I have spent a lot of time in my professional life pitching story angles either as a journalist with an idea for an article, where I had to get my editor’s buy in, or as a PR person putting forward a pitch to media about a client’s organization. Since many of my colleagues and friends are either journalists or communicators, I also spend a fair bit of time discussing what makes a good story, even when it isn’t about a specific pitch.
One of the things that AHA clients rely on us for is to help them with media and blogger relations. In the new world of communication, it is important to understand how to pitch both mainstream media (most of which now have some kind of online component), as well as online media, which includes bloggers. At the core of a good pitch is the story.
As communications consultants, sometimes our role is to explain to a client why we shouldn’t pitch something to the media. Rather than send out a meaningless pitch and create a bad reputation for our clients with journalists and bloggers, we work with clients to identify a newsworthy story angle or, in some cases, show why there is no news value in the information they want to share. What is important to the people involved in an organization isn’t necessarily of value to the media.
At AHA, we put our pitches through a rigorous process before we send them out. We review the story idea and research and define which specific media might find this of interest for their readers/views/listeners. We develop the pitch and we role-play, having someone view it from an editorial perspective of that week’s news trends. We discuss it (sometimes heatedly), we refine it, and we pitch it to each other again. The process continues until we feel strongly that we can make a compelling case to a specific journalist or blogger that this story is worthy of their attention.
I was fortunate, I learned about story angles at Maclean’s and had some of Canada’s best journalists put me through my paces on why the story deserved to be told. I love to pitch good stories. Having a reporter say, “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea, tell me more.” is like hitting a homerun. When you see a client’s story get told because you helped to showcase why it should be, there is reason to celebrate. Keep in mind that it takes a great deal of effort to effectively pitch and sometimes, no matter how good the story or how well crafted or researched the pitch, it might not work. Only a limited number of stories are covered, as there isn’t enough time or space. That’s where a blog, Facebook page or Twitter comes in; but that’s another blog post.