PR for the Regular Joe

June 24, 2009

Save your pitch from the circular file

Filed under: Media outreach,Public Relations — Big Sky Public Relations @ 11:11 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Recently, I spoke with a new account coordinator who was experiencing frustration pitching broadcast media and was having difficulty placing a story.  She asked me how I managed to consistently produce results in this sector while simultaneously enjoying the work.  I happen to know she works in a fantastic company with talented, accomplished professionals so I was left wondering why she did not understand the flaw in her approach.

In fact, her comments are a common complaint and a serious concern.  Why doesn’t this reporter take my calls or return my emails?  What do I have to do to be heard?  How do I produce the results my client deserves?  The answer is that a strong pitch is developed from listening, not speaking.

I learned this crucial, elemental truth in my first public relations internship.  I worked closely with an experienced professional who delivered me from the traditional coffee making duties, and gave me the opportunity to start pitching.  Before I ever touched a phone, she took time to show me the basics of researching writers before I handed them a story.  She helped me understand listening to the media translates to reading what they write; going beyond taking their title and beat off of Cision and understanding their interests.

With her guidance, I scoured magazines, newspapers and websites to gain an understanding of who was covering issues relevant to our client.  I developed background knowledge on stories written by editors I wanted to approach.   I did the homework and then I pitched my story.  Happy ending? Yes–as an intern, I secured placements with major media outlets including The Washington Post, Family Circle, Life & Style and many more.

For today’s PR newbees, the climate is even more difficult for pitching–the media does not have time for off-target pitches and is quick to share that fact.  Current editors and reporters are doing the job of three people and it is essential to respect their time and provide them useful resources.  If it is not a good approach for their beat, be creative and find a unique angle that fits into their focus or don’t waste your time and their patience.  Through your research, learn to recognize what is and is not newsworthy and work with your clients to develop material that will interest the media.  These strategies will assist you in building a solid foundation of contacts which will serve you throughout your career.

The great news about my friend is that she is resilient, talented and intelligent.   I believe with a little time and direction she will be scoring big hits with broadcast.  I applaud her resourcefulness and desire to try a more effective approach instead of giving up.   She is one of many new to the field and certainly not the first to have legitimate questions.  For all the public relations professionals with years of experience, take time to share a little wisdom with someone starting a career in our industry.  It will certainly make their work more enjoyable and help the public relations field build a stronger relationship with the world of media.

4 Comments »

  1. Courtenay,

    Excellent Blog. Your wisdom and insight in the PR industry is very impressive. You never fail to amaze me. I will be calling you to help market my product.

    Melanie

    Comment by Melanie Allen — June 25, 2009 @ 3:37 am | Reply

  2. Great blog Courtenay! I had never thought about PR that way, but it makes sense that doing your homework on a client always pays off. Thanks!

    Comment by Sybren Simonsen — June 25, 2009 @ 9:59 am | Reply

  3. You’ve said a mouthful here. I suspect the cardinal rule of listening could be translated to all aspects of life.

    Comment by Kathleen Burt — June 25, 2009 @ 1:03 pm | Reply

  4. Thanks for the great reminder of the importance of connecting through listening. I’m enjoying your blog.

    Comment by Nicole Barton — June 25, 2009 @ 7:41 pm | Reply


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