Five tips on writing a news pitch that works

January 22nd, 2018

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I read a shocking article today about how one reporter ignores 95% of the media pitches she gets in her email box. What shocked me though wasn’t how high the number was – but how badly PR practitioners are still pitching reporters and the ridiculous mistakes they are making as “professionals” in our industry. These bad pitches aren’t helping anyone, and in fact, they are making our jobs even harder.

Writing an effective news release or news pitch can be done with the help of the following five rules, many of which I learned from Ann Wylie, a genius when it comes to effective writing and storytelling.

Do your research first. The days of sending a press release to a generic media list of hundreds of reporters and hoping for success are over. Targeted pitches are much more effective and in the end, will get you better results for your clients. Identify which publications will reach your target audience and then find out which reporter at that publication covers your targeted beat. Once you know this person, do some research on their social media and look at past articles they’ve written to ensure you send them a pitch that best meets their needs.

Keep it short and simple. According to Ann Wylie, your total pitch should be no longer than 200 words. That’s it. Remember, these people are being inundated with emails and phone calls all day, so make it super simple for them to read and understand your pitch as quickly as possible. This also includes using easy words and no jargon, keeping the sentences short, and not using unnecessary modifiers.

Use your headline or subject line to catch their attention quickly. I’ve already said that you have just seconds to grab a reporters attention, and much of that time will be spent reading your headline or subject line. In fact, this is probably the most important part of your entire message. Use the first 20-25 words of your message to excite them about what you have to say. And don’t use this important space to brag about your company or clutter things up with background information.

When you write a news release or a news pitch, remember that your company or product isn’t the most important thing to the reporter. How the public will benefit or be affected by your product or company is of much greater interest. So, instead of writing that XYZ company has created a new widget, write about how this new widget will help moms better schedule their kid’s activities, or how it will help in the fight against cancer. That is of much more importance to a reporter, and is much more likely to result in a story.

Be a reliable resource for the media, even when you don’t have something to pitch. I learned this important point from Peter Shankman, who created “Help a Reporter Out” to help reporters connect with potential sources. By helping reporters when he wasn’t looking for story placements, he was able to build relationships and trust for those times when he did have a good story to tell. You can do the same by sharing information with reporters that might help them with stories they are working on, even if they have no benefit to you or your business.

Take your time when writing your next news release or media pitch and make sure you follow these five simple rules. It could be make the difference between being read and being ignored.

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So, What the Heck IS Public Relations?

July 21st, 2017

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Anytime I meet a new person out somewhere, the question of “What do you do?” almost always comes up. My response, “I’m a public relations consultant,” usually results in one of two reactions:

Either the person stares at me smiling and nodding…waiting for me to say something else, or they say, “Oh, like you make websites?”

Yes, I make websites, and news releases, and I write blog posts and do social media, but these are all just tactics that make up the larger being that is “public relations.”

I have to admit that after nearly 25 years in the PR business (wow….I’m getting old!) I still have to think about what it is I do and how best to explain it when I’m asked.

So, I’ve come up with my own definition that hopefully I’ll remember the next time someone asks me what I do for a living. Here it is.

Public Relations is the practice of working with businesses and organizations to communicate with the publics that directly affect their bottom line and their business goals, whether that is to increase sales, sway public opinion, or to educate during a crisis. Public relations consultants work with various communication tools and resources, such as social media, news media, digital marketing and events, to share a business’ or organization’s story to its customers, employees, and other important publics.

So, this is the start of my definition of what PR is. It’s definitely a work in progress. What do you think? Does this make sense to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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