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Lauren Champigny

Published on

June 13, 2023


media relations, news, PR, public relations

Those in media relations know how strategic pitching has become – even for outreach that leans into a more proactive, evergreen space.

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Angles are developed well in advance, thought out and tied to quarterly planning, and structured to reflect important moments in time. Pitching for company announcements is even more structured, especially when time sensitive press releases are scheduled to be shared with the public at a specific date and hour.

So, on the odd morning when you’re set to begin pitching and breaking news dominates the media cycle, what is the best approach?

Deciding to hold on outreach depends on the nature of the news (how grave or impactful to society it is) as well as your client’s sensitivity to certain subjects. Even with that, some trends in the news have much more longevity than your average breaking news story. Look no further than ChatGPT as proof. Months after it’s unveiling, every tech reporter and outlet across diverse industries are still eager to cover.

When pitching is interrupted by breaking news and trends, it is important to pause, consider, and adjust your strategy. Confused on where to start? Here are three questions to ask yourself (and your client) when pitching-as-usual gets interrupted.

Related: How To Build a Media List That Gets You Press

Is the reporter you’re pitching covering the news?

Understanding the media is key to building successful relationships with reporters and outlets. Since the pandemic, the media landscape has become volatile, with reporters exploring other coverage themes beyond a singular beat. It is crucial to adapt pitches, outreach, and strategies to the news cycle when a breaking story dominates a reporter’s time unexpectedly.

There are a few ways to ensure you have the green light to pitch. Relying on media friendlies for first-hand confirmation to stay away from a topic eliminates the potential negative outcome of second guessing. When personally touching base with a reporter isn’t an option, research is another great option. Carefully screening author pages for coverage related to the trending story, as well as Twitter and other socials, ensure that fragile relationships with reporters won’t be ruined by pitching.

In a gray zone, fall back to the basics. Is the news tied to a location? If so, it’s probably best to avoid any reporters, outlets, and publications that fall within the same region. The same goes for a less tangible location – the space that the breaking news belongs in. During the pivotal moments of an election year, it may be best to hold on pitching reporters that specialize in policy, economy, and government. A Big Tech company experiencing major layoffs? No need to pitch your client’s funding announcement or offer an executive to speak on ethical AI to anyone existing in the technology and adjacent sectors until the buzz has simmered down.

Can pitching be put on a temporary pause?

There are, of course, different levels of urgency when it comes to pitching. Proactive outreach gives you a bit more of a runway when it comes to getting emails out the door. Even pitches that have a timely hook – such as a recent report or data – can likely be pushed back. Announcements can be a bit trickier to navigate, as releases are often planned well in advance. The level of disruption tied to the media cycle must be considered closely when deciding whether or not to push back on outreach timing.

If waiting to pitch is best, but your client expects coverage soon, lean into one thing and one thing only: overcommunication. Hop on a quick call to level set expectations and explain the reasoning behind a temporary pitching pause. If something does not need to be pitched the same day as breaking news, waiting may actually maximize earned coverage.

Trigger fingers when it comes to pitching can be detrimental. Hitting send on a pitch to a long list of targets during a crisis tells reporters that your client is only thinking of themselves during a time of potential need. Best case scenario, time, budget, and resources are wasted. There is no reward that comes with the risk of forcing an angle without adjusting strategies. Brands across the world have been blacklisted and even called out on social media by deeply offended reporters.

Related: Different Press Materials and When To Use Them

Will you and your client be accused of ambulance chasing?

Even if your pitch has nothing to do with current news, there is nothing more damaging to you and your client’s reputation than insensitivity. Always consider holding on pitching, no matter how unrelated, when the rest of the world is consumed by news. No one wants to be accused of being tone deaf or even worse, ambulance chasing. Using a negative event or incident as a “timely” hook in a pitch is the quickest way to destroy any good standing you’ve built for a client.

PR professionals must always have a finger on the pulse of what the general public is thinking and feeling about. Having a sense of where most people’s heads and hearts are at when it comes to breaking news allows you to know when to pause, and when to adapt. If enough time has passed and the tension behind an unordinary news cycle has calmed down, being flexible about your pitches is the optimal way to positive engagement with the media.

Look for ways to relate the angle to today’s times and relevant challenges, rather than a hook as to why a reporter should speak to your client. Typically, there is always a way to incorporate what is happening nationally to what your expert can speak to – the bread and butter of your client’s talking points. In the toughest of news cycles, personalizing your pitches gives you a leg up against a reporter’s crowded inbox as well. Focus on who is the best fit for your story rather than blasting out a high volume of pitches. In times of uncertainty, lead with the ideology of “quality over quantity.”

Looking for more tips on perfecting your pitches? Reach out to our team of PR pros today!

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