Full disclosure: I’ve been on both sides of the PR equation.
Today, as a writer who blogs for The Next Web, Entrepreneur, and Forbes, I’m on the receiving end of dozens of pitches, several hundred HARO replies, and handfuls of phone calls per day. Years ago, in another marketing lifetime, I was also on the pitching side—as part of my job, I cold-pitched journalists and bloggers to write about a product that I was trying to pitch.
I’ll admit that both sides of the equation have driven me bonkers for different reasons. As a journalist, it’s hard to find great stories, and it breaks my heart to have to ignore the hundreds of messages that I receive per day (I know how hard you’re working PR leaders!). In my early days dabbling in PR, I’d send countless messages that went ignored.
The fact is that it’s hard to stand out from noise. Even the most talented PR leaders need to keep learning new techniques and evolving their toolbox of resources.
Here are 6 fresh tips, nominated by top PR leaders, to help your pitches stand out.
1 – Know the ebbs and flows of the news cycle
Tip nominated by: Laura Gross, principal at Scott Circle
Know what’s coming up and what journalists are going to want to cover—but don’t wait until the last minute. Anticipate trending topics so that you have plenty of time to prepare.
“For example, we are promoting an app, Urgent.ly,” says Gross. “It’s the Uber of roadside assistance that allows you to track your tow truck on your screen. Starting 6 weeks before Memorial Day, we pitched this as a must have road trip app. We got a variety of press to cover it from local TV, mommy bloggers and tech reporters.”
Prepare for the news trends that you know will be coming up. Plan in advance, study opportunities closely, building lasting relationships, and developing your unique angle.
2 – Look for niche audiences
Tip nominated by: Sam Binks, Digital Marketing Manager at TeamSnap
Don’t limit your outreach to mainstream media, Facebook, and Twitter. There’s a world of PR opportunity beneath the surface of what’s considered mainstream—and if you have something awesome to say, you’ll get noticed.
“My biggest tip is go where your client’s target audience is, but go deeper than Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google+,” says Binks. “There’s a whole world out there and even the most niche industries have communities hiding below the surface on forums and blogs.”
If you’re not sure where to get started, talk to the audience that you’re trying to reach. Ask what websites they’re reading, discussion forums that they’re utilizing, and communities that they trust.
“Do a bit of audience profiling, ask them a few questions, and get to work posting anywhere and everywhere you think is relevant, and then mix that into your social media channels,” says Binks.
3 – Put yourself in the journalist’s shoes
Tip nominated by: Abby Schiller, account executive at PMBC Group
Imagine how you feel when you’re on the receiving end of an irrelevant email blast. Now, imagine getting dozens upon dozens of these messages per day.
“I find the best way to get good coverage is to get to know reporters on a more personal level,” says Schiller. “I asked a reporter if she was available for lunch so I could get a feel for what kind of stories she’s working on, and what really interests her. We met, we chatted and about a month later my client got a front page story in the journal.”
The bottom line is that you should stop trying to pitch reporters. Instead, focus on getting to know them and helping them through their storytelling challenges.
“When you start to break down the barriers between publicist and reporter, you’ll be much more successful,” says Schiller.
4 – Pay attention to micro-moments on Twitter
Tip nominated by: Leigh Dow, VP of public relations at Lane Terralever
If you’re not on Twitter, now’s the time to get active.
“One of the best ways to get clients exposure is by using Twitter to connect with reporters who are actively working on stories,” says Dow. “Many times reporters will use their Twitter account to ask for subject matter experts to weigh in and provide a quote or more detailed information to round out the story.”
During the 2014 NFL Combine season and NFL draft, Dow leveraged Twitter to connect with many reporters and was able to secure placements featuring specific athletes in publications like ESPN, Sports Illustrated and International Business Times.
Rely on Twitter to both listen and learn to the reporters that you’re trying to reach.
5 – Seize the moment
Tip nominated by: Alison Podworski, founder at Alison May PR
How does your client or business fit into trending topics in the media?
The answer to this question may uncover your next PR angle for pitching.
“For example, when the temperature began to hit 90 degrees, we pitched our fitness client to speak about exercising safely during the hot weather,” says Podworski. “The NBC affiliate immediately called us to interview her as part of an overall heat safety story.”
Pordworski repeated this strategy during the flu season.
“We pitched an orthodontist to speak about hidden germs in your house: your toothbrush,” Podworski says. “We knew that the local media would be covering health stories on the flu, and this was a different angle for them.”
6 – Identify gaps in the market
Tip nominated by: Sally Falkow, PR strategist at Meritus Media
PR leaders need to become deeply acquainted with media opportunities in their industries.
“Figure out if there are any gaps of coverage in your industry and how you could fill that gap,” says Falkow. “Pitch those stories. Include rich media assets to extend and enhance the story.”
Healthcare, for instance, is one field in which there is a growing demand but limited supply of content.
“The Mayo Clinic has been filling this gap for years and, as a result, their content and their experts show up in many news stories,” Falkow says.
Be unique, bold, and helpful. Carve out your own unique niche. It’s this approach that will help you outsmart the noise.
The bottom line
There are several key themes that emerge from this collection of tips. The first is that as a PR leader, you should always be research-driven in your work. Figure out your unique pitch, be empathetic to journalists’ needs, and dig deep to find less-than-obvious opportunities. You’re better than the status quo.
Photo Credit: ShutterStock/BlackBoard1965