We have all been there. Wishing we were the Don Draper of the communications world, effortlessly knowing what to pitch. With or without the glass of whisky! Well, our PR professionals share the recipe for the perfect pitch, from their own, very real, life experiences.
Like with any recipe, start first with breaking the egg!
Why an egg?
Shruthika Subramanian, account coordinator at 'The PRactice' narrates her hilarious 'egg theory' of pitching stories, "When I first started making media calls, I came up with the ‘egg theory’ (In my defence, I was starving)."
According to Shruthika, "The egg theory suggests that the shell is like the pitch note - as soon as it breaks, one knows what to expect out of it, an appetizing sunny side up OR the burst yolk, ‘scrambled eggs’. "
Shruthika explains this some more.
"So, with this egg theory, I set out to search for opportunities for my client. The mandate was to spread the story of Shyaam Ramesh, a 13-year-old prodigy, developing skills for Alexa (The Amazon voice assistant). The story intrigued me, a boy who has just stepped into his teens, is developing skills! I can’t recall developing my own basic skills at the age of thirteen."
"Somehow, the eggs weren’t cracking. The nation was bustling between whether the lotus or the hand wins. For them, this “debate” was far more interesting than a kid playing video games (Yep, anything that involves a computer and a kid somehow equates to ‘video games’). I was heartbroken, but I kept looking nonetheless."
Was there a happy ending for Shyaam and his new Alexa Skills function? Read on.
"One fine morning, the Masterchef of eggs (Is that even a term? Well, it was The Times of India) called me up and agreed to crack this story wide open to the world. I was on cloud nine, I roamed around the office shouting “It’s a glorious day!” (Well, I didn’t really shout. Hey team HR!)", narrates Shruthika!
The article was published on the 21st of May 2019.
Shruthika heaved a sigh of relief, in her own unique style she says, "I was finally happy, my egg broke into the perfect sunny side up. I still recall the call from Shyaam’s mother. Her voice still fresh with the “Mera Beta (my son)” tears, she said - “Thank you so much Shruthika! Our Shyaam is on the first page of Times of India, all my neighbours are coming in to congratulate him. We really can’t thank you enough.” I smiled and congratulated them."
When journalists want details, global HQs don't want to share
Mou Chakravorty toughest business story to place was for a software vendor. Now marketing communications manager with Deloitte India, Mou shares how she went about getting a story in India's top business daily.
Says Mou, "The global CEO was visiting India and my biggest mandate to get the story in nowhere but 'The Economic Times'.
Mou explains, "The approach at this point was to ride on the differentiators of the software client which focused on design thinking and creativity for developing apps. While this concept was good, ET also was keen on my client’s business break-up especially from India so as to contrast it with other large software players."
How did Mou sidestep this common issue with journalists?
She says what worked was, "Thorough research and consultation with my client. The next steps were to convince the national technology editor of the publication that exact breakups of revenue are not allowed to share but industry-wise details will be given. We also tied this, with an India specific announcement so as to offer a unique story in the interview."
What to do when the competition gets quoted and not your client!
Shashank Bharadwaj, brand communication and PR professional tackled another issue that crops up often with media engagement. The client's industry is covered but not the client.
Shashank elaborates that "The client was among the pioneers in the p2p lending space. Though they were happy with the coverage, they would always point to the stories written by one particular journalist on the industry and ask us to place their quotes in those stories. As luck would have it, the person was the only journalist writing on the sector in that publication. I tried setting up meetings, visited the office to meet the journalist, sent pitches, but all in vain."
Shashank adds, "But I never gave up. I used to regularly send pitch emails, company releases, company updates as an FYI ( though I was sure of not getting a response). One fine evening I received the call from the journalist asking to speak to my client for an industry story. I immediately called the client, briefed them about the story and got both the journalist and the spokesperson on a con-call. A few days later, the story appeared in the business page (national edition). My client's quote was placed in the industry story where other biggies were also quoted. Finally, mission successful!"
The full-page big story!
Ah, the sheer joy of getting a full page, in cold black print, in a large newspaper, on your client. That too via an SMS pitch.
Shubhangi Chaturvedi, PR consultant cracked a full-page story on CSR and sustainability for a B2B client in the renewable energy space.
She says, "The tough part was convincing the journalist on an SMS about the worthiness of the brand and their initiatives. The next was writing 1200 words each on two of their key initiatives. With all the upporting data to be provided the story took a good month, but nothing beats the happiness of a PR professional when they see their story in print in a leading mainline daily."
Lest we forget, lessons from placing the big, tough story.
Once the story appears, it all looks very easy. But these are the lessons these communicators learned from their experience of cracking a particularly tough story.
Mou's takeaway was that "While media relationship could do 20% of the job it is truly the rest of the 80% that gets a solid story that comes by a combination of strategy, interesting content as well as research."
In the end, as Shubhangi says, "If you do not find your story convincing no-one ever will!".