Tag Archives: pitching tips

How to become a media whisperer

IMG_0714There are lots of ways to connect with media professionals, but not all of them will help you get in the news. Much like a horse whisperer, you have to approach reporters and bloggers with a completely different mindset than if you were trying to sell a product or purchase a newspaper ad.

Much like wild mustangs, media professionals fiercely defend their independence, in this case editorial independence. They live by rules and standards that preclude them from taking payments or favors in exchange for news coverage. They have a tendency toward idealism, or at least toward righting the wrongs perpetrated by those in power. They like a good story, a strong human angle, a long shot fighting from behind.

Because a very small number of stories pitched to the media will see the light of day, you will want to adopt some of the practices of a good media whisperer. With that in mind, follow some of these techniques when pitching your startup or small business to a busy reporter or editor:

Be selective: discover which media outlets and reporters are most likely to be receptive to your story idea. Not every reporter is going to cover you, but if you are lucky you will strike pay dirt with a couple influential ones.

Simple message: keep your pitch simple and don’t run on. If pitching by email, answer the who-what-where-why question as quickly as possible. Don’t use long paragraphs, either, as the eye prefers white space when taking in content.

Trust: just like a wild horse must trust before it can submit, media professionals will throw off a story idea if it feels forced. Be sure you communicate a sincere desire to help a reporter educate or illuminate its audience.

Consistency: you will have more luck getting news coverage if you keep reaching out consistently over time. While you may get lucky the first time up, it’s far more likely you won’t succeed straight away.

Respect: treat media professionals with respect, even if they are hard to get a hold of and appear a tad brusque on the phone – it’s often because they work in a newsroom that is understaffed and over worked.

Charitable: it’s not a bad idea to help reporters out even when you don’t have a pony in the race, so to speak. Tip a reporter off on a hot trend or bit of news you overhear that you know could benefit the reporter. It will earn you a great deal of appreciation from a reporter, who relies on the help from friends when sourcing good material.

Reward: just like rewarding a wild bronco once it ceases to buck, be sure to offer a hearty thanks to any reporters who cover your brand. Remember, reporters are not obligated to cover your news and very likely they passed up some equally interesting news to cover your company.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech startup PR firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave about the PR over Coffee blog, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

Wham! Email pitch subject lines should pack a punch

A lot of attention is paid to press releases and how to write them just so in hopes of getting a journalist to cover your news.

Yet few marketing professionals and business owners realize that the most important part of your communication with a journalist is not the press release at all. It’s actually the subject line of your pitch email!

I know, I know, many of you think the press release is more important, what with its ability to communicate all the details of a news announcement, embed a call-to-action and even improve a brand’s search engine rankings to drive new business leads.

But what if I said that without an email subject that packs a punch your awesome press release stands zero chance of getting media coverage? Okay, maybe not zero, but probably no more than 0.001%.

Journalists today are simply too inundated with email news pitches to open them all up. They would be reading emails and press releases all day long — there wouldn’t be any time left to cover the news.

Journalists I interview as part of my PR over Coffee community in Austin report having to sort through hundreds of emails daily – literally hundreds. And on Mondays when they come back to the office that number could easily double. This means you have mere seconds to stop a journalist in his or her tracks in hopes of getting a second, longer look.

The only way to get a journalist to not hit the delete key is by having a carefully worded, high-impact email subject line.

(It stands to reason that the 2nd most important part of your pitch to a journalist is the first paragraph of your email, but let’s leave that for another post, shall we?)

Here are some thoughts and examples of email subjects that might cause a journalist to take a closer look at your news announcement.

Short: keep your email subject line short and to the point; basically no more than 8-12 words.

Example: Mobile health app predicts heart attacks, sends 911 alerts

Punch: add some punch to your email pitch with a subject that relies upon hard-hitting action verbs.

Example: Snow blower maker plows through revenue goals after record snowfall

Verbal vigor: consider using alliteration (words beginning with the same letter/sound in close proximity) to make the subject stand out.

Example: Austin Chocolatier to serve chocolate cherry ganache at Presidential Inauguration

Local, local, local: if you are trying to get the media to cover you in your own community then point out in your email subject line that you are a local company or mention the community by name.

Example: Local home builder to break ground on development in southwest suburb

Provocative: be as edgy as possible given your topic and audience. I’m not suggesting you say anything inappropriate. But saying something too conservative or tepid won’t arrest a busy journalist’s attention.

Example: New luxury car rental company promises zero crappy car policy at LAX

Deadline: if there’s a deadline or event date then mention it in hopes of getting the journalist to take action.

Example: Annual Take Back the Night marathon and candlelight vigil set for March 15

Name drop: sure, why not? If there’s a well-recognized name associated with your news announcement like a tech company getting funding from Mark Cuban then jump on it!

Example: PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel joins board of e-commerce startup Xzap

Don’t sell: what I mean by this is don’t sound like you are selling something; you are trying to sell a story idea, not a used car.

Example: Enjoy “Chocolate Stout Night for Singles” on Valentine’s Day at Drafthouse

Relevance: try to capture the essences of why your news should be shared with a journalist’s audience. Pitching a college-related publication like U.S. News & World Report – Education on a new mobile app for college students? Mention something about the app’s ability to help students’ in their studies, find dates, travel abroad, etc.

Example: 25% of study abroad students lack the proper insurance, pay millions out-of-pocket

Final tip: don’t be afraid to spend time on getting the subject line just right. Run it by your colleagues, staff and even friends and family. Come up with a subject that will stop the journalist in his or her tracks and you’ll win that coveted 2nd look every time.

Got a few left hooks and right jabs you want to share to help others create knock-out subject lines?

About Dave Manzer:  Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

How to Pitch a Busy Reporter by Phone

Picking up the phone to tell your story to a busy reporter can be very intimidating.

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There’s something about making a phone pitch — not seeing the face on the other line, hearing only the edge in the voice or an impatient exhale — that puts the pressure-cooker in overdrive and makes even veteran PR professionals become mush-mouthed.

That said, for those who try (and keep trying), phone pitches can be a very effective way to get news coverage.

Here are some things to keep in mind the next time you call an over-worked, stressed-out reporter in your community:

  1. Be polite: it goes without saying, but be nice on the phone. Keep your tone of voice pleasant, even if the reporter doesn’t return the favor.
  2. Nothing personal: don’t take any negative comments, brusque lanquage or evasive behavior as a personal affront. Busy reporters are asked to do a lot of work in very little time so when they receive phone pitches they tend to cut to the chase.
  3. Get to the point: reporters are asked to do more with less time than ever. Consequently, many reporters are experts at sniffing out the potential value of a story in 60 seconds or less, which is why you must present your pitch and supporting facts as economically as possible.
  4. Don’t be a pest: if the reporter tells you no, then don’t keep bothering him or her. Try again when you have a new announcement to share. If a reporter doesn’t respond to your initial overtures, then don’t increase the frequency and/or urgency of your outreach. Chances are the reporter is just too busy to get back to you or may find the news irrelevant or not compelling enough to respond.
  5. Think fast: if a reporter challenges your assumptions on why your news is important, then try to come up with a different angle or share another fact in hopes of building your case. Reporters will often to play devil’s advocate, challenging you on why your news is so important, mostly because their editors do it to them all the time.
  6. Learn from past mistakes: instead of giving up after one or two stinging defeats, try to figure out what went wrong. Often a journalist, even if busy, will tell you why she is not interested. I got shot down by a Wall Street Journal reporter based on the fact that there just wasn’t enough evidence supporting my claim, which, sadly, was the painful truth. The next time I pitched her, I had my facts ready before the call.
  7. Know their beat: it will help you greatly if you already know the reporter’s rea of interest. By doing a little research in advance, you save yourself the embarassment of finding out that the reporter doesn’t actually cover technology startups but is instead writes about real estate.
  8. Offer to help: when phone pitching, make sure you offer the reporter a chance to interview others for the story to make the reporter’s job easier. It could be the difference between rejection and eventual news coverage.
  9. Leave clear voicemail: if you don’t reach the reporter the first time, then on’t be afraid to leave a voicemail to set the initial ‘hook.’ Speak in a clear, well-paced voice. Practice the voicemail ahead of time so you can easily summarize the significance of your news pitch in 15-20 seconds or less.

If you keep these pointers in mind when you first hear that reporter’s voice on the other end of the line, then you just might save yourself a lot of hard lessons and wasted time.

Happy pitching!

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