Media relations. Proactive pitching. No denying – – I love it. Also no denying, many in our field go about it the wrong way. In my last blog we talked about the one question we should always ask as we develop the pitch:
- How will the pitch reinforce/support the company’s or person’s vision/mission or goal?
Doing so is going to act as a litmus test. Making sure we are aligned with the overall company vision/mission/goal and serving as a way of managing expectations for those pitches missing the mark.
As we start thinking about developing the compelling pitch for the right audience, some may ask, “which do we address first – – the compelling pitch or the right audience?” Really think it is a chicken/egg situation. Many times we are looking at both at the same time.
No matter how we start, one element critical in determining and learning about our real audience may seem counter-intuitive. We must embrace the fact our real audience is not the media. We are using the media – and the inherit third party credibility – as a way of telling our story to our real audience.
We should be asking ourselves:
- What is the story for my real audience?
- What is most important to them?
- How do we fit into the story/can the story be told without us?
- What does the media need to tell that story?
- How can I best work with the media in telling that story?
Ideally, by understanding the reading, watching and listening habits of our real audience, and understanding what is important to the different outlets and formats, we should be able to match our pitch to the right paper/blog/site, television news/talk show, and radio outlet. We should also be able to determine if the pitch is best suited locally, nationally, for the trades, etc.
This means, if we do our job right, we are equal parts reporter/producer and PR professional. We are working with the media in providing our mutual real audience with the right story.
For those who know me, know I’m fond of saying, “the goal should be that we find ourselves on the same side of the desk as the media.” Part of our job is to make covering the pitch as easy as possible for the media, meaning there may be times when we are offering aspects of the story that may not seem right to our client.
Wine for Table Seven
I was working with a publisher and two authors (both doctors) on a book about the health benefits of drinking wine. One of the chapters focused on the premise that if you were pregnant and routinely had a glass of red wine prior to being pregnant, there were no health risks associated with having a glass during your pregnancy (throughout the book, the doctors mentioned to always check with a physician before doing anything). This was the chapter we decided to focus on in promoting the book.
Publisher and authors wanted to go after national television. To do so, we said, we would want to finish the story for our real audience who would want to know the other viewpoint. We explained, for a national segment, the press will want/need to get the other side of the story and if we could give them that side, all the better.
We asked the doctors what groups would have some strong feelings about their chapter. They mentioned an organization whose cause was Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) awareness and said they have had conversations with the organization’s spokeswoman.
To make a long blog short (too late), we reached out to the organization, provided their spokesperson with an advance copy of the chapter and got her to agree to make herself available for interviews.
Part of the results were segments on Larry King Live and Today.
Both producers used our people exclusively for their segments because we did their homework for them. Larry King was first and Today was the following morning (we had the better looking doctor do both interviews and flew him into the Today Show from DC while the woman did the Today interview via satellite – – whenever possible I’ve found it better to do interviews, especially controversial, in-person). We didn’t spokesperson train their person or give her insights we came across from talking to the producers, etc.
Suffice to say, the segments went very well. Publisher and authors were pleased, producers thanked us for helping with the segments and the opposing organization was happy to be included and felt they got their messages across.
Reality is, the fourth estate is strapped for time and resources. A good pitch including all sides of the story is going to be a tremendous help and can speed up the process of getting the story published/on the air.
In my next blog, we’ll talk about the specific questions to ask as you develop the pitch and breakdown things to consider outlet to outlet.