PR Pitching: It’s Not Rocket Science
Like all PR professionals, we persuade journalists to cover our clients’ news. We do that through effective pitching, which requires accurate, timely and relevant information. Regardless of how media channels have changed, there are no shortcuts or do-overs (unless you are really good at disguising yourself and can recover quickly from a harsh rejection).
It’s simple, really. Yet I continue to hear or read complaints from journalist colleagues about the way they are pitched by newbie PR folks and even (gasp) some of the more experienced pros out there. Journalists have giant megaphones with which to complain about our shortcomings – while we are forced to either send them an apology, or fire up our blogs to take a defensive posture. The thing is though – journalists are often times right (that hurt). So, here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years that can keep you out of the doghouse. Even though there is no one “right” way to pitch – use your brain and think about what the journalist wants from you and you’ll be (almost) home free.
These points will help you get to the point and help avoid uncomfortable situations with agitated media types:
1. Think before you act. What you are pitching and to whom? Is the pitch clear, concise and intriguing? Put yourself in your media target’s shoes. Would you be compelled to follow up on your pitch? I once pitched a new tire launch to a fashion reporter. Hey, tires are black shoes for cars, right? I was reaching and they weren’t having it. No coverage.
2. Be considerate. Time your pitch so that you’ll give and receive the time everyone needs to do a proper job. Don’t call at the end of the day expecting immediate results, even in social media. Journalists have lives, too, along with deadlines to meet. They aren’t just sitting around waiting for you to call.
3. Research your audience. Is your subject matter the journalist’s usual beat? Don’t make the mistake of not reading their stuff. If you work for an agency, budget in time to do your research or risk some wrath.
4. Be passionate and knowledgeable about what you’re pitching. Anticipate questions and have answers ready before you engage in pitches, interviews and demos. Journalists are handling more assignments than ever – don’t lose opportunities by lacking the info they want and need right now (you may not get a second chance to connect). Conversely, don’t overcommunicate: journalists will draw their own conclusions. Jedi mind tricks don’t work.
5. Know that it’s not about you. You are the conduit of information, not the focus. Provide top-notch service, develop positive relationships, don’t over-promise, and absolutely do what you say you are going to do.
Follow these pointers and you’re on your way to becoming a trusted resource instead of the topic of an acerbic diatribe about how PR pros drool and journalists rule.
Photo courtesy of nicolasnova on Flickr.