Six tips for pitching stories to journalists

There are generally two ways to get your business covered in the media. The first is when a journalist writes about your business without any prompting (reactive), and the second is when you pitch a story to the journalist (proactive).

While most companies would love to be the subject of constant, positive, unprompted coverage, the truth is that journalists are more likely to cover your organisation in this way if your business has made a mistake, or is in crisis. Good-news stories normally rely on proactive efforts by the communications team to disseminate the information.

But you can’t just write a news release or a blog and expect journalists to come knocking at your door. For the best chance of success, you need to package your news in a way that lets journalists clearly understand why it’s important for their readers to know about it.

News releases have their place but, for the most part, it’s more effective to pitch stories directly to a journalist whose readership is likely to be interested.

Journalists receive hundreds of story pitches every day. Even assuming you have a great story (don’t bother pitching if you don’t), it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. These six tips will help maximise your chances of success.

1. Know how the journalist likes to receive pitches

Journalists get a lot of pitches, so your challenge is to make your pitch stand out. Keep track of which journalists prefer to be called and which journalists like to be emailed. When emailing, make your subject lines clear and catchy. Journalists have limited time and will decide whether or not to read your pitch, or even open your email, based on whether your subject line is attention-grabbing and sounds newsworthy.

2. If you don’t have anything relevant, hold off for a more suitable opportunity

Sometimes content simply isn’t ready to be pitched. If you pitch multiple small-scale stories to a journalist, they might be less interested in a bigger pitch later down the track. In some cases, it’s worth holding your pitches until they develop into more significant content.

3. Know the publication

Research the publication a journalist writes for. Make sure your pitch suits the publication, its coverage themes, and its audience. If your pitch is relevant, a journalist is more likely to pick it up.

4. Think big

Offer the journalist insight into your industry’s context, and relate your pitch to current trends or events. Consider how your product or service relates to contemporary industry challenges.

5. Pitch early and respect deadlines

Journalists juggle multiple competing tasks and stories every day, so your pitch won’t necessarily be the most important thing they work on. Give journalists lots of time to prepare. Don’t pitch to them on deadline day, and don’t pitch too close to a large event that you want attention for. Timing is crucial when contacting journalists about stories. The closer deadlines get, the less journalists search for new content. So, pitch early and increase your chances of success by giving journalists plenty of time to plan.

6. Be brief, be helpful, and know your topic

When you pitch to a journalist, be engaging and responsive. Answer the journalist’s questions, and ask questions yourself, so you understand the angle and what questions to expect later down the line. Make yourself accessible for further communication, and maintain a positive relationship, even after you are (hopefully) published. You never know when you’ll need to pitch to this journalist again in the future. If you have good rapport and build trust with a journalist, you’ll find it easier to work together in future.

For more information on pitching stories to journalists, or to book a media training session, contact us today.

Gaining buy-in for PR

 
As a marketing professional, you may be convinced your organisation needs help from a specialist PR agency. But how do you convince senior managers, who may not fully understand the role of PR and how it can help the business?

If you need to convince senior managers then you need to put your argument in terms they understand. That means building a strong business case that demonstrates the savings or gains a PR program will deliver.
Continue reading “Gaining buy-in for PR”

Recognition PR expands to three offices with new Brisbane location

Recognition PR has today opened a new office in Brisbane, taking the public relations agency’s locations to three: one in Sydney’s Circular Quay; one in Meerschaum Vale on the New South Wales north coast; and, now, one in Brisbane’s northern suburb of North Lakes.

Recognition PR has provided communication services for B2B professional services, IT, and financial services companies in Australia and New Zealand for more than 30 years. The expansion to Brisbane comes as the business continues to sign new clients and offer new services, including web design and optimisation, social media marketing, marketing automation, and online advertising.

Elizabeth Marchant, director, Recognition PR, said, “The Brisbane market is heating up with plenty of opportunities for Recognition PR. The greater Brisbane economy is worth $154 billion per year, and the professional, scientific, and technical services industry is the region’s third-largest by employment.[1] This means there is huge potential for growth, so it makes sense to have an office for our team on the ground in Brisbane.”

Recognition PR will share the North Lakes premises with its sister companies, Outsource and Write Away Write Away Communication + Events, with three existing staff members relocating to the new office immediately and new hires expected to round out the team in the coming months.

Elizabeth Marchant said, “We chose the North Lakes location for its proximity to Brisbane and its easy access to the Sunshine Coast. North Lakes is a fast-growing new suburb with many businesses locating their premises there. We’re looking forward to the next phase of growth for Recognition PR as we establish our Brisbane presence.”

 

About Recognition PR

Recognition PR delivers communication services for B2B professional services, IT and financial services companies in Australia and New Zealand.

For more than 30 years our public relations agency in Sydney has helped companies that sell complex, high-value products and services connect with audiences to build positive engagement.

Recognition does this by drawing on traditional and emerging communication tools including blogger outreach, employee engagement, change management, graphic design, public relations, online community management, web design, copywriting, advertising creative and planning and buying services.

 

[1] https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/about-council/governance-strategy/business-brisbane/growing-brisbanes-economy/brisbanes-key-economic-facts

Make your first journalist meeting one to remember – for the right reasons

Tips for a successful journalist meet and greetMeeting a journalist face to face, while becoming a little harder to arrange as the media sector re-configures itself, is still a crucial component in any strategic media relations program.

The fact is, a journalist that has met you and had a favourable and useful interaction is a lot more likely to actively follow you, your company, and its fortunes. They are also more likely to respond when you or your PR team pitches a story.

However, like all meetings, getting off on the right foot is critical. A good meeting is a foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship that can last for years (even when you get the occasional tough story). A bad meeting can end your media spokesperson career before it even started.

So how do you make sure that first meeting gets off to a good start?

First – know who you’re meeting. Every journalist exists to produce content for a specific audience (or a number of them in the case of freelancers). If you don’t know their audience, what they’ve been writing previously and some basic facts about them as a person (all very easily found on Google usually) then your meeting may end abruptly. It’s not that journalists are rude, it’s that they aren’t future customers (so they don’t need the sales pitch), they’re on deadline, they meet or interview dozens of spokespeople a week and won’t know too much about you and only you can tell them how you’re relevant to their audience.

For example, if you’re meeting a financial journalist, they probably want to hear about your financial performance, your top-level strategy, plans to invest in the local market and maybe your views on the economic environment as it relates to your sector. They’re certainly not interested in how your products work or why customers should buy them. Believe it or not, it’s pretty much the number one gripe journalists have.

As an aside, your PR agency should brief you on this before the meeting. They should also explain the premise for the meeting, so there are no surprises for anyone about why you’re meeting.

Don’t ever set up a meeting on false expectations (no PR agency that knows what they’re doing would do this). If you do, nine times out of ten the sound of the explosion will be heard on the other side of the ocean.

Second – don’t expect to meet the editor. Editors (mostly) don’t write or produce. They tell their journalists what to write and they maintain the integrity of the content that’s produced. You’re much better served meeting an up-and-coming journalist that’s actively building their network and eager to get a deeper understanding of the sectors they cover.

Great executive spokespeople recognise this and work hard to foster these relationships. Poor ones think they’ve been short-changed by meeting a mere journalist and not an editor. They don’t tend to get many stories and can never work out why.

Third – know your stuff and venture an opinion. If you’re a captain of industry then you should be able to communicate original thoughts on a range of topics you’re qualified to speak on. If you’re a subject matter expert, you should still have your own personal way of explaining your topic that isn’t repeating what’s written on your corporate website. However, you’re probably not expected (or allowed at a corporate level) to discuss too much outside that remit.

Also be clear on what you can’t discuss. Know your boundaries and stick to them. Just because a journalist asks doesn’t mean you need to tell. There are ways to handle that situation nicely and professionally.

Fourth – Try to meet the journalist at a place that suits them, not you. At the end of the day, your just one spokesperson the journalist can choose from. Make it easy for them to pick you and not your competitor for a meeting (because their PR team will be working hard to achieve just that). Journalists are time poor, increasingly desk-bound and will be grateful if you make it easy for them to duck downstairs to a local coffee shop. Of course, that’s not going to work in every situation, and freelancers (of which there is a growing army) work from home in all locations. But as a rule, try to get to the journalist.

It also makes it a little harder for the journalist to bale on the meeting last minute when they know you’re on your way or waiting downstairs for them.

On that, journalists do move their schedules around all the time. They will try not to cancel on meetings that have taken some time to set up, that they’re genuinely interested in and with senior executives (if they are senior enough). But breaking news is breaking news and you can get shunted sideways for a bigger story at any time. It’s just life in the media and you may need to start over getting a new time to meet.

Lastly – follow up after the meeting. Recap on what you covered and thank them for their time. Send any answers to questions you promised to look into and let them know you’ll stay in touch and set up another meeting down the track when you have some updates to share. Invite them to contact your comms team or PR agency (provide contacts and numbers) at any time if they want to get in touch.

Do follow them on Twitter if you use it (still very popular with the media), maybe add them on LinkedIn but check with your PR agency first as it’s not black and white.

Never add them to your other locked personal social media accounts. It’s just too problematic. Your personal space (and theirs) is exactly that, personal, and should stay that way.

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Ten tips for a successful phone interview

Tips for a successful phone interviewIncreased time constraints on journalists means they are more likely to suggest phone interviews rather than agree to face to face meetings.

While the fundamentals of the interview do not change, it does remove the ability to gauge the journalist’s reaction to what you say and see when (or if) they are taking notes.

Before the interview, turn off all emails, phones and instant messaging to avoid distraction. To help you focus try standing rather than sitting.

Start the interview by asking how much time the journalist has so you know you have enough time to cover off everything you want to. Offer to set the scene or give background information to give the journalist a baseline to interview from.

Remember to speak slowly so that the journalist has enough time to write notes as you talk. Enunciate. You don’t want a journalist who has printed something factually incorrect to have the excuse that they misheard what you said because your delivery was garbled.

A pause in the conversation may seem unnatural but it could be the journalist just taking time to complete their notes, or they may be considering a follow up question. Don’t be afraid to ask if you’ve answered a question fully in case they’re just giving you more time to expand on your answer.

Take the time to listen to what the journalist is saying and give them the opportunity to ask follow up questions rather than launching into the next point you want to make. Also, avoid the use of jargon, as media readership is generally broad. Speak in general terms that can be easily understood.

Always be honest. If a question comes up that you’re unable to answer or do not know the answer to, just say so.

Be sure to state your key messages. If there’s anything you didn’t have time to get to, journalists will usually ask towards the end of the interview if there’s anything else you want to add. Use that time to include anything that has not been covered, or to reiterate your key points. Also give a brief summary to conclude the interview.

Never discuss anything you would not want to be shared. It can be easy when meeting with a journalist to be lulled into revealing more than you wanted to, particularly if it’s someone you have a long standing relationship with and you are in an informal setting. Always be mindful of this.

Fill out your details below to download our ten tips for a successful phone interview in an easy to reference A4 poster.

How to pitch stories to journalists

How to pitch stories to journalistsKnowing what is newsworthy and what journalists need in order to develop stories are essential qualities to have before you start thinking about contacting journalists to pitch or contribute to stories.

Once you are ready to start pitching, it is important to note that not all journalists are alike when it comes to how they like to be approached. Some like to be called but many prefer to be emailed, as it takes up less of their time, so make sure you know how every one of the journalists you plan to approach likes to be contacted so you don’t get them offside. A cookie cutter approach to this is not the appropriate course of action.

Be mindful that journalists receive a lot of pitches, so the time they can devote to responding to each is minimal. Keep your pitch brief, and most importantly, make sure it is relevant to them.

A good way of determining the relevancy of your pitch is to thoroughly research your target prior to contacting the journalist. Get a good feel of the publication and check out some of the journalist’s previous work, so you know the type of story that you’re pitching will be of interest to them.

When pitching, don’t just spruik a new product or service. These types of pitches are likely to be rejected. Instead, offer some valuable industry insight or identify a challenge in the sector and offer to discuss how you plan to address it. That way, you have much more chance of piquing the journalist’s interest and you will still have the opportunity to drop in a mention about your new product or service during that wider conversation.

Be aware of journalist’s deadlines and adhere to them. Don’t leave it until the last minute to respond to a call out for contributors, as it is highly likely that they will already have more info than they need. Get in as early as possible. Also, don’t promise to provide them with access to a spokesperson by a certain date if you’re not sure you will be able to deliver on this, because if you let a journalist down and they have to scramble for a replacement at the last minute, the damage you will do to that relationship can be irreparable.

Fill out your details below to download our seven tips for pitching stories to journalists in an easy to reference A4 poster.

How to write media releases that work

How to write media releases that work

A media release should provide journalists with information that is newsworthy, accurate and relevant to their readers.
Once those three boxes are ticked, you should make sure that the headline is simple and informative. No need to be too clever here. Just summarise the content into a headline that underlines the importance of the release.

The first paragraph is the most important, it will determine whether the journalist will bother to read the rest of the release, so include the five W’s (who, what, when, where, and why).

Use strong, quotable quotes in your release, and use the company name in the quote where appropriate, as quotes are used verbatim. Always strive to secure third party quotes from customers and analysts as well, as they add credibility to your announcement.

It is important to make sure that any spokesperson you offer to comment in the release is available for interviews on the day of distribution. It really ticks journalists off when they have to keep pestering to get an interview done, only to be told that they won’t be available until a later date.

Never put ‘for immediate release’ on a press release. If it’s not for immediate release, don’t send it. Similarly, don’t send releases out under embargo. We live in such a connected world now that once information is out there, it’s not going to stay under wraps, so embargoes have been rendered largely meaningless.

Don’t go too long with the release, as journalists probably won’t read it all anyway. Try to keep it to a maximum of two pages, but ideally one. More detail can be provided by a spokesperson during an interview if it is required, or simply attach URLs. Also avoid industry jargon and spell out any acronyms used in the first instance.

Finally, add a boilerplate at the end of the release which includes background information about the company as well as contact details. It is also useful to provide links to other documents that are relevant to the story, as it saves the journalist precious time having to find the info themselves, and anything that makes a journalist’s job that bit easier will be welcomed.

Fill out your details below to download our nine tips for writing media releases that work in an easy to reference A4 poster.

How to get journalists to attend your event

How to get journalists to attend your event

So you want to run an event to get media coverage. You’ve got a high-powered international executive lined up to do the talking and you’ve booked an exclusive venue in the city. The last step is to get journalists to come along, and then write an article. Should be easy, right?

So why do journalists find themselves declining more event invitations than they accept?

For a start, journalists have always been short on time. As publications get leaner and online news means journalists need to turn stories around fast, there is even less time in the day for journalists to attend events. If they can get a great story from a phone interview with a relevant, engaging spokesperson, then they’ve done their job and met their deadlines. If they can get everything they need from a well-written media release then it’s often more efficient.

Then there’s the issue of exclusivity. Journalists pride themselves on getting a good story, first. Or at least a different angle. So there needs to be a pretty good reason to take time out of a busy day to attend an event where there will be journalists from rival publications.

Which brings up the number one most important aspect of running an event: making it truly compelling for journalists to attend.

There are a number of steps to achieve this:

1. Get a great speaker

Just because your speaker is an international executive, it doesn’t mean they will automatically deliver the best and most useful content for journalists. If you are lucky enough to have access to an executive who is articulate, engaging and willing to share information, then you have the makings of a great speaker. If not, it may be worth considering inviting supplementary speakers that can offer a broader perspective.

2. Have something to say

If you’re launching the next iteration of a solution that’s already been on the market, an event may not be the right choice. To make an event worthwhile, you need to be able to offer substantial, newsworthy information that cannot easily be conveyed via a media release. (Hint: simply demonstrating how a product works only counts as newsworthy if this is the first product of its kind or a technological breakthrough.)

3. Tailor the content

If you are inviting a number of journalists to an event, consider ways to help them get exclusive angles or information for their article. For example, you could match up each journalist to a customer who is also attending the event, offering an exclusive interview and case study. Or you could offer interviews with specific executives to discuss angles that match each publication’s focus area.

4. Write a great invitation

Too many invitations are boring and take too long to get to the point. Journalists don’t have time to read 500 words on why they should attend an event. You need to grab their attention and hold it. This means putting the fact that you’re inviting them to an event up front in the invitation. Use specific words like “you are invited”.

Then you need to hit them with that compelling reason to attend. Again, be specific. Use words like “you will learn” or “you will see”. Tell them exactly what to expect at the event so they know whether it’s of interest to their publication. If you’re inviting them because you saw they wrote an article on a related topic, then tell them so; it adds to their understanding of why this event could be relevant for them.

5. Follow up appropriately

It’s important to follow up with attendees after the event to provide any additional information they need. This is not an opportunity to ask if they plan to run a story about the event. Rather, it is a chance to offer more information that you know they will be interested in based on their interaction at the event.

If you follow these five steps consistently, you may be able to develop a reputation as a company that runs relevant and interesting events, and provides useful follow-up. This can make journalists more likely to consider your future invitations.

Want to know more about the world of a journalist and interacting with the media? Attend our free breakfast seminar hosted by CEO Liz Marchant. Subjects will include what makes great content for a story, the most common mistakes companies make when engaging with the media, and how to prepare for a media interview.

How to keep your brand identity consistent

How to keep your brand identity consistent

In our technology-driven landscape of rapidly-expanding communications channels, it can be hard for organisations to maintain a clear messaging narrative and brand identity.

With each channel available, messaging needs to be tweaked, altered, or presented in ways that make sense to various audiences. This process has the potential to muddle brand messaging, confusing the message as well as brand identity.

How to keep your brand identity consistent

In his book, Winning the Story Wars, which was the subject of one of our company book clubs, Jonah Sachs frames messaging as a form of storytelling. Traditionally, storytellers have been the makers and propagators of myth. According to Sachs, the modern world has disrupted the traditional power of myths.

Today’s mythmakers are the writers, film makers, marketers, advertisers, and media professionals that leverage the ‘myth-gap’ that has emerged in modern society, suggests Sachs.

Drawing upon the concept of the ‘hero’s journey’, identified by American mythologist, Joseph Campbell, Sachs outlines a way to model brand identity consistently regardless of the channel the brand’s story is being told through.

In the ‘hero’s journey’ concept, the protagonist (the hero) is guided to adventure by a mentor. Sachs suggests that, when it comes to brand messaging, the company takes the place of the mentor, while the customer becomes the hero.

In this model, the customer sits at the centre of the company’s message, while the company makes the customer’s achievements (adventures) possible.

This is the key to maintaining brand identity, no matter which medium is being utilised. Once the most effective mentor archetype for its customer offering is determined, this can be used as a reference point to make sure all brand communications are on message and in line with the brand identity.

There are seven brand mentor archetypes with which companies can align themselves to maintain messaging clarity. Remember, while some brands may be able to embody more than one archetype, it is more effective to align with one.

What is your brand identity?

1. The pioneer
Adventurous and inventive, and likes to leap beyond the usual solutions. Pioneers are curious, innovative, brave, and optimistic as they guide the customer, on their adventure.

2. The rebel
Fearless, uncompromising, and creative. They seek the creative destruction of the status quo and like to tear down a problem to find a solution. The Rebels value freedom of action and expression, and let the customer do the same.

3. The magician

Believes that imagination and play have the power to move mountains. When everyone else gives up on childhood fairy tales and miracles, the magician maintains an uncompromising belief in their power, and this belief can be transcendent for the customer.

4. The jester
Provides us with the opportunity to take a long hard look at ourselves through the safety of humour. The jester is often disguised in a cloak of innocence, but is also deeply intelligent, seeing reality clearly and finding ways to show it in unusual, humorous ways.

5. The captain
The captain willingly accepts the call to action and heroically leads those who wish to follow. The captain has the ability to build trust in the hero and inspire adventurousness. Above all, the captain is able to empower others to become leaders themselves.

6. The defender
Protects that which is beautiful, precious, irreplaceable, and vulnerable. The defender looks out for those people, things, and principles that cannot protect themselves. Justice is one of the overriding motivations.

7. The muse
Even the most uneventful life is punctuated by moments of inspired action, the muse draws out these moments. The muse inspires these moment through its example of beauty, creativity, and love.

How to use this concept in your marketing strategy

Once the most appropriate mentor archetype has been identified for a particular brand or organisation, we can begin to align messaging content with the underlying traits of that particular archetype.

This approach can provide more freedom than simply putting together a company style-guide to which all messaging needs to adhere. It also helps to keep the ‘personality’ of the brand fresh and constant, among the many channels required in the messaging landscape.

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