Know What You’re Pitching

We have often written about the importance of establishing relationships with the media.  As a public relations agency it is our responsibility to know how and where to position our clients in the press.  One of the biggest drawbacks to hiring a big agency is the fact that senior executives at the public relations firm come in to make the pitch but once the account is awarded, junior staffers are the ones charged with getting coverage for the new retainer client.  For many of these publicists, the only concern is how many placements they can get for the client.  Thus, they take a scattershot approach to pitching the client’s product, event or service and lose track of what will benefit the client  most.

The biggest criticism of public relations professionals by media is the fact that publicists do not take the time to read what an individual writes and reports on.  This includes broadcast news producers, magazine editors and now, bloggers and other social media groups as well.

If one is not taking the time to know how their client’s message fits the respective media outlet they are targeting, then why should the media member care about taking a look? 

I have had producers that we’ve worked with tell me that they get tons of email pitches a day and automatically delete those that have nothing to do with what the show or news organization would cover or for that matter, are poorly written and thus, not deserving of being opened.

Recently, iMedia Public Relations was able to work with Judy Chapman, editor of Garden State Woman on creating a video piece with New Jersey chiropractor, Dr. Tami Hartman. Our client is the Association of NJ Chiropractors.  Our intent was to have a female chiropractor discuss how families can benefit from chiropractic care.  The Garden State Woman website has a specific area for health features. We pitched Chapman and she developed an interview piece with Dr. Hartman.

When the piece was finally posted, we noticed a separate column that Chapman posted on Getting Coverage. In it, she lamented some of the poor pitches she receives from executives and public relations professionals.  Here are some excerpts:

We get PR firms and/or heads of emerging companies calling us all the time to “pitch” a story idea to us. Most often we never get to the next step because the approach to us is so bad.

In many cases the people calling us with editorial ideas know nothing about our organization, our objectives or our audience, have not taken the time to visit our web site, have never tried to meet with us and have not really thought through why the idea they are “pitching” would be important to us or to our audience.

If you want to get media coverage and attention for your client or your business, take the time to learn about the media organization being targeted. Visit their web site. Send for their media kit and, if you really want to set yourself apart, call and arrange to go visit them. See their operations first-hand. Get to know the editorial decision makers and be looking for ways that you can be helpful to them. It’s best to have this type of meeting in advance of a specific idea, person, product or service you are trying to get covered.

The media will respond very well to you investing your time in trying to develop a long-term, win-win relationship. People in the media world are no different than anyone else. They want to do business with those they know, respect and trust.

As the communications industry has changed, the endgame for public relations professionals has not.  The mission is to position your client in the best possible manner with the appropriate media so that their message is conveyed in a proper and effective manner.  It’s called strategic media relations and those companies that do not practice this, will effectively end up having their pitches turn up in the deleted items folder.

Tom Cosentino


One Response to “Know What You’re Pitching”

  1. I’ve noticed the separation of “church and state” that exists between editorial and ad sales is also a communication pipeline that can be exploited. Having been on the ad sales side, I’ve worked closely with editors & publishers on media kits and editorial calendars. There happens to be a great relationship to be built by using the ad sales rep to introduce a pitch that bridges editorial calendars and advertising schedules.

    It’s a bit of a grey area, but it isn’t advertorial when a story garners press for a company that advertises in the months before or after the publication interviews key executives or features the products or services.

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