5 Tips to Ensure Your Pitch is Actually Newsworthy
Every public relations professional has been there — your client has some “news” they want to see published…that really isn’t news at all.
Great. Your mission is to please the client (who pays you). But, of course, you’re not going to bribe a reporter with anything but one heck of a storyline.
So what do you do? You work your PR magic and you turn that new hire announcement into the most important business growth news happening right now, which points to a greater industry trend.
Easier said than done. Still, if you follow these five tips when fine-tuning your next pitch, chances are your announcement will reveal something truly newsworthy — and maybe even land you one of those home run stories for your client.
1. Make sure your media pitch has an impeccable time peg to it. A peg, or story angle, is the crux of your argument as a public relations professional pitching the media. A peg is something people hang a coat or hat on, so think of your peg as something a reporter can cling to at that very moment. The peg is perhaps the most crucial element to your pitch. It answers the “why” for the reporter doing his or her story gathering. And, its timeliness answers the “When should I write or report on this?” question that is always lingering in a reporter’s and editor’s mind. One example we successfully used at All Points: We ran a social media contest on behalf of a fast casual franchise client in which fans submitted ideas for the next new item on the menu. Then, when the winner was chosen, we had a crucial time peg — “Popular area restaurant creates new flavor using innovative social media contest.” As PR professionals, we essentially created what became a timely news angle.
2. Be sure your media pitch has an overall sense of urgency. Every time you send out a pitch — whether via email, through a phone call or smoke signals — be sure there is a sense of urgency embedded deep within the core of your message. You want this story to be written yesterday. And you want the reporter to “want” to be the one to tell it. So, in addition to creating a pitch with a great time peg, the pitch needs to feel incredibly important. Something may have happened today, but that doesn’t make it urgent or incredibly timely. For example, I brushed my teeth today. Big deal — no news there. But, if I brush my teeth today and contributed to the overall well-being of my mouth by protecting from cavities, removing stains and avoiding bad breath, I’ve done something that feels more urgent.
3. Sprinkle useful facts and newsy tidbits into your pitch. While as PR professionals we tend to want to make everything seem grandiose — we want our client to be more unique than every competitor — it’s also important to realize the media you’re pitching, depending on their experience, can become really good at smelling too much BS. You have to feed the desire of journalists and provide them with relevant, factual information about your client and company that can indeed contribute to an objective story about or including them. If your client is comfortable with sharing revenue numbers or other useful statistics, use that — of course, be certain it tells a positive narrative about the client. And don’t be afraid to go to the Google machine and find outside sources or statistics that can help position your client within a larger trend. For example, if your client is in the real estate industry, look at stats within the target market and use those positive stats to help position your client within a larger piece about a promising housing market.
4. Provide the reporter a specific call to action. You generally don’t get what you don’t ask for (unless it magically falls from the sky). Therefore, be upfront with reporters — without being in their face or combative — and ask for something at the end of your pitch. Don’t be afraid to ask the reporter if you can carve out some time for your source to speak with him or her. It may not work all the time, but it has been successful and it can certainly further a conversation. It also clarifies things for the reporter. Being vague is never a good option if you want a task to be completed.
5. Finally, put yourself in the reporter’s shoes — Would you pursue this story? And now, the moment of truth. You’ve drafted that pitch. But before you send it to your editor (and especially before you send it to media) ask yourself a very important question: Is this story interesting? Is this something I or other people would actually want to read about? You’d be surprised — when you answer yes to that question, chances are the reporter on the other end will do the same.