How Did They Get That? Four Tips for Successful Pitching
You call up a reporter and suggest an interview or brief them on some news and you get a great story the next week. Right? Not exactly. The combination of crazy busy media and the competition for print or online coverage makes even getting the journalist's time to discuss the pitch difficult, let alone netting the meeting and then the coverage. Let's place pitching in the "process, not an event" category. The most successful pitches are big wins for all involved -- from the PR person who has put together something compelling, to the company that is covered, to the media person who is given something really useful and interesting for their readers.
When a great article or post comes out, you often hear, "How did they get that?" as if magic fairy dust was somehow involved. Although I still keep a wand in my office for emergencies, I have to say there is no magic involved in a successful pitch. But I can offer four helpful tips from some recent very successful pitches where the triple win described above was achieved.
Practice Permission-Based Pitching -- If you pose the idea to the journalist the right way and he says he would like to learn more, you're engaged in a joint venture of sorts, which is the best kind of pitching. One of our team members saw a journalist she followed post a link to an article that was germane to one of her clients. She saw that he briefly addressed another angle in the article, but didn't delve into it in any depth, and she thought it had enough legs for a good follow-on piece in a hot subject area. Using what we PR types call a "rapid response," she tweeted to the journalist a phrase from his article, offering a C-level spokesperson who could discuss five myths about software licensing and cloud. The reporter agreed to take the meeting and the result was a great article for all involved.
Perfect your Timing -- The rapid response pitch over Twitter highlighted above is an excellent example of this tip. Another aspect of good timing is knowing whether the journalist you are reaching out to is even available to consider the pitch right now. If you're doing your homework, you should know if they are offsite live-tweeting from a conference or show they are attending. Don't bug them then. But if you know they are available, make sure that what you bring them is timely enough to help them justify writing about it right now. A successful pitch one of our folks did recently was timed around a study released at a cloud conference. She offered a C-level executive who could share specific reactions to the study -- essentially exploding some myths -- which the journalist found useful material for a good article. A last example was taking advantage of news, a hot market segment and association with a more visible company to get attention. One of our clients, Agero, a successful company that is just beginning to build external visibility, was ready to announce it was selling its connected vehicle services business to Sirius XM so it could focus on the safety and security and brand loyalty aspects of its business. Combining the connected vehicle trend with strong expert commentary from Agero, the Sirius XM news led to strong articles that focused on Agero's going forward plan in publications such as Xconomy.
Perfect Politically Correct Checking In -- This is an art form, believe me. Journalists are busy and are constantly multi-tasking. They may be very excited about a story they are writing, but may have had to put it aside for some breaking news. The best "pitchers" have mastered the subtle art of checking in with the journalist on a story or post that is in the works without becoming a pest. Ideally, their check-ins include additional or updated content that will help the journalist with the story they are working on. It's all about relationship at this point. You want to help and you want to jog their memory that this is a great story that they need to put to bed. But at the end of the day, it's their story and their publication. You can't do it for them. So you help however you can. Done right, it works and it strengthens your relationship with that journalist for the future.
Find the Unique Descriptor That will Engage Readers -- Our Freescale team has become masters of finding the trend that the cool foundation technology -- chips and embedded systems -- that their client offers are driving. The self-driving car is one. Another one surfaced during an interview, and our team and their internal partners at Freescale rode this one successfully for great win-win coverage. A Wired journalist asked Freescale to describe exactly how small the new ARM chip was that they were announcing. When the spokespeople noted that it was so small it could be swallowed, the factoid that made the story sing was unearthed and the reporter wrote about a chip that could "Put the Internet of Things Inside your Body." His article went viral and Freescale was positioned as the leader in the Internet of Things for the embedded market. Everybody won.
Successful pitching of a good story is definitely an art form that involves homework and digging and concise presentation of valuable information at the right time by the right level spokespeople. But when it works and everybody wins, all of the effort is worth it.