Have you ever asked yourself what is the secret to growing a small business? If you have, you might have realized that it is promotion. Getting your name recognized in the minds of consumers is a key aspect of building a successful brand. In order to do this, you have to set yourself apart from the competition and allow your company to be recognized for the star that it is.
The best way to accomplish this seemingly daunting task is actually quite simple; it’s through press coverage! Press coverage is helpful in spreading your story organically to the masses, whether it be through physical or digital platforms, as it generates a high number of consumer conversion rates.
Organic press coverage appeals more to consumers than other forms of outreach (many of which are discussed later) because of the trust and credibility behind the outlets who are publishing the coverage. This is because consumers rely on sources they view frequently over a one time pop-up or sidebar advertisement they see once on their social networks.
Now you might be thinking, press coverage exposure sounds great, but how do I make it happen? Well, in order to get exposure of all types, you have to dive into the world of Public Relations (PR).
Why does public relations matter?
Public Relations or PR is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their intended audiences. For many PR is an intersection between public affairs, media relations, advertising and marketing. As public relations professionals, we have the ability to influence the public’s opinion through outreach and branding efforts in regards to a client’s reputation. A PR strategy works through influencers and opinion makers who then share the intended message with others.
Why is outreach important?
Outreach through the form of publicity is crucial for most PR efforts, as the correct medium can impact the public’s attitude and behavior. Whether that outreach is through traditional press methods such as radio, magazines, or news coverage, or nuanced methods including podcasts, blogs, or YouTube, all are important for making a client’s brand stand out in the minds of consumers.
Outreach efforts can be split up into four categories–paid, earned, shared, and owned–also known as P.E.S.O.
What is the PESO model?
- Advertising (commercials, magazine/newspaper ads, etc.)
- Influencers (will share message in exchange for compensation)
- Social media advertising (paid boosts, search engine marketing, social media marketing)
- Publicity (third party coverage from news outlets, blogs, etc.)
- Influencers (will share message for free)
- Reviews or blog posts
- Word of mouth
- Social media (amplification through retweets, likes, shares)
- Company website
- Company social media
- Employees (serve as ambassadors)
- Direct mail
- Company magazine
Once you understand these different facets of outreach, you also have to consider if what you want to pitch is better suited for a long lead or a short lead.
What’s the difference between lead times?
Lead times refer to the deadlines a publication has to meet in order to get their work approved and be able to distribute it via their respective channels.
- A long lead refers to publications like magazines, where they work off of editorial calendars that schedule deadlines up to six months in advance. The type of pitch you should submit here is meant to be lasting news, such as an exclusive interview or seasonal news about a product or service your business will be releasing when the publication goes out to the public.
- A short lead is for instantaneous publicity. The items that fall into this category include online outlets such as blogs or virtual newspapers, along with daily newspapers, TV, and radio.
This begs the question of whether or not there is a particular outreach method that is better for appealing to specific groups over others.
Is a specific medium better than others?
Although certain mediums, such as a television spot, may seem more flashy and appealing to some, it is not always the best platform to carry out a media outreach plan because of the cost and the audience it appeals to.
According to research conducted by Neilson, “Americans aged 18-34 watched a daily average of 1 hour and 51 minutes of traditional TV compared to 50-64-year-olds who watch a hefty 5 hours and 29 minutes per day.” So if your aim was to gain the attention of the youth, through television, you should rethink that idea since that sort of coverage would not be effective and can cost thousands of dollars if it is not earned.
Instead, consider garnering media coverage from outlets that are Internet-based and fall into the earned category such as social media, podcasts ,and blogs, which will be more effective for this demographic as “over 90% of Gen Z is consuming content on social media, while only 29% are consuming content via traditional TV,” according to a study by ORIGIN.
In terms of there being a better medium to get coverage from than others, it depends. The deciding factor is your target audience and the types of media coverage they consume. For this reason, before diving into any outreach, make sure you conduct an audience analysis to get a better understanding of which media outlets you should be targeting. Now that you understand this, it is time to get to the nitty gritty of pitching.
How do you craft a great story?
All PR professionals will tell you that everything you write tells a story. It’s true that some stories are far more enjoyable than others, so you have to make it a point to entice the audience who you are pitching to from start to finish. A captivating story has to include the following three key elements:
- Product: The product or service you are promoting has to be defined not just by what it provides but also by how exceptional it is in comparison to other competitors within the same sector.
- Purpose: Mention what solution your company provides and who it is targeted at. In doing this, you show a deeper understanding of your audience, which translates to thoughtfulness.
- Passion: Tell the story in an enthusiastic and authentic manner that conveys your long-term goals and why you know you can reach them. Authenticity will go a long way with many reporters.
How do you pitch?
Depending on who you are pitching to, the pitching format can vary from an email to a voice call. In the last few years, the most common way to pitch is of course through email. No matter which format you approach your pitch, always keep these three newsworthy elements in mind:
- Timeliness: Is what you are pitching about new information? If it is not, try reframing your pitch to fit what is going on in the world and how your company can be helpful.
- Relevance: Be aware of who you are addressing and what type of content they create because your pitch has to fit into their line of work. Craft your pitch with that specific person in mind.
- Novelty: Make your message pop by including a unique angle in your pitch. You have to make an impression on this person, so to set yourself apart and be sure to include intriguing facts about the company or brand you represent.
With these elements in mind, let’s discuss how to create a successful email pitch that is brief, concise, and to the point.
What should you know about the email pitch?
The email pitch is considered an art form by the press and as such includes certain characteristics you should familiarize yourself with.
Reporters get flooded with emails from all sorts of companies, and sometimes they end up ignoring most of them due to a lack of time. For this reason, your subject line is a crucial component of your pitch. A B2C study even found that “47% of emails are opened or discarded based solely on their subject line.”
Think of the subject line as a hook and the outlet you are reaching out to as a big fish. In order to reel it in, you have to have an attention grabbing hook that compels the reporter to open your email. It is recommended that the subject line be no longer than 6-8 words, since according to Business Insider, “a typical inbox reveals about 60 characters of an email’s subject line, while a mobile phone shows just 25 to 30,” and with 55% of emails nowadays being read on a mobile device, it is better to keep subject lines short.
When it comes to the length of an email pitch, remember to keep your message brief, at around 1-2 paragraphs, which equates to roughly 150-400 words. If that seems like a small amount of writing, that is because it is. Every word you write has to be impactful and be an essence of your main point. That is why a personalized pitch that meets this length criteria is most effective in getting you a response from your desired reporter, to whom you can write more to as a response.
When creating your email, do not forget about readability. In many cases, optimal formatting and ideal spacing can help a longer email not seem as daunting to a reporter. iImply split up long thoughts to reduce their wordiness.
Here are some tips to keep your email short:
- Delete the first sentence
- Personalize it (prior work together, past relevant articles, common friend).
- Leave out proper names and formal titles.
- Be mindful of the word count.
The tone of the email should be professional if being sent to reporters, bloggers, and brand/company representatives. If being sent directly to an influencer, the message can be more lax in nature. In either case, if you are able to personalize the message even by simply putting their first name in the email or stating that you liked prior work of theirs that relates to your pitch, that will help in appealing to them.
Remember to include hyperlinks in your email! Hyperlinks are important because they drive attention to certain words of interest, which the reporter you are pitching to will want to know more about.
Not only are hyperlinks helpful for you to guide the reporter to your site, but it also saves them time by not having to research something about your brand later, as they can directly click on a word and be sent to the corresponding site. If included, the best items to hyperlink should be your company name, product/service, statistics, or conducted studies.
Attachments–such as press releases, informational decks, or fact sheets–can be beneficial in proving your legitimacy and dedication to the reporter. If you just have one piece of informational material you want to include, attach it directly to the email, otherwise consider putting everything into a zip file and then attaching it so that it looks organized and does not overwhelm the reader when they first open your email and see a hundred attachments.
Since reporters receive hundreds of emails daily, a great way to make your pitch appealing is by including an image of the product or client you are referring to in your pitch. Even inserting an infographic can help make the email more appealing. It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, so why not include one?
If you include an image within your pitch, you can possibly spark a reporter’s curiosity and entice them to read on. Be sure to only use one embedded image in your pitch and not hundreds of pictures, as they can distract from your message and can even be considered spam by email sites. If you want to include extra images, make them attachments or include a link to a folder containing those extras.
Do not forget to include your contact information within your email before you send it! You might be surprised that many times people who send pitches do not Include a phone number or mention what is the best way to be contacted.
If you do not plug this information into your email when mentioning you will follow up with them, how do you expect to be contacted? With that being said, the easiest way to include your contact information so you won’t forget to include it is through the integration of an electronic signature, which can be automatically appended at the end of all outgoing messages. To do this, just simply head over to your email settings and input that information.
To recap, here is a checklist of what to include in an email pitch:
- Catchy/interesting subject line
- Limit your pitch to no more than 500 words
- Clear tone of voice
- Include extras (hyperlinks, attachments, images)
- Include important details on product or client
- Relate the pitch to their work
- Contact information
How should you follow up?
Once you have pitched your company, there will be three possible outcomes:
- Accepted: The first is the pitch is accepted by the reporter, and now you follow up with more precise details of what you mentioned in your pitch. This is when you can set up times and dates for interviews, photo shoots, videos, etc.
- Denied: Although you may have put your heart and soul into a pitch, it just might not be the type of story the reporter is looking for at the moment, and they will let you know. If this happens, thank the reporter for their time and make them aware that you could be a valuable source for your intended market for a future story. Then give them your contact information (again) so you can start creating a dialogue with that reporter because you never know when a new opportunity might arise.
- No reply: This outcome is the most common and most frustrating for many. You have to remember that a response to a pitch does not usually happen instantaneously, so do not be discouraged if a reporter does not answer back right away. If this is the situation you are in, make sure to follow up with them after 2-5 days, depending on the type of lead time they have. Getting no reply on the first email is so common that according to a study conducted by Woodpecker, an SaaS company, found that “a campaign with so many as one follow-up converts about 22% more prospects, than the one without any.” If they reply back, and it turns out that your story is still not a right fit, be optimistic since at least now you can exchange contact information and start networking with them.
What you should take away from all of this is that there is a lot of work and practice that has to happen before you will be able to craft the perfect PR outreach plan. If things do not turn out the way you planned the first time around, do not stay down–try again! In the end, it is up to you to shine a light on your organization to its public, one pitch at a time.