Shawn Bannon has a great blog post that goes to the heart of media relations: the art of the pitch. It’s worth a read. We all know that the traditional media landscape is changing, but journalists are still incredibly important to PR. Understanding when to pitch them and how is crucial. Understanding when not to pitch and why (and how to explain that to your client or CEO) is also key.
At AHA, we take pitching seriously and go through the AHA Pitch Process to develop a pitch. That means that the pitch has to be short, catch the attention of the journalist quickly and keep it, and provide relevant facts, stats and other information that showcases the news value. We pitch it to each other on paper, in person and on the telephone before any pitch leaves the office. We role-play as PR media relations and reporter, asking the tough questions that a reporter would ask.
We have had some interesting conversations with clients when we have returned to them to explain that what they think will be of interest to media—won’t be. But that’s part of our job. Depending on what the information is, we will review it and may need to find a different way to package it so that it meets the needs of the media or we might use it as content for a newsletter or a client’s blog. (There are other venues for information that might not be of value to the local daily paper or morning news team.)
We speak with journalists all the time. We will often ask them if there is anything they are working on that they can share with us, to see if we can provide a resource or information to them. If a pitch doesn’t seem to be getting the traction we expected, we will ask some of the reporters, editors and producers we sent it to why it isn’t hitting them. No one is 100% successful all the time in pitching media and we learn as much from what doesn’t work as what does. Media relations is a combination of art and science, process and protocol. You need to understand the media outlet you are pitching and the specific reporter, you need to know what current and near future trends are, you need to understand the news value of what you are pitching and know the topic inside and out before you pitch. We love media relations, but it takes effort, focus and respect for the media and it’s readers to do it right.