A surefire way to build your organization is to create and share great stories. Everyone is fighting for the attention of journalists to help do this, but how do you actually capture their attention? This fantastic list from Cision.com and infographic data compiled from an article by Forbes provide timeless tips for pitching the media via top journalists at The New York Times, USA Today and more! The big takeaways? Email pitches are best, follow-up, do your homework, be persistent and think twice about sending those attachments!
[scroll to the bottom to view the infographic].
1. Do your homework
Before you send a pitch, you should know what topics the journalist does and does not cover. “If it’s something that’s generally not my beat, I’m just not going to respond,” says Melanie Eversley, Civil Rights and Social Issues Reporter for USA Today. On the flipside, you should know what stories the journalist has published in previous issues, so you’re not pitching recently covered topics.
2. E-mail still wins
Sure, a phone call is direct, and the popularity and reach of social media is impressive–but most journalists agree that e-mail is where the pitch should be. “Always start with an e-mail,” says Tonya Garcia, Business Editor of MadameNoire.com. “I’ll encourage people to talk to me via e-mail first, and that’s usually the best way to get a phone call.” Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer for Columbia University, agrees. “E-mail is still the most useful way in getting work done—not Twitter, not Facebook, but e-mail.” Sreenivasan adds, “A lot of reporters have Facebook fatigue.”
3. Say it in the subject line
If you can’t summarize your e-mail in the subject line, your pitch stands little chance of being read. Even then, “If you’ve done your homework and know what I’ve written about, hopefully you can put something in the subject line to catch my attention,” says Eversley. When you can import the pitch’s relevance in the subject line, you’ll have a better chance of getting noticed.
4. Know the audience
The best PR professionals know which journalists to target—but they can also explain why the pitch fits the needs, demographics or interests of their readership. Eversley notes that the best PR person she knows “understands the audience, what I’m looking for, and gets right to the point. ‘This is why this issue is important and why your readers should hear.’” If you’re pitching a story that the outlet’s audience wouldn’t care about, you won’t get far.
5. Make news of the mundane
Sometimes a client wants you to send a press release that doesn’t exactly sell itself. Your job is to make it newsworthy, in a natural way. “Parlaying a not-great story and somehow making it a story—that is again, just being a voracious reader,” says Garcia. “Not just on Twitter and Facebook,” she adds, “but going in and reading the news. Finding a legitimate way, not a fake way, [to relate].” Garcia recommends being honest when it isn’t the best pitch—”just coming right out and saying ‘You know I have to do what my clients says’” can show the journalist you value their time and preserve the relationship.
6. Stay accessible
Journalists work on tight deadlines, and one of their biggest pet peeves is not being able to reach the PR person who sent them an e-mail. “The difference between someone who replies in five minutes and someone who replies in an hour is just gigantic in my mind,” says Brian Stelter, Media Industry Reporter at the The New York Times. He commends PR pros who use social media to stay connected. “That ability to be in touch in different ways is useful. It gives me the sense that the PR person is omnipresent,” he says.
7. Always be helping
Relationships are a two-way street, so if you’re looking to build and sustain a rapport with journalists, it’s important that you’re not just contacting them when your company or client wants coverage. “The ones I’m really good friends with are the ones who help me when it’s not their client,” says Sreenivasan. “When they know I’m working on X, they’ll say, ‘Here’s someone I know you can talk to’. They’re helpful every single time—so then when hey do have a pitch, I eagerly open it because I now want to help them back,” he notes.
8. Don’t send attachments
Have you read the book, “He’s Just Not That Into You?” The same concept can be applied to pitching. If a journalist requires more information about a product, event or launch, he or she will ask. “Do not send attachments, please!” urges Sreenivasan. “I can’t believe people in 2013 still send attachments.” Resist all temptation to send that high-resolution image or explanatory PDF until the journalist expresses interest in covering the story and requests specific attachments or details.
9. Timing is everything
A big part of pitching is also knowing when not to pitch. “If you’re writing to me and I’ve just said [on Twitter] ‘I’m at my grandmother’s funeral,’ it’s so ridiculous for you to pitch me that day,” Sreenivasan cautions. “You won’t believe how many times reporters get requests from PR people who don’t bother to check what [we've] said on social.” He recommends tools such as Rapportive, that can show a journalist’s most recent tweets when you’re getting ready to send them an e-mail, so you can discern the right time to reach out.
10. Be pushy
It may sound like counterintuitive advice, but if you’ve done everything else right, you could stand to be a bit more imposing. “I would say, be as pushy as you can,” says Eversley. “Please forgive us if we don’t get back to you or if it seems like we’re being rude. It’s nothing personal, it just depends on how our day is going.” Stelter explains it like this: “E-mail is like a Twitter stream—you’re not going to read everything. You’ve got to push it back to the top for us.” He also admits that it may take multiple e-mails to convince him to cover your pitch. “It’s interesting how, sometimes that story I hated a week ago, I start to really like, and how I need that time to let it percolate,” Stelter says. “Sometimes that’s whyI haven’t replied.” – Cision.com
This post is part of our 4th quarter “Finish Strong” series to help entrepreneurs position themselves for a successful completion of 2014 and powerful start to 2015. Have tips? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for other articles.
New opportunities to grow professionally are offered to most “Builders” on a consistent basis, but they are often disguised as challenges, more work, difficult circumstances, and unknown territory.
I heard something a while ago that has become a mantra to me. “Approach life from a place of ‘yes’.” So when do we know when to say yes or not? How can we spot amazing opportunities and be sure not to miss out professionally?
Here are a few observations.
Our instincts rarely lie. When you are first offered that great new “job,” partnership, internship, opportunity to learn, you’ll feel an immediate urge of excitement and maybe even fear. Your gut is likely giving you a nudge to say “Yes” and figure out how to make it happen.
•Ability to Learn
Constant growth is our goal as Builders of anything, right? If that’s the case, you’re a lifelong learner and those things which are worth having won’t be easy. When I was employed as a full-time marketer, I only accepted positions that allowed me to further my knowledge base. I’d say the same is required in most amazing opportunities.
•Law of Attraction
Hopefully you’re familiar with this term, which basically means you attract what you think about and speak. If you’ve been waiting, wanting and praying for new doors to open and something amazing to happen it might be a sign that the universe has opened up to you.
Reading: 12 Ways The “Law Of Attraction” Can Improve Your Life
•It Expands Your Territory
Great opportunities will undoubtedly expand your territory and provide you with a new platform to operate in your greatness.
•You’ve Done Your Research
Check out the person or company offering this great opportunity, and be sure it’s legit. I read a fantastic article in Entrepreneur called, “Sniffing Out a Good Business Opportunity,” and it encourages a significant amount of due diligence. Check it out if you’re considering a Business Opportunity with a capital B O.
•It Aligns with your Devine Purpose
New opportunities may often be different or take us down a new path, but hopefully you’ve figured out what you were called to do. Always ask yourself whether or not this new opportunity advances your calling and if you’ll feel morally good about it.
•Cast of Characters
Will you be working with people who have good character? Can they help you grow or vice versa? The environment should be one that promotes collaboration, teamwork, and positivity. Check the cast of characters against your own.
•The Virtues of Patience & Passion
As the quote at the top says, you may not know exactly how to do it, but you’re willing to learn. Learning takes passion and patience. Tap into your passion and ensure that you can dedicate yourself to learning how to do it right. Also your colleagues must be willing to be patient with you.
We’re headed into the last quarter of 2014, and this year has provided many lessons surrounding brand management and staying power. People I speak with are still pondering the appropriate road map that will take their own companies to the next level and worst – how not to make the mistakes (that have been in the news), mistakes that would crush their smaller lesser-known companies, depleting sales-trust-and brand relevance. Those are the worries.
But daily, there are also a set of practical questions that I hear from social entrepreneurs: What sales tools to use? What spokesperson would best represent the brand? What social media platforms should I invest in?
Thinking and creating strategies for the seven factors below will make it easier to answer the tactical marketing questions for any brand, simply because they will put the core areas of brand sustainability at the forefront of your mind, and make it easier to weed out irrelevant opportunities, social spaces and marketing techniques that don’t align with your overall strategy and needs.
7 Factors for Brand Sustainability
1. Vision: What important problem will your brand address? Your vision statement should answer the question of what you hope to accomplish long-term with the brand. What sets you apart from your peers and how is this new (or existing) creation going to improve the world?
2. Audience: What is your target audience and ideal customer? In the Power Brand Building courses that I offer, too many people tell me that they want to serve everyone. However, I challenge them and any Brand Builder to really think about what their ideal customer or target audience looks like. How old are they? What’s their income? What do they like to do; where do they currently go to get the new service you’re going to introduce them to? What is this person’s income and discretionary income? Why do they need your brand in their lives?
I challenge you to describe your ideal customer on paper, and then flip through a few magazines and find a representation of this person. Cut out a picture of what your ideal customer looks like and give him or her a name. It’s a great idea to survey the market and your existing audience to learn what they’re missing. I always recommend asking the question, “How can I help you?”, then figuring out how to provide that answer to as many people possible.
3. Partners: What other organizations can you forge mutually beneficial relationships with to build your audience and platform? Not all partnerships will result in immediate sales. Not all partnerships will be free nor inexpensive. They will vary, and you’ll need to FIRST identify what types of partnership needs your brand requires and what can you offer in exchange. I’ve seen amazingly successful partnerships in sales, community outreach, technology sharing, civic engagement and civic discussion. Partnerships are also very unpredictable so keep an open mind when you’re approached with a new joint venture.
4. Technology: What technologies are necessary to make your business run fluidly? What’s lacking now and what will it take to put those things in place? Are these technologies event built? Is technology helping to improve your business functionality through automating or streamlining processes? Technology can be very simple or complex depending on the brand. Small business owners are often forced to find less expensive ways to tackle technological challenges due to strained budgets.
Consider each of your business functions, and at the very least, start with a basic technological survey: Do you have a working web site, email accounts, cloud accounts (for documents and photos), software, can people easily purchase from you, are you able to track sales and expenses? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you may decide to make technology one of the goals you tackle prior to ending 2014. After you know the basics are in order, consider what technology could improve your business functions: for some of my clients, this has been replicable web sites and multi-user sites, grant portals, development and fundraising tools that help with donor prospecting. It could be as simple as building a mobile app for your brand or making your business more automated.
5. Mediums: How will you share your story? Not one method will generally work on its own so consider listing all the tools available to you and conduct research to find what’s best. This important step is truly the meat of your marketing strategy. If you sell the best service or gadget in the world, but no one knows – or perhaps you have the most inspiring story that you know can change thinking and behavior – and yet, no one knows, is it really doing any good? Some mediums to tell your story are below. Think about how you can incorporate some or all of these into your marketing plan.
Blogs – Web Site – Text Message Marketing – Social Media – Networking Events – Webinars – Podcasts – Media Alerts/Press Releases – Media Appearances and Interviews – White Papers – Workshops – Speaking Engagements – Books – E-Books – Joint Partnerships – Events – Community Engagement Initiatives – Email Marketing – Articles – Infographics – Video Marketing/YouTube Channels – Online Classes – Google Hangouts - Did I miss any?
6. Learning: Learning leads to personal and organizational growth. There are a plethora of ways to continue building your brand even after you launch and find success. I love skillshare.com, Flipboard, slideshare.net, Twitter and Google Hangouts as five cheap and inexpensive ways to keep learning each day. Constant learning will allow you to have a more clear vision of where your industry is going and enable you to adapt to changes. Be sure to put an educational advancement plan in place to keep a fresh source of professional knowledge coming in. This will only help your build up.
7. Business Model: Your business model explains the company structure, leadership, revenue model and sources. However, for for-profit companies, two goals to think about when creating a sustainable business model are
1) you can make a profit aside from exchanging time for money and
2) your income is residual.
These two factors can look drastically different depending on the brand. If you didn’t establish a sustainable business model when you created your company, it’s not too late for you. There are still ways to adjust your thinking, structure and offerings to enable business sustainability and profitability.
I would love to know your feedback on ways you’ve been able to build brand sustainability. If you’d like assistance, just drop me a note. I’d love to help.
-Natasha T. Brown is social responsibility brand builder, marketing consultant and the creator of thebuilduplab.org,Think Brown INK and a number of community outreach initiatives.