Tag Archives: Pitching

Think Business Press is Mission Impossible?

Commentators and pundits in the media like to point out that times have changed, and that the way to a splashy business feature for your client is not the same today as, say, 3-5 years ago.  To some extent, that’s true, but it’s also beside the point.  There may be a few new rules to observe, and they may complicate your life, but when has that not been true?  So let’s forget all that and focus on the here and now.

Let me share a few observations from my experience with our account teams in scoring coverage in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, and other top outlets: such as this Forbes feature on software-testing firm Tricentis, or this WIRED feature on networking technology firm Barefoot Networks.

Tell a story.  One of the top network industry editors recently told a client of mine that “At the end of the day, I’m just a storyteller.”  In fact, the best business and trade editors and reporters are just that!  Those are the folks who either:
NO FOLD ICON 15x15  Take your pitch, envision the storyline behind it and write that story
NO FOLD ICON 15x15  Take your pitch, dump your storyline and write one of their own, or…
NO FOLD ICON 15x15  Reject your pitch.  So, never forget the storyline!  A pitch without a storyline is boring.

Case in point:  too many pitches by PR practitioners neglect to state the problem their client solves, and for whom.  And yet the problem is the core of the storyline!  Neglect it at your peril.  If you don’t know the problem, or can’t articulate it, don’t start pitching until you do.

Find the beat.  The ranks of business editors and reporters have thinned in the last few years, threatening to load more beats on the backs of the remaining staffers.  Those staffers who survive end up with unimaginable loads and responsibilities, which means that fewer and fewer pitches make the cut.  It’s simple math.  Worse yet, your client’s market or technology may fall between reporters’ beats rather than squarely within one, and the inevitable reply to your pitch is “Sorry, not my beat.”  (Left unsaid is this: “And nobody else’s beat either.”)

Too many pitches by PR practitioners neglect to state the problem their client solves, and for whom. Click To Tweet

Well then, it’s time to move on unless you can refashion your story to one the editor wants.  Better yet, take a look at the publication’s roster of contributing writers, one of whom might be a specialist in a topic suitable to your client.  Then go for it!

Find supporting data.  Would you buy a car without examining its “supporting data”?  Or course not.  And you don’t have to.  The sticker on the side window is replete with data.  Nor would a business reporter buy a pitch without supporting data. In the minds of reporters, data equates to either validation or proof – and may give your pitch enough credibility to get past their pitch filter.  A pitch without data is just a bunch of unsupported claims.

But be cautious of the “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics” rule, and be sure to check your data before publishing it.

News may be irrelevant.  We tend to counsel our clients that news is the route to coverage.  And often it is.  Network-focused trade outlets such as Network World, eWeek, and InformationWeek thrive on news, because many of their readers are product buyers or influencers.  But any respectable business publication thrives on trends.  My clients are in technology, but most business reporters are attuned to markets, not technologies per se.  They don’t have “technology” in their titles, but, to my benefit, they have it in their blood.  They see the trends, they see innovators emerging, and they’re often obsessed with Battle Royals — who’s getting ahead and will dominate, and who will be a relic lost to history in a few years.  The big question for PR pros is not how they can insert their clients into the story, but which clients they can insert.

Trendjacking rules.  Trendjacking is a technique honored by the legions of practitioners who want to associate their clients with a trend or practice that will drive a market ahead.  Will trendjacking drive major feature coverage for your client in the business media?  Not likely. But smart business reporters are hungry to find vendors who are driving trends, and not just riding those trends.  And what client does not want to be mentioned as a trend driver by Fortune, or Barron’s, or CNBC?  In an industry with a sizable TAM (Total Available Market (multiple millions or billions of dollars), even if your client is mentioned alongside five other companies in the segment, would  you turn down the opportunity?  I’d take that opportunity in a nanosecond!  Think of it this way:  Fortune just named my client as one of a half dozen companies that are leading the way in a multi-billion-dollar industry!

That’s a huge win in itself.  And could that single mention open opportunities for a feature on just your client in the months ahead?  Believe it, and make it happen.  Patience and timeliness are everything.

By Gary Good

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No News? No Problem! 3 Tips to Get News Coverage

While funding announcements, new product launches, partnerships, and other significant news announcements seem to be jet fuel for a PR pro to get great media coverage, no news doesn’t mean an exposure drought. A common misconception within the PR industry is the easiest and most important placements stem from news; however, proactive outreach gives you the opportunity to paint your client as an industry thought leader, and allows you to control the messaging of articles through contributed placements. It all starts by creating an interesting pitch that stands out from the hundreds of other pitches reporters receive.

Let’s take a look at some tried and true ways to successfully pitch a reporter.

Scour the news
No news from your client doesn’t mean your pitch should lack timeliness. Is your client in network security? Scour the news to find recent examples of network breaches that saturated the media, and insert the specific catastrophe into your introduction. Remember Delta Airline’s computer outage earlier this year, resulting in a financial loss upward of $150 million? Leverage the scenario to add timeliness to your pitch, and offer your client’s expert advice on how the airline industry – or any industry for that matter – can avoid similar financial distress in the future.

Keep it short and simple
Imagine a reporter is reading a pitch on their phone, are you able to get your point across in a couple sentences? There is no need for an in-depth analysis of the network segmentation landscape, that is where your subject matter expert steps in for the interview or contributed article! Essentially, you want to leave room for the imagination. If you’re offering your client’s expert commentary on ‘Four tips for effective network segmentation’, provide a glimpse into two bullet points and leave it up to the reporter to connect with your client to learn the rest.

By offering a taste of the storyline, you wet their pallet and spike intrigue.

Dig In: Becoming an Industry Thought Leader

Understand your target
This sounds rudimentary, but is often the most important, and overlooked, step in pitching. The news space is quickly evolving as publications continue to consolidate their reporting team. It is critical you understand your target’s specialty. Do they accept contributed articles? Do they only take interviews with CEOs in Silicon Valley? Putting yourself in the reporter’s shoes will help you understand their target audience, and enable you to tweak your pitch accordingly. Reporters that churn out multiple pieces of content a day most likely don’t have the time for an interview, so offer a quick comment for insertion in a story. If they are a monthly contributor, they may want multiple interviews to fully flesh their piece out.  Be prepared with names, titles and company names and with the knowledge that any resources you offer can speak with the media. Your success lies in your understanding of your target audience.

The ingredients that make up good press coverage on an evergreen topic include incorporating a recent news hook so the topic is timely, your ability to get to the point quickly, and your research to finely tune the pitch to mirror each reporter’s specialty and style.

Successfully pitching sans news doesn’t have to be intimidating, it is an opportunity to tap into your creative power. Uncover what issues are being talked about in the industry, and take the time to sit back and ask yourself, ‘what hasn’t been said yet?’ These steps will assuredly open the door to a wide range of media opportunities for your client!

By Lauren Lloyd

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