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TODD SMITH: Pitch perfect – How to make your story music to the media’s ears

TODD SMITH

TODD SMITH

PR pros must craft pitches that are music to the media’s ears, and should avoid stale, deflated pitches at all costs.

No matter where you are in the PR world, you’ve probably experienced the highs and lows of media outreach.

With nearly 28 years in the industry, The Spin Cycle has these tips to make your news sing:

» Audience is everything. – Steer away from the “spray and pray” approach to pitching. Rather than blasting out a pitch and hoping someone bites, taking the time to focus on your target audience can go a long way in getting a response.

PR pros have a vast amount of resources to help us select which reporters to pitch. With access to databases like Cision and Muck Rack, there’s no excuse not to locate the best writers and tailor the pitch to them.

Research every reporter you’re considering pitching, the topics they write about and their recent articles. Build up a long-term relationship by reading through their work on a regular basis, thoughtfully commenting on articles and following/sharing social media posts.

Once you have a relationship with a reporter or editor established, nurture it forever. PR is built on connections – and you never know when you’ll want to work with them again!

This way might take more time, but the ROI is well worth it. You’ll earn the trust and respect of the right contacts on your list.

» Boring topics don’t earn coverage. – This is where we, as PR professionals, have to be cautious.

Clients often feel passionately about their business and what they consider newsworthy announcements, ideas or processes, but it’s our job to provide objective counsel on their PR strategies. If the story isn’t newsworthy or interesting enough to stand on its own, consider these options for including it elsewhere:

1. If you have an existing relationship with a reporter, you might be able to weave the announcement into a larger story. Could it be a supporting point or offer validation around their larger business story or strategy?

2. Tie your news to something reporters haven’t heard before. Does it connect with a timely trend, current event or emerging best practice?

3. Tell your client this isn’t the right story to tell and recommend looking at other opportunities for media exposure. There is no harm in telling a client that their story angle doesn’t have the chops to secure the type of coverage they’re hoping for. It’s better to be honest and upfront then set unrealistic expectations. A better, stronger idea or strategy may emerge as a result.

» Capture the reporter’s attention – Once you have a topic that is worth publishing, craft it in a way that will easily catch a reporter’s attention.

Pay attention to your email’s subject line, as it can make or break whether a reporter goes any further. Presume that all the journalist can see on his or her computer screen is the preview portion of your email in Outlook. Are you giving it all you’ve got within the first few sentences so that he or she is compelled to click open and read further?

Eliminate hard returns between “Hi Reporter Jane” and the crux of your pitch, so that you are taking advantage of prime email real estate. Nobody wants to read lengthy paragraphs or open attached files, let alone an overworked journalist with an overflowing inbox.

Use short paragraphs, bullet points, embedded images and links to more information.

The art of the pitch takes practice, time and experience, but like any craft, they take time to perfect. Solid research pays off – and good stories don’t come easily – they are earned!

Brands must adopt mobile first philosophy, Pepsi says

Brands that are connecting at the speed of culture will win, said Adam Harter, PepsiCo’s VP of cultural connections, during a presentation at the Digital Marketing World Forum (DMWF) held recently in New York.

Harter took the stage to talk about marketing in a post-mobile world, where big data, influence, and the blending of real and virtual worlds have redefined marketing—for the better.

According to Harter, 90 percent of the world’s data has been created in the past 12 months. Mobile, he said, is indispensable in the “connected” world. In fact, 90 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds sleep with or next to their smartphones; by the end of 2016, more than 8 trillion texts will have been sent overall.

This mobile-obsessed environment is what made PepsiCo realize it needed its own mobile-first reset. This reset consisted of four parts:

1. A shift in culture.

2. A better strategy for leveraging the data explosion.

3. Driving dynamic creative.

4. Measuring success every step of the way.

PepsiCo’s shift in culture is based on a new guiding principle: No campaign, program, or tactic will be considered if mobile isn’t part of the equation, Harter said.

Google launches Jamboard Whiteboard

Google’s newest gadget is for your office: Today, the company is announcing Jamboard, a new cloud-connected digital whiteboard that hooks into its “G Suite” of apps for corporate customers.

The Jamboard itself is a Google-designed, 55-inch 4K touchscreen display that runs Android and a new app for whiteboarding.

It includes a built-in camera and speakers and can recognize up to 16 simultaneous touch inputs. (It can also tell the difference between human fingers and its no-batteries-or-Bluetooth-pairing-necessary stylus and eraser accessories.) You can mount it to a wall or wheel it around on a custom stand. Google will start selling the device next year, starting at “under $6,000.”

But like most of Google’s suite of business apps, the real point is the software and its collaborative cloud service.

As you might expect, inside a “Jam” session, you can draw, type, import and scribble on images and Google Docs, search the web in a mini-browser, communicate with colleagues via Google Hangout and keep a digital record of your work in Google Drive. Teams using multiple Jamboards can work together on the same project in real time, as long as there’s internet access.

There’s also a full-featured tablet app for iOS and Android (so others can participate without a Jamboard) and a simpler version of the app for smartphones.

Transparent Mic | FBI Director Comey seeks justice in bombastic election

When FBI Director James Comey renewed the bureau’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s secret emails, he brought to light an anchor that could very well sink the U.S.S Hillary.

As the 2016 election zooms – albeit with deflated tires on both sides of the aisle – to the finish line, the investigation certainly heightened the stakes for the Democratic presidential nominee, who has been caught in a web of potential criminal activities related to treatment of classified information shared via unsecured private servers.

Comey made the announcement after new information relevant to the case, reportedly thousands of emails, were found on a computer belonging to former Congressman Anthony Weiner and his ex-wife Huma Abedin, who serves as a top aide for Clinton.

In pure Clintonian fashion, Clinton herself wasted no time going after Comey by accusing him of purposely trying to influence an election. In an effort to paint Comey’s move as purely political, she lied about the letter he sent by saying it was only sent to Republicans. Campaign Chairman John Podesta did the same despite the letter being sent to Democrats and Republicans.

Clinton was the First Lady, a Senator from New York who sat on the Intelligence Committee and served as Secretary of State. She knew what the rules were and ignored them for the sake of secrecy and non-transparency. She did it to avoid oversight from Congress, which she admitted in emails. She prioritized her secrecy and criminal behavior above the national security of the United States, which is why she’s in this situation as the election hits the 11th hour.

The Spin Cycle would like to point out that without her private server there would be no FBI investigation. Period. If it costs her the election, Hillary has nobody to blame but herself.

Comey reopened this investigation to make sure justice is served, and in doing so, brings something to D.C. that all to often goes unheeded – transparency. For that, Comey – and the FBI – get a Transparent Mic!

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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