Stop Pitching. Start Listening.
How to get out of the pitching rut and get interest in your story
Media relations is key to the overall success of your company’s marketing strategy. Yet all PR pros tend to fall into a “pitch rut” now and again. You know the rut: Figure out an angle. Write a press release. Post it. Blast it to your list. Have your team follow up with ‘call downs.’
If you’re like most companies, you’d like more success.
That’s because the way we work – and the way journalists work – has changed. Just when we think we know what to do, the landscape changes because of new tools, outlets, writers and producers. Yet we continue using old approaches, blasting out our message in a world where targeted messages are expected.
We have a suggestion – Stop Pitching. Start Listening.
Journalists regularly comment they are not being listened to. Instead, they’re being blasted with irrelevant information. In fact, a recent study found that the average journalist is sent 25 press releases every day.
When asked to reveal where they get story ideas, BtoB journalists say:
With the increasing demand to produce more and more content on tighter and tighter deadlines, journalists know good PR professionals can help them get their jobs done.
BtoB PR pros can leverage this by using an array of old and new content delivery channels to distribute news.
What will get journalists’ attention?
- Blasting. An email blast is potentially the worst way to get a positive reaction. Instead, know what your key targets have been writing and adjust the angle to dovetail with what’s on their minds. Just remember – not every story is right for every journalist every time.
Sometimes blasting can’t be helped. Publicly traded companies, for example, must abide by rules of information dissemination. But always determine if you’re issuing a press release just to meet a quota – or if it’s really news. Then you can stop...
- Pestering. Learn how to be persistent but not intrusive. Follow up sparingly, politely, and take “no” for an answer. Remember there’s more on the agenda than your agenda. If you’ve provided great information, but it doesn’t fit right now, you may be remembered later for your keen understanding. This will help you stop...
- Pigeon-holing. There are lots of outlets, angles, and mediums. Keep an ongoing conversation alive with your top 10 targets, but consider widening your scope. Listen closely; you might hear a new angle coming from someone you’ve never reached out to before.
- Reading. Have PR pros stopped reading? At a journalists’ roundtable last month, a question was posed: “Where do you get your news?” One woman proudly said, “The Today Show. That’s all I need.” Nothing against the Today Show, but a single source is hardly sufficient to do your job as a PR pro. Reading helps you start...
- Getting to know your audience. One cannot really ‘know’ everyone who might cover a story. But make an investment in writers and producers and you will benefit in the long run. Follow posts in the publications and blogs and other social media formats. Do this, and you’ll automatically start...
- Listening. Those ‘tools’ we referred to that keep changing the landscape? They also help us listen. If you’re not following and reading content from your targets, you’re not ready to reach out to them. If you are, you can respond to a Tweet with a direct message to convey your message. Share links, even if it’s not about your offering. This helps you start...
- Becoming a reliable source. If you’re listening, you may be able to help journalists craft a better story. Consistency in offering insight and access to executives leads to increased trust. Trusted sources are in high demand. But they can’t learn to trust you until you start...
- Making phone calls and getting face time. Journalists may prefer email over phone calls, but you won’t develop a bond with a writer until you’ve engaged in conversations. Face time at conferences, on media tours or socially goes a long way in building relationships. But you may never get that meeting if you don’t start...
- Turning subject lines into billboards. What works on a billboard? Seven words that intrigue you and make you either want to do something or want to find out more. Nice dovetail with your media relations objectives, right?
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Listening isn’t hard; it just takes focus.
It’s easy to follow key journalists on Twitter, connect with them on LinkedIn – maybe even on Facebook if you truly know them. Google News makes it simple to know what they’ve published, but to know what they are thinking about, subscribe to their posts, tweets and feeds.
You might be pleasantly surprised by the warm response you get when you stop pitching and start listening.
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