A little while back I participated in Michael Smart’s PR training course, the Inner Circle, even though it sounds a bit cult-y, because doing PR with Team LEWIS from Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm just wasn’t enough PR for me 😉
I gained what I really joined for and more – some solid media relations suggestions, reminders and techniques, along with time management tips and miscellaneous tech tricks/resources. I’d definitely recommend the course to other aspiring media relations experts!
First, a point that PR training and journalists alike can’t hammer home enough: Pitches (at least proactive pitches that aren’t directly offering news/research) should be personalised. We want to make it clear to reporters why our offer is good for them specifically. The introduction is an easy place to personalise, and of course, it’s best if you can reference their content/beat/current focus topics/writing style/tweets/pets/etc. throughout the pitch too.
I don’t have permission to share the exact examples from the Inner Circle, but here are a few of my own proudest recent personalised intros:
- For consideration for your “Book of the Week” or “Book on the News” columns, I wanted to offer a new award-winning leadership book that your/MoneyWeek’s Editor in Chief Merryn Somerset Webb provided this endorsement for:
- Back in 2011, you wrote a Wired article around the launch of the world’s first flash-powered supercomputer, the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). Given you’re still covering supercomputing as well as cybersecurity, I wanted to gauge your interest in a story around how Webroot is leveraging the SDSC to more efficiently scale and update its threat intelligence platform…
- Saw your tweet about how you’re looking to speak with infosec pros in the trenches who know what enterprises need to hear but usually don’t discuss it, so I wanted to offer two execs who fit the bill:
- I wanted to gauge your interest in featuring a guest from Webroot on Smashing Security to discuss either of the below growing security topics. Deepfakes, in particular, could be a good fit for your show given their potential for humour…like sloppy drunk Nancy Pelosi, Mark Zuckerberg saying he has “total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures,” and Virginia recently outlawing deepfake revenge porn.
Personalising pitches obviously takes much longer than the spray and pray technique, because it also requires reading your target journalists’ articles (or listening to their podcasts, watching their shows, etc.). But Michael provided another interesting recommendation that makes this more doable:
Focus on the top 20% of your target media, and thoroughly understand them.
The recommendation is based off the 80/20 rule, aka the Pareto principle, which theorises that generally, 80% of the results come from 20% of the activities. It’s often applied in business as 80% of sales come from 20% of clients – or for media relations, 80% of coverage value comes from the top 20% of media. Michael suggested we focus 80% of our media relations time on the top 20% of target publications/reporters, so we can truly get to know them and tailor our pitches to them. That’s often what it takes to secure top tier opportunities – and when those do convert, that coverage not only holds much more value but also occasionally leads to the lower tier publications covering too. Plus, we can spend the remaining 20% of our time sending much quicker, less (or non) personalised pitches to the lower 80% of target media – and that might secure some opportunities anyway!
A few additional pitching suggestions I picked up:
- If you can (in addition to personalising), start with a strong opening line, such as a surprising fact. A few of my proudest examples:
- Did you know there aren’t any national cyber regulations for education?
- Did you know there is still 50 percent as many college students watching TV at 1 AM as at the peak time?
- Are you better than Kanye at password security?
- Even the Air Force struggles with cloud security.
- Be maximally concise in follow up emails, like: “Alex, Any interest? -Brian” or “Alex, Just following up here once – any interest? -Brian
- This is especially smart when you did a great job customising the pitch, so reporters see that part more quickly
- To note, longer follow-ups can be appropriate if you’re creating a sense of urgency, such as providing a news hook (or if you’re offering something truly desirable or a byline, you can try providing a deadline). Michael emphasised that journalists don’t work sequentially – they work according to the urgency
- Longer follow-ups can also be good if you’re adding another asset, like new supporting data or another spokesperson, or if you’re referencing another article they’ve written since your pitch
Nothing too groundbreaking here, but some reminders/strategies to consider.
- Set aside time for uninterrupted, focused work, single-tasking
- And hustle when you’re tackling something urgent
- To allow for this, when possible (and not dealing with urgent client, media or team tasks), limit your total email checks per day, rather than checking continually
- Michael suggested 4 checks per day – but once every 30-45 min is likely generally more reasonable
- Set a target deadline for notes, pitches, content and other tasks to encourage efficiency, quick decisions, writing flow
- Avoid personal social media until after work
- As we know, some very smart people and well-funded organisations are focusing their efforts on keeping us addicted to their platforms…
Lastly, a few tech tricks/resources that can be useful for PR, in case you’re not familiar.
- Google search “related: outlet URL” to find similar outlets
- Use Google Trends to see when certain keywords are trending
- Can be a reference for demonstrating trends to journalists
- BuzzSumo.com is a research tool analyses the social performance (shares) of content. You can search by topic or domain and are allowed a few free searches per day
- Can be helpful to highlight strong social performance for contributed content or other coverage your client drove while pitching a follow-up story
I’d love to hear about your tricks and techniques! Please feel free to share!
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