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TODD SMITH — Pitch perfect: Five tips for reaching today’s modern media

TODD SMITH

TODD SMITH

Today’s world communicates at warp speed, and so do the journalists – creating the first draft of history 24/7. To reach the time-starved media, you must make your pitches sing, and stand out!

Research is critical in creating the best content, perfecting a pitch, customizing the best media list and tailoring your outreach.

For media success, you must strategically plan for your company, clients and brand. We are constantly communicating information to generate awareness. How that is communicated determines whether it ever makes it to the page or screen.

If the C-suite or client can’t tell you why something is newsworthy and timely, then you won’t be able to explain it to journalists. Ultimately, the media are your clients too, and if you lose credibility through bad pitches, then you can’t be effective.

Always think like a reporter – and not necessarily like your brand. Brands and companies have information that they want to convey, and it’s your job to determine if it’s newsworthy.

PR practitioners are the news filter between company, brand and media – and it’s our jobs to advise when it’s a great story or a pile of manure.

Remember to focus on quality over quantity when pitching. It’s best to customize content in a separate pitch for each reporter you’re targeting. This approach will generate the strongest coverage and great long-term relationships. Also, study the reporter’s Twitter and social media feeds to make sure that they are at their desk working and not on deadline or a breaking story, at a conference or on vacation.

Devote time to research your media list. Creating a good media list can be a senior practitioner’s job. Before you pitch your contacts, get to know their interests through their media monitoring service profiles, websites, LinkedIn profiles and Twitter feeds.

Never blast out a mass pitch and BCC more than one journalist at a time.

Spamming is like a guy who blasts out one BCC email to every woman he knows to try to get a date. And the recipients might blacklist you or your organization or put you on a spam list.

So if your boss or your client says, “But we don’t have time to customize all of our pitches and reach out to each journalist individually,” then you can respond, “Then why should reporters take the time to listen to us?”

It’s better to research and pitch five reporters thoughtfully — through a phone call, an email or a social media message — and have three of them say yes, than to pitch 100 and get one response. Media relations done well is hard work that often takes time both with the client and with media.

5 tips for pitching today’s media:

1. Be familiar with what journalists write and what they’ve covered recently. That’s a given – whether it’s obvious in the pitch itself or whether you spell it out – and that research will help make sure that you don’t pitch them a story that they’ve already written.

2. Keep emails as short as possible – the KISS method. As long as you tell reporters what the news actually is, you can add more details and photos later. Some reporters won’t open anything with attachments, so don’t send them in your first email.

3. Consider your timing. Give a reporter as much lead time as possible, make sure that you have a timely news hook and make sure that you’re catching them at a good time of day. If you’re making an announcement on a certain date, then plan to reach out a couple of weeks ahead of that date to let them know.

4. Reporters like to write about people. If you don’t have a human-interest story to share, then go find one. That’s the best pitch for the best story!

5. Reporters receive hundreds – if not thousands – of emails each day, so catch their attention by summing up the whole story in the headline and personalizing it.

Twitter trends: How to measure success

You’re getting lots of retweets, clicks and eyeballs on your tweets. You know your Twitter account is doing great things for your brand – but you just can’t exactly explain how.

If you’ve been struggling to explain the value of Twitter to the boss, you’re probably not measuring results well (or at all). In order to know what’s working and what’s not when it comes to all of that tweeting you’re doing, you’ve got to set objectives and define the metrics that you will measure to see how close you are to hitting them – and speak their language of ROI.

Here are tips on what you can measure on Twitter, and what each one will tell you about your successes – and ways to improve your social strategy:

Account growth: How many new followers you are adding each day/week/month. Useful for objectives like brand awareness.

Retweets: The number of retweets each of your tweets receives. Useful for objectives like reach, brand awareness and engagement with customers.

Favorites: The number of favorites each of your tweets receives. Useful for objectives like brand awareness, engagement with customers.

Replies: Who is replying to your tweets? What are they saying to/about your brand? Useful for objectives like engagement with customers, brand sentiment.

Mentions: The number of times your account is mentioned by others. Useful for objectives like brand awareness, engagement with customers.

Clicks on URLs: The number of clicks on a website you shared. Useful for objectives like website traffic from social media, customer acquisition.

Clicks to your profile: The number of clicks to your profile you see on each tweet. Useful for objectives like brand awareness, customer engagement.

Clicks on hashtags: The number of clicks on the hashtag(s) you share. Useful for objectives like brand (or event) awareness, customer engagement.

For most marketers, it isn’t possible – nor is it desirable – to try to measure and validate each one of the above metrics. Instead, choose the one(s) that will show you how close you are to achieving your objectives.

For instance, if you are exhibiting at a conference in two weeks and your goal is to use Twitter to raise awareness among attendees, you might want to measure hashtag clicks (How many people are engaging with the event hashtag?), retweets (How many people are sharing your tweets about the conference with their network?) and replies or mentions (Who is talking to you about the conference?).

Alternatively, if you are the host of this conference, you might want to measure everything that an exhibitor would measure, plus clicks on the URLs you’re tweeting (Who is visiting your event page? Who is converting to a sale and buying a ticket?).

If you can focus on the metrics that matter most, you will be able to deliver impressive reports that showcase your big wins on Twitter, without being bogged down by irrelevant statistics. Plus, you’ll learn what worked – and what didn’t – so you can improve and become a social media ninja for your company, clients and brands.

Muffed Mic — Is America ready for a Brander-in-Chief?

By becoming the presumptive nominee of the Republican party last week, Donald Trump and his millions of supporters completed what had seemed unimaginable: a hostile takeover of one of America’s two major political parties.

Just as stunning was how quickly the host tried to reject them. The party’s two living former presidents spurned Trump, a number of sitting governors and senators expressed opposition or ambivalence toward him, and he drew a forceful rebuke from the single most powerful and popular rival left on the Republican landscape: the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan.

Rarely, if ever, has a party seemed to come apart so visibly. Rarely, too, has the nation been so on edge about its politics.

Many Americans still cannot believe that the bombastic candidate, best known as a reality television star and real estate mogul, will be on the ballot in November. Plenty are also anxious about what he would do in office.

Trump has the Midas touch in building brands and successful TV shows, but The Spin Cycle is not sure America is ready for A Brander-in-Chief or Reality TV President. It should be an interesting summer!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

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