While the product, service or event you’re pitching may be unique, cutting-edge or exciting, if you’re using any of those words to describe it, your news release will fall on deaf editor’s ears.
According to Cision’s 2021 State of the Media survey, “unique,” “cutting-edge” and “exciting” are among the most cringe-inducing terms for journalists to read in a press release, due to their overuse. But those are hardly the worst offenders. If you really want to make reporters’ eyes roll, try using “best of breed,” which the majority of journalists would cancel if they could. “World class” and “unprecedented” rounded out the top three words most in need of purging from your press efforts.
Cision – a leading media monitoring, PR, marketing and media management technology and intelligence company – recently held its first State of the Media Summit that advanced three very important words in our communications world: Know. Your. Audience.
Throughout the summit sessions, Cision’s panelists – esteemed journalists and editors from media outlets across the U.S. and Canada – reiterated this point. The universal message was knowing who you’re targeting, having familiarity with the topic (or topics) they cover and understanding their audience is critical. They also shared tips on getting a reporter’s attention, how to effectively build relationships with journalists and what it takes to drive better coverage.
Here are some of the top tips:
- Pick your battles. Journalists understand that PR pros are extremely busy, but “if you have something that’s really important to place, narrowing your field is important,” as one journalist put it. On that note…
- Taking a “shotgun” approach to pitching can do more harm than good. When a journalist or editor keeps seeing your name in their inbox – and it’s attached to pitches that have nothing to do with their beat, they’re likely to block you.
- If nothing else, get their name right. Nothing turns journalists off – or lands your pitch in the trash can – faster than addressing them by the wrong name (or gender).
- To follow up or not to follow up – that remains the question. While a reporter who gets 300 pitches a day might find a follow-up email helpful in pointing out something they may have missed, another might find it annoying (and cause for blocking you) – especially if the pitch wasn’t relevant to begin with. And then there’s the subject of timing. A follow-up email that comes two days later may already be too late, given the fast-paced 24/7 news cycle. When in doubt, only follow up “if you’re absolutely sure the story is right for the reporter you’re following up with.”
- Practice prompt replies. Journalists are on tight deadlines and the news cycle is fast and constantly changing. If you don’t respond quickly, by the time you do, it may be too late.
- Don’t be discouraged. Just because a journalist doesn’t use your pitch doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good pitch. Journalists are covering multiple beats and only have so much bandwidth that it’s possible they couldn’t cover your story in time.
- Give them an ‘aha’ moment. “We’re in the business of telling people things they don’t know yet,” one reporter said. Stay ahead of the news cycle and pitch stories that are timely and top of mind for audiences. Ask yourself, “How can I help this reporter tell his/her audience something they don’t already know?”
- Think before you name-drop. Trying to pitch a story that’s been covered in the New York Times? That might give it credibility, but why would someone want to cover old news? Again, if you’re not pitching a story that’s never been told before, at least provide a fresh take on it.
- Bring in diverse voices. With a renewed focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, reporters are interested in stories that are more inclusive, more well-rounded and represent different perspectives and diverse voices.
- Put your news release to work. Journalists find news releases incredibly helpful – especially if they can act as an all-in-one place to get the information they need for their story. That means providing relevant links, data, expert analysis, quotes and images to accompany the story and add context.
- Embrace the awkward. Establishing relationships with reporters isn’t always easy, but the past year has made it nearly impossible. After all, it’s not like you can grab a cup of coffee or introduce yourself at a conference. But you can do the next best thing with virtual “getting to know you” meetups. Sure, they’re not ideal and even more awkward than the real thing can be, but they can still be effective.
- Keep pitches short, sweet and relevant. “That’s the best way to get one of us to respond to what you’re pitching.”
Final thoughts on pitching:
- Keep it brief and don’t bury the lead. Get the facts out right away. Answer the “so what?” in the headline.
- Give someone an idea for a story. You can send a press release, but if you give them a good idea for a story, you’re doing the job for them.
- Step into the journalist’s shoes. Think about how the story benefits the journalist’s audience – not your client!
Lightning Mic:Ford Rolls Out All-Electric F-150
Lightning has struck with Ford, as it rolled out its all-electric F-150 pickup recently.
The F-150 Lightning was declared “”an electric truck that can match the ambitions of this nation.”
Ford CEO Jim Farley made a simpler case: “It hauls ass and tows like a beast.”
Ford is touting the much-anticipated vehicle as not just a pickup, but a mobile power plant – with a price tag designed to draw mainstream attention.
The Lightning has a starting price of $39,974, lower than widely expected, making it roughly competitive with gas-powered pickups (which currently average more than $50,000).
When you factor in a federal tax credit, which Ford qualifies for and Tesla no longer does, it’s the cheapest electric pickup so far.
The F-150 Lightning will have a range of 230 or 300 miles, depending on the battery choice, and can add 54 miles of range for every 10 minutes on a fast charger.
But in addition to touting towing capacity, speedy acceleration and other on-road essentials, Ford is emphasizing what the Lightning can do at a standstill – namely, run a work site or power a home during an emergency.
Eleven built-in outlets allow drivers to run multiple power tools at a work site or kitchen appliances at a campsite. (The new hybrid F-150 offers a similar feature.)
And when it’s plugged in at home and the power goes out, the Lightning can automatically send electricity back into your home, keeping the lights on for days, Ford said.
Now that’s some exciting news — electrifying even!
Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!