Making that ‘perfect pitch’ and winning the journalist friend over
20th March 2013
There is not even an ounce of doubt that ‘PR’ forms a crucial part of a marketing plan for clients, businesses and corporates today. It is credible, a third party endorsement and therefore one of the most viable forms of communications for a brand in today’s day and age, when a consumer is bombarded with thousands of targeted communique.
While newer and multimedia technologies evolve, the way the PR component functions will undergo a drastic change. No more, will PR be restricted to traditional functions. Media will evolve, and so will the journalists who work for these media companies. Having said that, it is crucial to remember that traditional PR will not become completely obsolete. All that will happen is the way we engage with our media partners.
While we realise this, very often we forget the importance of these media partners, who are nothing but influencers. Very often we forget, that these media spokespeople might be our product/service users and therefore have a certain set of expectations from their beloved brand!
So, why do I talk about it right now? Just a few days ago I came across this gentleman who threatened to block all PR agencies and called communications "the spam business"! Bewildered? Don’t be. The gentleman in question is not at fault.
Angry with me? Disagree with me? Pause. Take a deep breath and consider the following:
Thanks to social network channels like Twitter, we have been so many times come across situations, where a journalist has lost his cool and started ranting against the entire community! I agree that journalists seem to be losing cool with PR people and I have had people walking up to me and saying that this is all normal and a daily routine. Well, I beg to differ.
For a moment, forget how the media reacts to PR community at large and consider the following question. If you approach a journalist with a committed and sane approach will he mind speaking to you? This brings us to the question, what is that will make journalist consider our approach and relationship as sane?
Here are a few steps, learnt through my personal experience, can help in building a long and healthy relationship with the journalist, one of the most important influencers of our core audience:
1. Know your client: Ensure that you have all the facts and figure yourself, before pitching to the journalist. Too much of back and forth and “I will check with the client and respond” is plain irritating
2. Know what you are talking: Be clear, concise and precise. Don’t be confused yourself. Appear confident, even if you are not! This trust me, comes only with practice
3. Know your journalist: I can’t be serious about reiterating this fact so much! One of the biggest turn-offs for a journalist is a wrong pitch. If a journalist writes on consumer tech and you send them a mail on enterprise IT, you are a bummer!
4. Business journalist vs features journalist: Most of the journalists writing for pink papers will ask you for “numbers” aka the financial data of the company- revenues, profits, margins, hiring plans, etc. In case this data is not available, most likely your pitch is not great. I understand that for a start-up or private company, sharing this data is difficult. As a consultant and having worked on these companies, let me assure you that guesstimates or percentage value works for these journalists.
5. Know when to call: Assuming you have drafted a great pitch. Well done! However, please don’t keep on harassing reporters for a story. If they think, it stands a merit; they will come back to you on their own. Having said that sometimes, they might forget to come back to you, because there’s breaking news happening somewhere or probably, they have just forgotten about it. In that case, make a structured approach, call them at consistent intervals and check for them on their feedback. But don’t appear as a one who ‘pesters!’
6. Tell a story: You have got all your first five steps right? Good! Now go back to the drawing board and unlearn everything. None of these five steps will ever work, if you can’t weave them into a story. Facts and figures are fine. But for most of the times, a journalist is looking at a pitch to see if there is a story that is going to impact his life or his reader’s life. Is your product /service helping the consumer achieve efficiency, better results, productivity, monies or a good life in some way? If yes, well done! You have just arrived in the good books of the media. If not, don’t be disheartened. It just means you need to work a bit harder.
Disclaimer: No guarantee, but most of them work!