Our clients demand value creation—as they should—for their investment in public relations. The following guidelines give insight into some of the coaching we give to our internal public relations teams when approaching media to help tell client stories. If you handle your own public relations efforts or partner with a firm like ours, this is what you should expect. These 10 steps serve as a process for you to craft on-strategy, on-message, incremental-value-producing public relations results.
Step 1: What audience are we trying to reach?
To effectively pitch media, you must first understand who you are attempting to reach with your message. Once you know the audiences, then you can clearly identify media outlets that target those audiences.
Step 2: Why is it important the audience gets this information?
The answer to this question typically serves as the lead paragraph in your media pitch. In answering this question, however, you might include answers to several additional questions:
- Where might this story pitch fit within the particular media outlet (program, department, etc.)?
- Is there an editorial calendar opportunity you could cite as a fit?
- Are there other upcoming events or activities that would make this timely and relevant (regulation, legislation, conferences, reports, analyses, add-ons to other related news)?
- What form would we suggest the editorial opportunity take (commentary, Q&A, profile, feature, top tips, news, trend analysis, point-counter-point, bylined article, in-studio appearance, webcast, case study, white paper, other e-offers)?
Step 3: What brand messages support the story angle and how can you use those in a media pitch?
Though a pitch may be a tool for making inroads with a particular media outlet, it also presents an opportunity to begin illustrating how you want to be positioned. Rather than telling an editor that your firm seeks to become known for uncompromising quality, for example, develop a story pitch that demonstrates quality-centered brand positioning. Actions always speak louder than words.
Step 4: How does this media pitch support the agreed-upon strategies of your communications plan?
This is an important distinction that will elevate your public relations efforts to the strategic level. Presumably your communications plan supports the advancement of a particular agenda. Media coverage that supports strategies tied to your business objectives certainly are more valuable than those that don’t. If you don’t have a plan, review what you want to accomplish and how media coverage can help get you there. Ask yourself of every story pitch: what are my objectives, what will it take to achieve those objectives, and what actions and messaging must we employ to produce desired results? If you cannot tie media coverage to business objectives, reassess your public relations efforts.
Step 5: What media outlets will we pitch, why, in what order, and when?
This is a matter of prioritization. First, define success. What media outlets will give you the most bang for the time you invest. Then do your homework to become the expert who brings knowledge and opportunity to targeted media. Time is anything but limitless for our clients. The same is true of reporters. Therefore, timing, order and certainty of purpose become crucial to efficiently generating the media coverage you desire. If you want them to take your call, ensure you bring them something they value.
Step 6: Who is the appropriate contact at the media outlet and why?
To truly understand how a media outlet is structured and who covers what, you must delve deeply into it. Read, watch and learn likes and dislikes of targeted reporters. Invite editors and reporters out to lunch. Many are required to get out in the community and develop a network of sources. Send an e-mail complimenting them on a piece you found interesting. Attend events where an editor will appear to get some face time. Introduce yourself.
Step 7: How can we maximize the effort to produce a media pitch by repurposing it to other non-competing media outlets (verticals, horizontals, online, etc.)?
If you are going to research and craft a media pitch, it makes sense to determine what other opportunities exist for you to gain additional coverage based on the same pitch. Media outlets in direct competition with one another never want to see the same story run among their competitors. In fact, it will alienate them. But a feature pitch for a medical industry publication might play well as a Q&A pitch to association newsletters with a similar focus. By slightly changing the format or the focus, you can create incremental value.
Step 8: How can we maximize the effort to produce this media pitch by repurposing it into different venues (industry webinars, conferences, annual meetings, trade shows, speeches, presentations, etc.) beyond traditional media?
Now turn your attention to other venues to further extend the value of your efforts. With some adjustments, you can easily turn your media pitch into an abstract that satisfies calls for speakers and papers at a trade show. Once your abstract is accepted, you can go to work on creating media attention at the show. Send media invitations to your presentation. Arrange at-show briefings to establish yourself as a knowledgeable media resource. For those media and customers who cannot attend the trade show, let them know the video of your presentation will be posted to your website.
Step 9: If unsuccessful in your initial media pitch, what can you do to make it a fit?
One sure-fire way to alienate the recipients of your pitch, regardless of venue, is to repeatedly attempt to convince them the same pitch is a good fit. Reach out to them with additional material, such as new statistics, trends, issues, case studies and other information that will create an undeniable interest. Help them do their job by providing photography, illustrations and video—everything they need to create a package that works for their venue.
Step 10: Media coverage is the beginning, not the end, of your public relations efforts.
Once stories appear in the media, you must turn your attention to extending the value of the actual placements. Now is the time to take the credibility gained by media coverage directly to your audiences. Include media coverage in sales kits, direct-mail campaigns and on your website. Use media coverage to establish credibility and expertise with other media and venues. The value of public relations begins, not ends, once media cover you.
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