Twice monthly, Jeff Vance of Sandstorm Media will be hosting a conference call offering helpful advice in media relations, and I was fortunate enough to join in on the first call last week.
Given Jeff’s extensive media background, he’s able to provide PR professionals with unique insight from a journalist’s perspective. Jeff is a freelance tech writer who has contributed to several publications including Forbes, CIO, Datamation and Network World. Thus, Jeff’s advice was genuine and certainly valuable.
The topic of Jeff’s first call was “How to Supercharge Your Pitches,” and, by following Jeff’s six guidelines, PR pros are likely to boost the success of future pitches.
1. Do your research.
Find the key influencers for your topic. Know what kinds of stories they cover, their writing style and even geographic location.
2. Build a relationship.
“Form a list of 20 key contacts and make them your allies.” Use social media tools to track and interact with your key influencers. Keep up with their stories and posts – retweet relevant articles.
3. Deemphasize the vendor.
Don’t be afraid to ask a vendor why they think a certain story is important or interesting (if there is even a story at all). Also, don’t be afraid to tell your client “no” sometimes or why nobody is going to care about something.
4. Get customer references.
Customer references can be extremely valuable in a pitch. One way Jeff suggests obtaining references is by incentivizing the sales team to get them. Make sure you also take good care of the customers who give you their time.
5. Keep track of pubs.
(This goes back to doing your research!) Know what readers find most attractive on the site. Look for keywords or types of stories that are popular. You could even tell the targeted journalist that a recent story they’ve written on the topic received a lot of positive feedback – it is helpful to reference past stories, but you can really hook the journalist if you take the next step of telling them why your story will be as successful as a past article.
6. Let the journalist know how YOU are going to help make that story a success.
Give them a reason to want to take the story to the editor and tell them why it will be successful, and then talk about how you’re going to help make the story a success in the pitch. Follow through with your promise – use social media and networking to help make the story a success once it has been published.
Throughout the call, there were several pieces of advices I took away. Here are two things Jeff said that really resonated with me:
- “You want to be a ‘resource’ for the journalist.”
If you send a journalist valuable information that is on target to what the journalist covers, then the journalist will recognize you as a “resource” …BUT if all you send out are generic press releases then they will think of you as a person who sends e-mails that he/she can ignore. This goes hand in hand doing your research. Know what the journalist is writing about and tailor your pitch to meet his or her needs.
- “Stop broadcasting and start engaging.”
Once again, don’t just spam journalists’ e-mails with useless press releases. Engage with them and really put an emphasis on building a strong relationship with your key influencers. Along with doing your research and knowing the journalists’ backgrounds, PR professionals must try to consistently interact with and befriend targeted journalists.