When Ed Lee first started out in PR, he thought he’d “turn into a Machiavellian
manipulator over night, artfully maneuvering the media into submissive yet glowing articles about [his] clients.”
Then reality set in. Ed’s typical day now looks like this.
“Get in, monitor for one client, monitor for another client, report the results of the monitoring, read the newspapers and look for ways to get clients into the news cycle. Internal meetings. Do some writing, field requests for interviews/comment/bylined articles from journalists, spam the other journalists. Write more reports, more internal meetings and the most important part of any UK’s job, making tea.”
Read Ed’s typical day again. You’d be hard-pressed to see him do anything proactive other than making tea. Most businesses approach PR in the way that Ed describes—as a passive and reactive marketing endeavor. But the problem is that doesn’t work. The best PR is treated as a sales function rather than a marketing function—and the best PR people are great salespeople who are anything but passive. They live for the pitch.
Here are three easy steps to help you craft your PR sales pitches in order to greatly increase your percentage of landing great press coverage.
1. Know the angle
Everybody has an angle. Some just don’t know what it is. When it comes to pitching to reporters, it pays to know your angle so that the reporter can quickly and easily understand why your story is worth reporting on.
A great angle starts with two basic questions: “What is my story idea?” and “What will I pitch to the writer I’m about to contact?”
Potential angles could include story ideas related to:
• Your sales approach or strategy
• Your advertising and marketing methods
• The systems you use to run your business
• The importance of IT in running your business
• Your personal entrepreneur story
• Lessons from the edge when you almost lost your company
• Charity projects or efforts to give back to your community
• Stories about how you created your signature corporate culture
• Strategic alliances you’ve established
• Stories about specific employees
Any of those angles is a potential story.
When you read through newspapers and magazines from now on, be certain to read with two different lenses: one that reads for enjoyment, and one that identifies the angles that reporters and writers use to create stories. By engaging yourself in this way, you’ll start to see potential angles everywhere.
2. Know the audience
Every media outlet targets a different type of reader or viewer. When you’re pitching your stories to writers, keep their audience in mind and ask yourself these questions:
• Why will their audience care?
• Why will my story help their audience purchase the magazine or tell others about the show they watched?
Here are examples of well-known media outlets and the audiences each one targets.
Bloomberg typically covers financial information, and discusses publicly traded companies. If you’re pitching them, make sure you’re not a privately held company.
Oprah typically has emotional, heartrending stories. Don’t try to sell her producers anything but stories that fit this description.
Forbes typically covers bigger businesses like Apple and Starbucks. You might want to rethink trying to sell a reporter on covering your small business.
Inc. covers start-ups. If you have a small business, consider this the ideal medium to pitch stories to about why yours is unique. Even on a local level, different newspapers may lean further to the left or right in their coverage. Be aware of that before you pitch a story about your business to anyone who works at these publications.
3. Call the writer
Every day, editors go to their offices and sit with a stack of press releases in front of them. Those press releases came in over the news wire, and guess what the editor does for the first two hours every day? Rejects almost all of those press releases. Given a choice, would you call the editor who says no all day or the writer who is just waiting for inspiration? You call the writer, of course!
Writers wake up every day, go to their offices, sit down at their desks, stare at their computers, and think, “What the hell am I going to write about today?”
That’s where you come in.
My most successful pitches to the media have come from using the good old telephone —not by sending an email. Reporters aren’t looking at their email. They’re trying to get inspired to write about something, and when the phone rings, they’ll answer it.
And that’s when all your work building your pitch and knowing the writer comes in handy. You’re ready to sell your story. And chances are, since the price is right, the writer is buying.