I’ll often use the first draft of a press release for a pitch.
This works for two reasons. First, because the first draft is usually written like a news report and based on an interview with an internal expert with a big idea. Second, press releases often go through such machinations that the first draft rarely looks like the final.
What comes out of grinder is usually the result of compromise by a committee of reviewers. In this context, compromise usual means, adding jargon or selling harder which usually only served to dull down the news value.
My remedy at the end of this process is to re-look at the first draft and see if I can mold that into a pitch. It’s the news hook in that pitch that gives the organization the opportunity to tell a story.
According to Cameron Craig, Apple used press releases as a tool of strategic communication tool. In fact, he writes that “Steve Jobs read and personally approved every press release.” It’s a fantastic read with simple but sage PR advice including:
“Strive to become an expert in your field. Define your key messages and stick to them. Don’t dilute your social media accounts with off-subject messaging. Offer your help to journalists and industry analysts who cover your field – even if there’s not always a direct benefit to you.”
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Writing for the SHIFT Communications blog, Amanda Munroe calls out one of the most significant trends in media relations – fewer reporters with broader beats. The flip side is that there are many new influencers and alternative ways to earn coverage.
The drawback is that visibility has become a commodity, which is why the content marketing trend is so important to PR. Brands need to build their own audience and save the very best news, announcements and stories to break through the clutter. She offers several tips to this end in her piece, like this one:
“Be the first to reach out to a reporter with a unique angle on a news story you know he or she will be writing. Again, no marketing messages and no FUD – it has to be truly unique insight. Often times, the behemoth leaders don’t comment on breaking news (lawyers and policies can get in the way) and it’s the scrappy companies that get the ink. Naturally, this helps with overall brand awareness and over time, reporters will mention your client alongside the biggest competitor.”
It used to be that you could ignore a PR pitch once. Now you have to ignore it three or four times, with people “just checking back”
— Felix Salmon (@felixsalmon) July 28, 2016
I’m not usually much for journalist rants on PR. This is because of my previous tenure as director of PR for the martech vendor Vocus (since acquired by Cision). When our customers abused the technology and hammered reporters with lousy pitches – reporters would take their frustration out on the company and that landed squarely in my purview. It wasn’t my favorite duty.
“Also, texting me when I clearly haven’t responded to email or phone. I’m not your boyfriend, so don’t text me.”
I can’t fathom texting a reporter to pitch a story. Spend your time writing a good pitch, rather than “following up” with reporters. If that doesn’t work, then write another good pitch.
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