Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Occupy This!

Greetings friends.

It's been a while since we here at RPR Central have had time to enlighten you with more words of PR wisdom.  Mostly it's been because we've been working on other blogs and social media efforts for clients, so that's a good thing.

Just here with a million of my closest friends...hope someone notices.

But never fear, we've been stocking up on some great posts for you to enjoy in the next few weeks.  This post was going to be a brilliant analysis of the "Occupy" movement and how it's captured the attention of the world...or at least the world media.  But, about a third of the way through, it became clear the analysis could be told in one single phrase.  "Size Matters!"

If the occupiers consisted of a hundred angry folks holding signs and camping out in public parks and Wall Street, there's very little chance you would have heard much about this movement.  But the fact is, there are thousands upon thousands of them clogging streets, holding up signs and making themselves known to anyone within shouting distance.

Yes, there's a little more to it than just size.  There's the organized media content, the massive online and social media push and some smart logistical planning (such as taking it to Wall Street).  But frankly, it's the sheer number of people involved that has turned the movement into such a big story.

The Inside Track:

I'm guessing here, but I'm pretty positive that a movement as large as this doesn't just happen on its own.  Yes, it's possible to organize a few hundred people to suddenly show up as part of a flash mob to protest something or make a point.  But this is much more organized that that.  There are some very smart and organized folks behind the scenes that put all of this together.  More than that, these folks knew exactly the right media buttons to push to get massive amounts of news coverage.

It's that kind of inside knowledge that helps businesses garner earned media coverage, regardless of the size.  In the past we've covered the importance of building relationships with the media to help you pitch your stories.  As mentioned, just because you have built a relationship with a reporter, producer or editor it doesn't mean they'll automatically cover your story.  You still have to put together a great pitch, make it timely, impactfull and local.

But even if your media contacts don't always cover your story, you can still use those contacts to help you garner coverage for your business.  This is because these contacts are the ones in the middle of everything going on in your local newsrooms.  They know the scuttlebutt, the trends, they see the changes and they have a pretty good idea of how local events are effecting the other newsrooms.

Some of this information may come in the form of gossip.  There are a number of websites out there dedicated specifically to the changes and trends taking place in newsrooms.  These sites tell you who's leaving, who's coming, what broadcasting changes are on the way, or what kind of content certain newsrooms are looking for.

Sites like MediaBistro, assignmenteditor.com, SourceBottle.com and Broadcast.com are all very helpful in helping you keep on top of what to pitch, when to pitch, how to pitch and even who to pitch your stories to.

An Example:

I have to mention before I move on to the example that the individual in question is a good friend of mine. We worked together at a local newsroom and we chat often about how much the news industry has changed in the 8 or so years since I left local news.  There's a level of trust there that you can't expect from your local news contacts, but that doesn't mean you still can't glean important information from them.

I have a client.  A local theater that has just opened its doors.  It's brand new and in serious need of some PR attention.  Some buzz has been created, but as always, more is desired.  Pitching the arts and theater is significantly different than pitching other news stories.  First off, it's one of the few remaining beat jobs still in existence in local newsrooms.  Just about every outlet has at least one individual dedicated to covering local theater, arts and entertainment.

But in the end, you're still pitching a business.  As it happens, the newsroom where my friend works, has a very well known and popular entertainment reporter.  He's been on the air in Denver for over 20 years and a single positive review by him can elevate a show from the doldrums to wild success.

In the many years I've been pitching a show, event or theater, I've never received coverage from this reporter.  You'd think that would make me angry, frustrated or simply make me throw up my hands and quit.  But you have to remember, it's never personal.  I continue to pitch him because it's worth it.

Recently my friend and I were chatting at a party, discussing life and work and family.  At one point, as it often does, the conversation turned to the changes taking place in local newsrooms.  More than the mechanics of the rundown or new technology, we focused on overall content of his station newscasts.

It was during this conversation that he mentioned that even the entertainment reporter was subject to the content policies.  In other words, even the entertainment stories had to have an element of economy to them.  Every story had to provide some sort of economic value to the viewer.  In other words, instead of just reporting on new shows or upcoming events, the stories had to report on deals and specials that would provide real entertainment value to the viewers.

Suddenly, I realized how I needed to pitch my story.  It wouldn't be about a grand opening, or about new and unique shows.  My pitch had to focus on the extraordinarily cheap tickets, package deals and affordable drink specials.  A new venue, to be sure, but one that provided extra bang for your entertainment buck.

Had I not known this valuable piece of information, I likely would have pitched my story in very much the same way I had previous stories.  And it would have been ignored.  Now, I have some insight into HOW to pitch this particular reporter I didn't have and I believe it will help me get coverage for my client.

We'll see.  The point is, I know how to pitch most of the other entertainment reporters, now I know how to pitch this particular reporter, one I've never had success with before.

As a small business owner, you can't simply put together a single pitch and send it out to everyone in a mass email.  You have to cater your pitch, craft it specifically for individual journalists.  One reporter will be looking for one kind of element in the pitch, while another will be looking for something completely different.

If you don't have someone on the inside to give these kinds of details, you can still get this information by simply asking.  You may not get an answer, but it never hurts to ask a reporter what exactly they are looking for in the kind of news stories they cover.

It also helps to read the articles, watch the reports and listen to the broadcasts of the reporters you are most likely to pitch.  In this way, you'll have a better understanding of what kind of stories they are looking for.

It takes time, and effort, but by creating unique pitches to each reporter you send your story to, you'll vastly improve your chances of receiving coverage.