Earlier this week, the PubClub of New England hosted a “Speed Pitching” event where local PR professionals got the chance to connect one-on-one with some of the area’s most sought-after reporters. As most of us know, reporters are constantly being bombarded with pitches—some good, some not so good. So what does it take to stand out among the masses? The general verdict: keep it short, keep it sweet and make it personal.
As noted by GigaOm Senior Writer Barb Darrow, “Sometimes I get pitches that are longer than the story would be.” Being PR professionals, we know that generally when we pitch a reporter it’s a one-shot deal. You send them the pitch and either they bite or they don’t. So why wouldn’t we want to give them every little potential news hook to give us a fighting shot at getting our story placed? Simply put, because they don’t need it.
SearchNetworking News Director Shamus McGillicuddy let event attendees in on a little secret—these reporters know their audience and what resonates with that audience a lot better than we do. In fact, all of this effort that we are putting in trying to craft the perfect story angle often falls on deaf ears. Shamus along with his fellow editorial staffers agreed that getting the hard facts from PR pros is much more valuable to them than receiving an entirely separate story angle from us. Now this is not to say that we need to stop being creative when it comes to pitching; we’re in PR because creativity and innovation are what we excel at. But maybe we need to start working more collaboratively with these reporters on potential pitch angles to make it a win-win on both sides.
So if we don’t necessarily have to be digging for creative angles on every pitch, what else should we be focusing on to help improve our chances of getting that article placement? Unanimously across the board, these reporters begged us to do our homework before reaching out to them. Know exactly which topics they cover and which they don’t. A common (and often swept under the rug) practice for PR professionals is to draft that perfect pitch and then send it to every reporter who’s ever covered that topic. Unfortunately, this tends to backfire a lot more frequently than we’d care to admit. If a reporter covered a certain topic in 2011, it doesn’t necessarily mean the topic’s still a fit in 2014. And even if by chance they do still cover that same topic, when a reporter receives a pitch that they know their competing publications have received, the appeal seems to lose its luster. From their perspective, why would they want to publish the same quote, from the same executive, with the same story angle as their competing publication? They want something different and unique to them, and if their outlet is as critical for news coverage as we’ve made it out to be, we should be able to deliver that.
So a huge thanks to Steve Annear of Boston Magazine, Rob Westervelt of CRN, Barb Darrow of GigaOM, Brandon Butler of Network World, Shamus McGillicuddy of SearchNetworking.com and James Denman of SearchSoftwareQuality.com for giving the local PR professionals of New England a bit of insight into what you really want from us—a quick and easy pitch with a bit of research to back it up.