Whether you think the practice of PR is dead, dying or just plain dormant, even you have got to agree that attracting client publicity is still what PR people get paid for.
And if you – like me – believe in getting paid for what you do, then you need to know how one goes about attracting "publicity."
The answer, of course, lies in that most traditional of PR skills, pitching; that is, interesting a third-party reporter in what your client is selling.
What's that you say -- that "owned media" now rivals "earned media" for credibility.
Think about it; even semi-conscious consumers will distrust your own Facebook musings or Twitter postings almost as much as they're dubious of your advertising. It's just common sense that people will be more skeptical of communication you pay for than they will communication over which you have no control.
So knowing the "do's" and "don'ts" of pitching the media – including bloggers and other denizens of the web – is obligatory for public relations knowledge. So here they are:
First, the Don'ts.
· Don't bore.
Reporters/editors/bloggers receive scores of pitches every day. Most are mind-numbingly tedious. Those get trashed in a nanosecond. So…..you need to make yours stand out in scintillating fashion.
· Don't pitch the wrong pitchee.
The number one complaint that reporters have of PR people is, "He obviously has no idea what I cover." So a smart pitcher will know precisely who he or she is pitching to and what, specifically, they are most interested in reporting.
· Don't hyperbolize
If your pitch sounds like it was written by Donald Trump, i.e. "the best, most exciting, most unique and revolutionary, cutting edge product in the history of mankind," it will be deep-sixed faster than you can say, "comb over." Reporters want facts, not hyperbole. So give it to them straight.
· Don't be an annoying tweeter.
Some PR pitchers use Twitter to let reporters know that "I just sent you an email" and "Any response to my email" and "Curious what you thought of my email" and….well, you get the point. Twitter isn't there to abuse reporters. If they ain't interested in what you're pitching, move on.
· Don't get a reputation as a "junk" pitcher.
No, we're not talking about the "junk" that Anthony Weiner was pitching. We're talking about pitching stories that have no earthly chance of getting used. Reporters are busy and will quickly grow tired of and remember one who bothers them with material they will never, ever use.
Now, the Do's.
· Do research the target.
In other words, know who you are pitching. Read what they write in the paper or report on the air or record in their blog. The more familiar you are with the target of your pitching, the more likely your pitch will resonate. So go to school on the reporter you're after.
· Do personalize.
One positive mention in an objective, indifferent, third-party media source is worth a lot more than a paid ad or your own Facebook posting. So pitches shouldn't be randomly distributed – although most are. Rather, they should be directed, personally, to one particular reporter and tailored to his or her interests.
· Do make it different.
This is the converse of the Don't about "boring." Your pitch must stand out from the rest. Simply saying the product or service you're pitching is "unique" won't convince anyone. You must demonstrate that this time, it's different.
· Do localize.
Reporters report locally, so they prefer local news. If you're pitching from out-of-town, you've got a built-in problem. But if you're local and pitching a local product or service, you're ahead of the game. Similarly, pitching a "timely" topic that is currently in the news is another positive pitching "Do."
· Do use celebrities.
Does anybody really care if Kim Kardashian or Ryan Seacrest or Beyonce is involved with your product? Sadly, yes.
Celebrities, like it or not, sell. So if you can tie a celebrity to your pitch, do so.
· Do cite conflict.
What also sells is "conflict."
Good journalism, good reporting, good story-telling are all about disagreement, controversy, conflict. Reporters abhor, "win/win" pitches. But they adore pitches that highlight the other side of an existing squabble; the more conflictful, the better.
· Do persist.
In PR pitching, the bulldog gets the meat. A pitcher who gives up at an unanswered email isn't much of a pitcher. In pitching, persistence pays.
A good pitcher will call back a reporter, looking for an up or down answer. More often than not, a reasonable reporter confronted by a reasonable pitch will be courteous enough to respond one way or the other to a proper yet persistent pitcher.
· Do answer the two critical Q's.
Finally, a good pitcher won't pitch at all unless he or she has satisfactorily answered the two critical questions:
1. Who cares?
2. What's new?
If the answers to these questions are "no" and "nothing," a good pitcher, concerned about building a trusting relationship with a journalist, will wait for another day.
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Fraser P. Seitel has been a communications consultant, author and teacher for 30 years. He may be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is the author of the Prentice- Hall text The Practice of Public Relations, now in its eleventh edition, and co-author of Idea Wise.