The Role of Relevance When it Comes to Pitching Media

Warning: Longer blog post – I’ve had a thought running around my brain all weekend and now it’s time for it to come out!

We have a lot of brainstorming meetings internally at our Vancouver PR agency and with our clients. Creative concepts for campaigns, developing story ideas for pitching journalists, bloggers and other social media communities, events, speeches, content for newsletters. The list goes on and on. As creative as we can be (and we can be quite creative), when we brainstorm there is always a focus on the business objective and on the relevance of the concept we develop.

We have a good reputation with journalists and bloggers for pitching them with newsworthy, relevant ideas. I learned a great deal about writing a solid pitch when I was at Maclean’s – we saw a lot of good, bad and really, really ugly pitches come in and I was fortunate not just to have my take on them, but to hear what my colleagues thought made a pitch relevant enough for them to want to find out more about the idea. We also have a smart crew here at AHA, who put their experience and expertise to the task and who review pitches and put forward additional ideas and concepts because our focus is always on creating something interesting and of value that catches the attention of the journalist or blogger we are pitching.

I had a discussion last week that really got me thinking about the importance of relevance when it comes to pitching. I know that there are sometimes challenges internally at organizations when it comes to defining what makes a good story. When you work for an organization you can lose perspective on the bigger picture. Sometimes, what is huge news for the people of a company or organization isn’t relevant to a journalist or blogger. It doesn’t take away the importance of the initiative, it’s just about who will find the information relevant and interesting.

PR people all have stories of clients who say to them X publication or Y broadcast news outlet should run this story – when, in fact, the story isn’t relevant to the readership or audience of that media outlet. It’s our job to make sure that when a pitch or news release goes out to media, it is of value to the media and bloggers that it goes to. Sometimes that means having a tough conversation with clients and explaining why something isn’t newsworthy outside of their internal newsletter.

I got to thinking about this on the weekend and I think that, with social media, individuals involved in organizations are becoming more and more involved in sharing information. In many ways, that’s a great thing. The challenge is that if people are being tasked with creating content – whether it is a tweet, a blog post, a Facebook update or a pitch, these people need to be given the tools of identifying what is relevant, being able to clearly showcase how this content supports the organization’s business objectives and how it fits in with the overall business strategy and the communications strategy.

I know how easy it can be to watch a morning news show or local talk show and think we should be on there. A good communicator goes through an in-depth process, looking at what the business objective is, to identify the media and/or bloggers that are relevant to the organization (what newspapers, magazines, radio or TV news does your target market consume?) what the story is, how that story can be put forward to specific media in a way to showcase its relevance and value to their audience/readers.

I think one of the challenges that organizations are starting to face is making sure that everyone involved with communication – whether they are in the communication department or not – understands how to effectively communicate. That it isn’t about what you want to tell people, it’s about what they are interested in hearing and how you build information into a compelling story. I do sessions with groups that talk about what needs to be done in order to generate media or blogger coverage or to create positive information sharing on social media networks and I can’t tell you how often someone in the session puts forward the arrogant assumption that because it’s important to them (or the organization), that it SHOULD be important to media or bloggers. That’s when we role-play the pitch to the journalist (me) and I start poking holes in their approach (respectfully, of course).

Collectively, the media experience at AHA is well over 100 years. We take this component of our work very seriously because each time we reach out to a journalist or blogger with a pitch, not only is it the reputation of our client being put forward – it’s ours too. If a journalist or blogger thinks you regularly send them information that isn’t relevant to their readers, listeners or viewers, you lose credibility. We don’t want that for our clients.

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