Thursday, January 7, 2010

Insights from a working journalist

So, here it is, the first of what I hope is many, many video entries for this blog. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I had a wonderful interview with a longtime associate of mine who happens to be a bit of a bigshot at a local TV station in Denver. We discussed a lot of relevant issues facing small business owners and non-profits handling their own pr and social media outreach, including pitching focus, audience identification, how the media is changing and how it effects pr.

These videos are raw, basically uncut segments of the interview. You'll hear me asking questions, interacting and you'll see Duncan's reactions unedited. I hope you enjoy them and that you find them helpful.

How a Journalist Defines a "Good Pitch":

Without further ado, then, the first video cut is a little insight into the decision-making process of a working journalist:

As you can see, uniqueness is vital to a successful pitch. Figuring out the timing of a pitch, having your collateral together and crafting your story are just parts of a bigger machine. One of the major cogs in a successful pitch is finding that one unique angle that sets you apart from everyone else.

To that end, the same holds true if you're trying to raise your profile online and in the social media circles. There is so much content online that you have to do something to distance yourself from your competition.

You could do something really outrageous, but more likely than not, you'll only get a quick blip on people's radar (if at all) and then you'll disappear. Instead if you find that one or two unique characteristics about your story or organization and put out quality content online and in media pitches, you'll earn staying power and, before you know it, you'll see your customer base grow.

Varying the Pitch:

The second video of the day features Duncan discussing the benefits of multiple pitches. I'll let him talk about it first, then follow up with a little extra insight.

Now I know what you're thinking...you're saying to yourself, "Multiple pitches for ONE story?! Man, that's a lot of extra work." Well, yes and no. First, as I've stated in previous entries, for small businesses and non-profits, quality is much more important than quantity. In other words, picking the right outlets to pitch will be much more valuable to you in the long run than just mass pitching every outlet available. Knowing your audience (or potential audience) and knowing where they are most likely to get their information will help you in this endeavor.

Find three, four maybe even five media outlets where you really want to gain exposure. Find out what kind of stories they are looking for and tailor your pitch to fit their parameters. I'm not talking about completely overhauling your pitch, your basic pitch will work just fine. I'm talking about tweaking your lead-in. Much like Duncan discussed, you only have a few seconds to really impact the journalist. Your first two sentences have to let the journalist know exactly what the story is, what makes it unique, what makes it newsworthy and why it will matter to their audience.

Instead of writing, "Petsmart will celebrate the opening of a new pet spay/and neuter clinic on Thursday," write, "The city of Denver could save millions in animal control costs due to a new spay/neuter clinic opening this week." The first is an announcement. The second is news and will appeal to producers like Duncan who's shows focus on hard news. However, let's say you're going for an in-studio appearance on a Friday morning where you'll bring on some cute animals and discuss the opening of the clinic and how it affects pet owners. The pitch you just sent to Duncan probably won't work. You have to tweak it again to appeal to that particular morning show and its producers.

In this case you might write something like, "Family pets now have a new place to go for affordable treatment and care, thanks to a new clinic opening Thursday in Denver." It's less newsy, but more focused on the type of segments that particular news program features.

One last thing. I've said it before, but I want to reiterate it. The best way to pitch a media outlet is via email first. It gives you a reason to call the journalist for a follow up, plus, it allows you to be personable.

I always, always, send a pitch with a short, two to three sentence intro. at the top of the email. In essence, this intro. IS my pitch. The press release is really more for background and other essential information. The email at the top, explaining what the story is and why I think it is perfect for a particular outlet is what is going to sell the journalist on the story.

Because I think this is such an important aspect of pitching a story, I will provide a mock-example of a pitch in Friday's entry. Stay tuned.

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