The Basics of Pitching the Media – Tips for More PR Success

Oct 6th, 2010 | By | Category: News, Public relations

My four year old asked me the other day what I was doing. I was reading the newspaper. “Why?” she asked as she often does about most things these days. “Because I want to know what is going on in the world,” I answered. “Why?” she asked again. I thought about that question as a PR practitioner, and it led me to think about why most people read newspapers, magazines or even watch the news. At the end of the day, people want to be entertained. Whether it is watching the news, a television program or sitting with a cup of coffee reading the paper – it all comes down to entertainment in some form or another.

The challenge that we, as PR people face, is taking a company, service or product and transforming it so it appears to be entertainment.  I have come to realize over the years, this is almost like an art. It takes skill, practice and determination to achieve.

Writing for the press is not the same as writing for any other audience. I write all the time for different targets – consumers, investors, suppliers, strategic partners and more. Writing for the press (whether it is a pitch email, a press release or other information), is about convincing the media that you are interesting enough for them to write about (or document/film/broadcast etc.). Reporters or editors are not looking to help you make a sale. They want to entertain their audiences and therefore, are looking for new and interesting stories to tell.

Time and again, I come across people who’s understanding of PR is only “press relations” (I discussed this in my first blog). Unfortunately all too often, many executives and management take this misconception one step further. They fail to understand how marketing a product/service to consumers (or other target audiences) is almost the opposite technique or skill set as getting the media to cover your company/product/service.

When thinking about the media, here are basic tips:

Tip no. 1. Why are you interesting? Think about why the reporter should write about you (your company/product/service) as opposed to all the other competitors? What sets you apart?

Tip no. 2. Take out all the hype! The press doesn’t need it or want it. They want the most objective language and tone possible. You cannot use the same “marketing-speak” you would normally use to attract customers, for the press.

Tip no. 3. What is the story? Sometimes it is all too easy to get caught up in our own little world, ignoring what is going on around us. However, the world around us is exactly what people working in the media are concerned about. Ask yourselves how you fit into the macro-environment and create a story around that.

Tip no. 4. Know your media. Do your research and get to know the kind of topics the outlet covers, who its audience is and what subjects concern the specific  reporter (i.e. read his/her articles) before making contact. This may be time consuming but it is effective.

Unlike other marketing functions, PR’s main concern is to create understanding between your organization and its publics, and generate a positive reputation for your company. The media is only one tool used to accomplish those goals. Understanding (both for yourself and your management) and respecting that “tool”, is key to a successful media campaign.

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