Media Relations Best Practices: 20 Points Guaranteed to Make You – Yes You – a Better Pitcher (or Closer)

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Many pitches are developed during a brainstorm where every possible idea should be thrown out to see if it sticks.  They say no idea is a bad idea in a brainstorm and that is true – – a seemingly marginal idea can spur a great thought. I would add a caveat to that though – – go into these meetings knowing who you’re real audience is and what media is important to them.

As ideas are being flushed out, consider:

  • Timing – Is your subject topical?  When are you planning on pitching this?  Are you competing with a holiday, anniversary or big news event?  Can it be tied into this event?  Have you built in enough time to develop it correctly? What are your target outlets deadlines/closing dates?
  • News peg – Why would a reporter want to cover your topic?  What makes your topic different, better, more appealing than similar topics?  What is the headline/sound bite you want the media to use?  Has this topic/angle been covered before?
  •  Call to action – What do you want the reader/viewer/listener to do? Who is your real audience and how do you want to interact with them?
  • Heart, Mind or Wallet – Does the story affect one or more of these?
  • Key messages – Start thinking about what they would be. Do they resonate? Think specific types of media.  Will your messages be told?  Can the story be told without your client?  If so, rethink your pitch/angle.

Each media has some different “rules of engagement” to be thought of:

For print/online:

  • Is your pitch long-lead or short-lead?  Is this best for national outlets?  Local?  Trade? Bloggers? What about verticals?
  • Do you have an interesting spokesperson?  Trends/issues/statistics to leverage?
  • What photos/artwork can you leverage?
  • Can you tell a story the client’s competitors can’t?
  • Is this a straight product pitch or do you have an interesting lifestyle angle?
  • Are you working with a reporter or columnist? Reporter is supposed to be “just the facts ma’am” while a columnist can pull in his/her perspective. Bloggers are columnists who may very well not follow the same rules as reporters.

For radio:

  • Is your story simple enough for radio?  The listeners are typically distracted in a car, so the reporters keep the items short and simple.
  • What format works best for your topic? News/Talk? Oldies? Does the morning show do interviews?
  • Are you going to be interviewed by a reporter or a personality? Personality can be more engaging, but more dangerous.
  • Does the format provide an opportunity for a client mention?

For TV:

  • For a talk show, can you provide an entire panel of spokespeople vs. a one-off product?
  • How long do their segments last?
  • What is important to them?  Localized, visual?
  • Is this a good kicker segment?
  • Is the pitch hard news or better suited for the noon news?

Until somewhat recently, this “earned media” was the sole sweet spot for the PR guru/professional/practioner (we really need to get a better name for ourselves). Those days are over.

The advent of owned media – – blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, etc. – – has provided additional avenues for PR folks to distribute compelling messages to appropriate audiences. Much has written about the evolution of public relations; I will take the next few blogs to provide my thoughts.

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