“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”
– Bill Gates, Microsoft Founder
The three simple steps to PR are
1) Follow trending news
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2) Develop catchy hooks
When pitching your story to the press, there is something important to keep in mind: if you want to get the attention of the press, you have to think like the press.
As PR professionals, it’s our job to help organizations like yours discover and communicate your stories. We’re not talking about a simple chronology of events (when your company was founded, when a product or service was introduced, who was president, etc.). That kind of tale would be, well, pretty boring.
Our job is to find those little nuggets and anecdotes within your organization that make your company unique. Then we tell that narrative in a way that will interest or engage your audience (or the media), bring value or inspire them in some way. Crafting the story is often the challenge.
Most organizations are full of great stories, especially here in Vermont. For example, we have all heard the tale about the two college kids that started an ice cream shop in an old gas station and what became of their now quite successful business. Not all agencies are fortunate enough to have ice cream companies as PR clients. However, it doesn’t take mountains of cookie dough to discover and communicate a compelling story. There are ways to tell a story even when the topic isn’t so sweet and delicious.
So how do you find that story? We start by asking questions of your company leaders: What are you passionate about? Why do you do what you do? What challenges have you overcome? What got you started in your work? What do you hope to accomplish? What has surprised you along the way?
The answers to these types of questions will tell us more than when your company was founded and what products or services it makes. The facts are just data—important data, certainly, but not so important when you’re trying to engage an audience. We’re looking for the answers that give us greater insight as to what your company is all about, what makes it tick. This gives us (and your target audience) a more meaningful connection to your company.
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3) Pitch to reporters
How to Pitch. Nearly all of them prefer to be pitched via e-mail so they can read what you are proposing at their leisure. Do not make your initial pitch via the phone and no faxes!
The reporters said that they like short email pitches that get to the point immediately – in the very first sentence. For example: “My idea is this…” or “My news hook is this…” Including a link to your web site (or your client’s site) is a good idea too as is using short bulleted lists to quickly convey your information. The reporters also advised providing a context for what you are publicizing so it’s clear why they ought to pay attention to your news. For example, is the subject of your pitch part of a broader trend, does it relate to something in the news, etc.?
Pitching Via Social Media. All of the reporters said that they do not want to be pitched on Twitter and all but one (the weird news guy) does not want to be pitched on Facebook either. (Half of the reporters said that they do not use Facebook in their work.)
Subject Lines. The reporters receive hundreds of emails every day so they are more apt to open yours if your subject line is clear about what you are pitching and obviously tailored to them rather than being part of a mass email effort, and if your subject line shows that you understand their beat.
They also advise that if your pitch is time-sensitive, that you identify the news hook in your subject line. And, they warn that if you use the word exclusive in your subject line, make sure that what you are pitching is truly newsworthy, national in scope, and would serve a reporter’s readers.
Don’t use the phrase “Quick Question” in your subject line, something the reporters said they see a lot. Be totally up-front about what you want from a reporter.
Follow Up. Reporters do not mind some initial follow up after you send them an email because they know that they are very busy and so they may miss your message. However, all of the reporters warned not to followup by phone when they are on deadline.
Press Releases. The reporters do not like them, although they like receiving emailed emailing fact sheets so that they have all relevant information related to your news in one place. Don’t send the fact sheet as an attachment however, unless a reporter specifically requests that you do. (Note: HARO strips out any attachments sent in response to queries on its site, so reporters never see them.)
Books. None of the reporters want you to send them your book. It’s a waste of your time and money because the book will just end up in a pile and go unread. If you want them to know about a book, tell them about it in a short email and if they want a copy, they’ll ask for it. They also noted that because many reporters work from home, they are unlikely to see unsolicited books that show up at their offices and so someone else is apt to end up with them.
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