National, local and in-between: Pitching is all about storytelling
May 2, 2018
We all send out press releases for events. And a lot of times we feel it’s a must-do. Obligatory. We put in the five Ws, but let’s be real: The press release for an event is not the most important vehicle for information, right? Try as we might, a release just isn’t always the key to ensuring coverage in media relations.
It's the storytelling that sells the pitch.
In public relations, we call it earned media for a reason. Media coverage isn’t just given to us when we want it, much to practitioners’ chagrin. Everything that is written about our clients has to be earned through effort and diligence to share work that matters, stories that matter.
At P&G, we often talk about approaching media relations with a customer service attitude – what can we do to make the reporter’s life easier? What can we do to ensure readers, listeners or viewers have access to relevant stories that matter to them?
And here’s the thing about media relations – it’s about people. Whether you’re pitching a local news outlet or a national one, you’ve got to focus on what matters. What matters to people.
Recently, we got to chatting about pitching during a team meeting and fell on the subject of the similarities between local and national pitching. It’s a different scale and a different audience, but really you use the same approach.
Our job is to share a compelling story with various audiences (aka news outlets) to achieve the goal of getting as much coverage possible. Why? To help assure those news outlets’ audiences have the stories they deserve. The information they want. And that doesn’t change whether you’re pitching your local TV station or The New York Times.
So, what makes a successful pitch, full of storytelling, regardless of who you’re working with? We have a few things we can’t leave out when pitching:
Be authentic and genuinely interested in the material being shared. At P&G, we believe if you don’t care about it, you shouldn’t pitch it. Don't pitch something you don't support. Don’t pitch something you wouldn’t want to read.
Customize your pitch to each reporter and news outlet. Countless people have said this, and yet PR people still don’t do it. Just because you’re interested doesn’t mean a reporter will be. Research who they are, what they typically cover, why it matters to them and, most importantly, if their readers, viewers or listeners also will find it important.
Be conversational. No one wants to reply to a message that wasn't personalized and was rushed to be sent out. Be human and treat those who work for media outlets like humans too.
Follow a timeline that makes sense for the media outlet. For a local monthly magazine, a pitch should not wait until the day of or even week of the event. For national media, understand how their reporters write and work, and adapt to support them.
With these tips in mind, you should be well on your way to improving your pitching process with a newfound respect for the power of storytelling.