Thursday, January 19, 2012

Get a grip on your pitching to reporters: 10 resources

I'd much rather see you revive the lost art of giving tips to reporters, rather than pitch them (and so would the reporters). But, dear communicators, if you're going to continue pitching, at least get a grip on the ball. Here are 10 resources, inspirations and examples to help you rethink and retool your media relations pitches for better success, or at least, less-cranky reporters:
  1. What you can spend time doing instead of pitching: Bad Pitch Blog points you to a more useful activity, sharing examples of how national media are using social media to elicit leads and ideas. Call it the reverse pitch, and a more successful use of your time.
  2. Here's a shocker: Journalists pitch, too: Of course, when journalists pitch, they're approaching editors with story ideas they want to write and get paid for writing. But their insights, and those of the editors who accept or reject those pitches, can help the savvy communicator better understand what's wanted, too. The Open Notebook, a behind-the-scenes trove about the best science coverage, shares these tips on how not to pitch, based on feedback from editors at seven major publications.
  3. Just because you can automate it doesn't make it right:  That's one of the underlying messages in Jason Falls's very good PR guide to email pitching. You'll learn how to avoid being spammy, among other things.
  4. A pitch a reporter yearns for: Environmental reporter and blogger Andrew Revkin is great about sharing what does and doesn't work for him regarding pitches. Here's a pitch he called "smart, efficient, useful on both ends,"  from Karen Bailey of EcoSummit. What's even more valued: It isn't really a pitch, but an effort to find out his level of awareness and his desire to learn more about a specific upcoming event. And it's just three questions, one of which offers multiple-choice answer options. Make it easy for them, people, in a good way.
  5. Even PR publications get pitched the wrong way: PR Newser shares five pitching tips from a Los Angeles journalist, with gems on how to add value and basics like "Please don’t hide your client’s PR contact info online like it’s the CEO’s bank pin." And then PR Newser adds three pointers of its own, including the succinct "Call when it’s important. Want to follow up? No need. Want to make sure I got your email? I got it. Want to see if I need to speak with someone? If I need to, I’ll ask. I’m not shy. We can use email to schedule interviews, or I’ll call you if there’s something that is more easily handled with a quick conversation. The other stuff is just annoying."
  6. Did you pitch in error? Correct with just as much enthusiasm: Reuters Health reporter Frederik Joelving reports on a Centers for Disease Control social-media holiday campaign for heart health that made a blanket recommendation about taking a daily aspirin--even though that advice is rejected by many established health authorities. Even the CDC normally includes a caveat when it promotes aspirin use, but not in this case, which was pitched to reporters for their coverage, and then corrected.
  7. Yes, you can test for pitching knowledge:  The Flack blog updates an old test of PR knowledge for today's technology (and you're supposed to take it without access to the Internet). But you do know the answer to the final question: "When is it OK to pitch a story idea via a Twitter direct message?" Don't you? And in some cases, the answer may be don't pitch them on Twitter at all.
  8. Pitch the picture: These days, you may find yourself pitching infographics, and Arik Hanson has you covered on the how-to. Funny, but these pitches also need to be relevant to the reporter or blogger.
  9. Here's a pitch to you, PR people: This writer wants you to stop chasing "earned media" and focus more on "owned media" for the things you're now pitching to reporters.
  10. Here's what the reporter experienced right before your pitch: After she didn't respond favorably to a pitch, she was called "a fucking bitch" by the PR vice president. More than two weeks after the new year, he got a pitch saying the new year was just around the corner. Try, people, to be as rare and refreshing as a drink of water in this desert, will you? And get a calendar.
I don't pitch reporters any more these days, but I can help train your team of communicators in effective pitching (or better methods). Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz if your team needs a refresher that takes today's methods into account.

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