Have you ever asked yourself what the secret to growing a small business is? If you have, you might have realized that it all comes down to promotion. Getting your name recognized in the minds of consumers is a crucial aspect of building a successful brand. To do this, you have to set yourself apart from the competition!
The best way to accomplish this seemingly daunting task is quite simple; it’s through press coverage! Press coverage helps spread your story organically to the masses, whether through physical or digital platforms, as it generates a high number of consumer impressions.
Organic Press Coverage
Organic press coverage appeals more to consumers than other forms of promotion because of the trust and credibility consumers have placed in the outlets publishing the content. Why? Consumers place higher credibility towards sources they frequently view than a pop-up or sidebar advertisement they see once on their social networks.
Now you might be thinking, press coverage and exposure sounds excellent, but how do I make it happen? Let’s 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 can influence the public’s opinion through outreach and branding efforts. A PR strategy works through influencers and opinion makers who then share the intended message with others.
Why is Publicity Important?
Publicity is crucial for most PR efforts as the correct medium can impact the public's attitude and behavior. Whether that publicity is achieved through traditional press methods such as radio, magazines, news coverage, or more nuanced forms, including podcasts, blogs, or Youtube, it is crucial to make a brand stand out in consumers’ minds.
Breaking down the four types of media: PESO style
Also known as P.E.S.O., media pick up is split into four categories: paid, earned, shared, and owned.
- Advertising (commercials, magazine/newspaper ads, etc.)
- Influencers (will share a 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 media facets, 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 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 released 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, daily newspapers, TV, and radio.
But is a specific medium that is better for appealing to particular 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 center your efforts around because of the cost and audience.
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 you aimed to gain the youth’s attention through television, you should rethink that idea since that sort of coverage would not be effective and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars if it is not earned.
Consider targeting earned media coverage from internet-based outlets such as social media, podcasts, and blogs. These mediums will be more effective for attracting a younger audience 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.
So in terms of there being a better medium to get coverage from than others, well, 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 audience analysis to understand which media outlets you should be targeting.
Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of pitching your business and brand.
Crafting a Great Story
All PR professionals will tell you that everything you write tells a story. Some stories are indeed far more enjoyable than others, so you have to make it a point to entice the audience to who you are pitching from start to finish. A captivating story must include the following three key elements:
- Product: The product or service you are promoting has to be defined by what it provides and how exceptional it is compared to other competitors within the same sector.
- Purpose: Mention what solution your company provides and who it is targeted towards. In doing this, you show a deeper understanding of your audience, which translates to thoughtfulness.
- Passion: Tell the story enthusiastically and authentically to convey your long-term goals and why you know you can reach them. Authenticity will go a long way with many reporters.
How to 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. Still, no matter through 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 help.
- 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. So 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, be sure to include intriguing facts about the company or brand you represent.
With these elements in mind, let us discuss how to create a successful email pitch that is brief, concise, and to the point.
The Email Pitch
Email pitching is an art form, and there are specific characteristics you must familiarize yourself with to create successful pitches!
Email Pitch Subject Line
Reporters get flooded with emails from all sorts of companies, often ignoring most of them due to a lack of time. Your subject line is a crucial component of your pitch to stand out from the rest. 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. To reel it in, you have to have an attention grabbing hook that compels the reporter to open your email. We recommend keeping your subject line between 6-8 words because of two crucial findings:
- 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.”
- 55% of emails are read on a mobile device.
Email Pitch Length
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’s because it is. Every word you write has to be impactful and compliment the main point you’re trying to get across. A personalized pitch that meets these length criteria is most effective in getting you a response from your desired reporter. Once you’ve grabbed their interest, you can follow up with a more detailed reply.
Don’t forget about readability! In many cases, optimal formatting and ideal spacing can help a longer email not seem as daunting to a reporter. Simply split up long thoughts to reduce their wordiness.
Here are some tips to keep your email short:
- Try deleting the first sentence.
- Personalize (prior work together, past relevant articles, familiar friend)
- Leave out proper names and formal titles.
- Use word count: challenge yourself to cut and then cut again. BE CONCISE!
Email Pitch Tone
The email tone should be professional if being sent to reporters, bloggers, and brand/company representatives. If sending directly to an influencer, the message can be laxer in nature. In either case, if you can personalize the message even by merely 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.
Email Pitch Extras
Remember to include hyperlinks in your email! Hyperlinks are essential because they drive attention to specific 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 link to the related info. If included, the best items to hyperlink should be your company name, product/service, statistics, or 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 only have one piece of informative material you want to include, attach it directly to the email. If you have multiple, consider putting everything into a zip-file and then attaching it so that it looks organized and does not overwhelm the reader with too many 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. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words, so why not include one?
If you include an image within your pitch, you can spark a reporter’s curiosity and entice them to read more. 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 additional 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 people who send pitches do not have a phone number or mention 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?
Integrate an electronic signature that can be automatically appended at the end of all outgoing messages so that you’ll never forget! To do this, head over to your email settings and input that information.
What to include in a PR Email Pitch Checklist
A quick list of everything we just touched on above:
- Catchy/exciting subject line
- Limit your pitch to no more than 500 words
- Clear tone of voice
- Include extras (hyperlinks, attachments, images)
- Include essential details on product or client
- Relate the pitch to their work
- Contact information
Once you have pitched your company, there will be three possible outcomes.
1. Accepted Pitch
The reporter accepts the pitch. You can now follow up with more precise details of what you mentioned in your first email and set up times and dates for interviews, photoshoots, videos, etc.
2. Denied Pitch
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. You never know when a new opportunity might arise!
3. No Reply Pitch
This outcome is the most common and frustrating. You have to remember that a pitch response 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.
Getting no reply on the first email is so common that according to a study conducted by SaaS company Woodpecker “a campaign with so many as one follow-up converts about 22% more prospects, than the one without any”.
If they do end up replying, 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.
PR Outreach Summary
There is a lot of work and practice that has to happen before you can craft the perfect PR outreach plan. So 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.
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