Pitching

At AHA, we have spent a great deal of time focusing on what makes a great pitch – to media, to bloggers and, depending on the objective of what we’re working on, to other external and internal stakeholder groups. A good pitch tells a story. It should be a short story, but it is a story – one that piques curiosity and provides relevant information through stats, facts, details and writing that paints a picture. More and more often these days, you can also use video or audio in a pitch. We often create video news releases or pitches for clients and have experienced strong success in this area.

There is a great piece on Ragan.com on how to create a great pitch. It’s worth a read.

Before you head over there, I want to focus on additional opportunities that can come from developing a good pitch. Over the past year, AHA has done quite a bit of research on the art of the pitch and how pitches to a range of stakeholders, including media and bloggers, have evolved. It has been an interesting process and, in part, our discoveries here have led us to develop a new area at our PR agency. We’ll be “soft” launching this tomorrow, so I won’t say any more about this yet. I hope you will check us out on Wednesday to learn more about this great, new opportunity we are offering clients.

The world communicates differently these days – the majority of your stakeholders have online access and use it regularly. This is a given and it’s time to embrace the fact that online communication is at the core of how the world communicates.

When you develop a good pitch – one that is newsworthy, that showcases your organization, that is authentic, interesting and even entertaining, that provides a glimpse of your brand personality and of the people that work in your organization – it is important to look at it from different angles of how that story can be used, how it can be told, and who would be interested in hearing it. Creating interesting and engaging pitches for journalists and bloggers is one component of communication. For our clients, we often look at how we can take an interesting pitch – which, I must repeat, is a concise story idea put into a style and format that works for the specific journalist or blogger – and use it for other stakeholders, if it doesn’t get picked up by media.

Newsrooms are shrinking; bloggers are overwhelmed with good (and bad) pitches. Generating traditional media coverage or having a blogger write about your organization isn’t a given – even if you have a great story that would/could/should work for them. Sometimes there just isn’t space to cover your story; other times there isn’t enough time or person power to do so. It is just the reality of the times we live in.  However, that doesn’t mean that the story can’t be told; it means you have to think of other ways you could use the content.

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I grew up at Maclean’s, Canada’s national news magazine. It was my first real job out of university and I was a part of the Maclean’s “family” for decades. Until I started AHA in 2003 (with co-founder Paul Holman), I was listed on the masthead as a Contributing Editor. At Maclean’s I was surrounded by some of the best journalists in the country (and I would argue, in the world). They were smart, knowledgeable and dedicated. Quite a few of them took the time to help me, mentor me, show me the ways of journalism and taught me how to tell a good story based on facts. They also drove into me what makes a story and how to pitch it so you got approval to do the piece. That is a skill set I use every day as a communicator.



We have a process at AHA that is similar to what a story idea would go through in a newsroom. We put the idea and the pitch through its paces and spend time on making sure that not only is the core idea able to stand up, that the pitch itself is crafted in a way that speaks to the community or audience that we are targeting. And, I have to say – sometimes the pitch might not generate coverage, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. There is only so much room for stories in newspapers, magazines, morning shows and the news. Sometimes, it isn’t the story, it’s the space and that’s where, as communicators, we are fortunate to work in a time that allows us to share the story through websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media networking sites.



I recently came across an interesting post on Ragan.com that talks about how to pitch media. It’s worth a read.



There is a skill and a craft to pitching media and to generating coverage for an organization. It takes time, effort, research and planning – and it takes an ability to take the facts and information and tell them in a compelling way. So much has changed in the last decade – technology has given us so much opportunity to share information and our stories with a larger community. What hasn’t changed is that if you want someone to pay attention, at the heart of it all, you need a story that matters to them and you need tell it well.



On a side note, I have to admit that watching the reports about the News of the World newspaper being shut down because of the phone hacking scandal, I wish that I could recreate the Friday nights at Maclean’s when we would all go for a beer after work and talk about news. I would love to know what they think of this and if they were ever tempted to bend their integrity for a story.

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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.

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