Jeopardy!, has simple rules. Similarly, pitching’s ‘rules’ are elementary, yet we forget them. Brush up here as we play “Know Your Show.”
Stories by Michael Smart
Media relations guru and PR coach Michael Smart discusses a terrific lesson for communicators from Disney executive chairman Bob Iger’s autobiography. Smart says the relationship between Disney’s top communicator Zenia Mucha and Iger, which is based on honesty, sometimes brutal honesty, is the model we need to emulate.
Every communicator know the holy grail of media pitching is establishing a relationship with a journalist. But how is that done in the digital age? Michael Smart offers two examples of how his clients made a personal connection with a reporter that resulted in coverage for the client’s brand.
Self-help gurus say you are who you are if you think you are. Same goes with pitching, where confidence is 90% of the game. Michael Smart tells the story of two pitches that were similar but one made a critical error and ended up on in the trash.
In part, pitching the media is a confidence game. For that reason and several others, it’s critical to keep your confidence level high when pitching, pitching guru Michael Smart argues. While Smart understands why journalists blast PR pros at online sites, he urges pitchers avoid those sites lest they lose their confidence and abandon techniques that have worked and will continue to be successful.
As readers know, media pitching guru Michael Smart advocates taking a personal approach to targeting reporters. Still, Smart explains that there’s a fine line between personalizing a pitch and becoming too personal for a business situation. It’s also crucial to know when and where to personalize a pitch.
My take on the new year is different in its emphasis: 2017 will be when we realize that the land rush associated with new channels and platforms is over, and we no longer have excuses for not focusing on the key elements that drove PR for the century before digital media: quality and credibility. Yes, we’re at the tail end of a few years’ window when you could get ahead simply by posting more frequently to your brand journalism site than the laggards. Google rewarded sheer quantity. And you could get a bunch of free followers by jumping onto Facebook before your competitors, and then Twitter, and to some extent Instagram. This channel-hopping seemed like the new normal. But in the grand scheme of the history of marketing, it will be viewed as an outlier on the front end of the digital revolution, where fundamental rules got bent for a while.
Recently it was a PR rep from a huge government organization. He said, “This is all great, but I don’t have any problems getting media attention. They’re calling me every day.” What a huge opportunity he is missing! Whether you’re at a big brand or a small one, it’s not solely about the volume of stories that include you. It’s whether you can place the stories you want told.
It’s become part of the journalist’s editorial calculations by necessity. If they cover you, how many page views can you deliver to them?
You know how bloggers have invented a writing subgenre of mocking the PR pitches they get? Recently I saw a lengthy takedown of a PR firm’s effort to publicize what the blogger felt was a hollow startup. The blogger portrayed the PR firm’s pitch as comically superficial. I’ll forego linking to the post because I prefer to avoid boosting ad revenue for crass blogs that bully people. Admittedly, the pitch material was superficial. It went against every principle of clear writing that I teach. All things being equal, the PR firm’s staff should have pushed back on the startup to get more concrete facts about the new company’s goals, what it does and why it’s credible. But that wasn’t the main problem, and it didn’t prevent the startup from ultimately succeeding elsewhere; more on that below. The biggest problem is where the startup’s material landed: in other words, where the material was pitched. Granted, the pitch was directed to a blog that’s well read among the startup’s target market: millennials. But this particular blog also is known for snarky opposition to PR outreach. It was like putting red meat in front of a gaunt, stray dog.