#2: Decide on your story/message
PR requires more than pitching the bells and whistles of your product or service. Actually, journalists and reporters really don’t look for your sales pitch. They have a job and a specific beat they follow, so how will you make their next article stand out, as well as get lots of reads and shares?
“If you’re sitting next to a journalist at a conference, and you turn around and say hello, what will you say next?” says Marius Fermi of Prezly, a PR software company. “You will not blurt out what you do for a living and ask if they would be interested in covering you. So, please do not do so over an email pitch. Instead, study what that journalist is interested in by reviewing their past writing, and strike up a conversation with them based on something in common.”
Your job is to essentially look at the last three or four stories this journalist wrote and decide what the next headline will be that not only fits well with the previous articles, but also represents something very unique. To even consider getting earned media coverage, you really need to think of an angle around your product/service that will make it a good story. Let’s say you have product that is answering a big problem in your industry—here are some questions to ask:
- How big is this problem?
- Can you provide expert advice?
- Can you provide industry metrics and compare them to your in-house metrics?
To help you brainstorm here, take a look at queries journalists are submitting, looking for an expert to provide a quote in the articles they’re writing at the current moment. Every day, there are hundreds of thousands of queries journalists submit, looking for an expert to quote in their articles. This is a goldmine for getting featured, as well as getting a good idea of what you should be pitching.
Data, insights, or some sort of study provide valuable insight and are always a great way to start a conversation with a journalist. Create a discussion based on positive and negative sentiments—that’s why I will always recommend finding solid metrics to validate any story or message you choose.
Adam Legas, founder of Nanohydr8, a fitness drinks company, has an amazing example of how he pitches data and insights, and uses the subject line of his pitch to journalists to tell if the pitch will be a success.
“I love pitching data and insights,” says Legas. “I also like to test my pitches with a subject line. If my subject line is good, and seven out of 10 emails I send out get opens, then I know I have something they’re interested in and wrote a subject line they can use as a potential headline. I then start working on the pitch itself. I typically start by just testing the subject line to see if I have a good story idea.”
Reporters and journalists love metrics, even more so when they are in a pretty visual format and clearly explained.
Another example could be the corporate social responsibility campaign you are embarking on. Again, this is a fantastic story with plenty of visuals to share of your actions and progress across multiple channels, not just PR.
Crafting a story and message that resonates with a reporter or publication takes time, so don’t get disheartened if there are no results straight away. Instead, focus on refining your message. It gets easier once you have an understanding of your corporate mission.