different fields: 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your effort.
Try focusing on five to 10 absolutely crucial influencers. If you need more than that, bring in teammates.
For anyone outside of that top tier, do the best you can with the time you have. For reporters outside of the second tier, you can send them all the same pitch, Michael says.
“The hard part,” he adds, “is figuring out what 20 percent of our effort results in the 80 percent.”
Choosing the 20%
All media relations should drive revenue or valuation, Michael says. You should aim to tie all of your media relations efforts to either or both of those objectives.
Think about your audience and the influencers who most often drive them to action. This should help you narrow your list of who you should spend time targeting pitches.
Send to least crowded mailbox
A great pitch is always the best way to get a reporter’s attention, but sometimes thinking outside of the inbox can help.
Michael likes the strategy of pitching to the least crowded inbox. In the early days of the Internet, emailing pitches often proved more effective than faxing, the preferred pitching platform of that era.
Now that everything’s digital, sending physical mail will help you stand out, assuming you have the time. Michael says that when he sends physical mail to journalists, he also includes a note to watch out for an email. The email is able to hold all of the collateral the journalist might need to write the story.
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