For those of us who work in PR, figuring out the perfect story and how to tailor it to various media outlets is a never-ending struggle.
We all want to help our clients build credibility and gain exposure while providing a valuable service for journalists. The trick is finding the right way to reach journalists as inboxes become ever more crowded and attention spans get shorter.
As 2016 unfolds, the process of crafting and selling successful PR pitches is going through a unique evolution. Pitches in 2016 will be more social media oriented, more personalized and more of an ongoing process.
So, how will PR pitches evolve in 2016? Let’s look at some key factors:
The new ‘sharing economy’ of PR
In 2016, editors will care more about article sharing than ever before, because more media companies are tracking how often and how widely their content gets shared.
Journalists today don’t just want great story ideas. Everything they write is being measured for social media reach that drives traffic to their news outlet’s website.
The more their stories are shared, the more they’ll go back to you for commentary.
Social media is becoming the front page of the American news media. As of 2014, according to Pew Research Center, 30 percent of Americans got their news from Facebook, 10 percent from YouTube and 8 percent from Twitter.
When pitching a story idea, offer the reporter a plan for sharing the story. Follow up with the results of the reach and amplification efforts you made to extend the life of the story. This helps fortify your relationship for your next story pitch.
Social media goes deeper
Not long ago, most PR pitches started with a pitch email; then came following up with the reporter via Twitter or LinkedIn. In 2016, your pitch process should start with social media.
Many online tools and resources can help you research media outlets and make informed decisions about how best to reach out to journalists and pique their interest.
In 2016, go beyond the usual social media channels and dig deeper into your professional network of LinkedIn connections, Twitter, Facebook and more.
Use these channels to find out what types of stories interest the reporter and how they prefer to be pitched. Build relationships, and open up a dialogue. Start by commenting on a blog post, then follow up on social media.
Once that rapport is established, making your pitch will be a natural progression of the online conversations you’re already having.
More colorful story pitches
In 2016 the pitch will become more eye-catching. Look for PR firms to start using more creative visual content—video, striking photos, colorful illustrations, infographics, humorous memes and other colorful assets.
It’s fine to get creative, but be careful not to bombard your journalists with too much at once. A recent Muck Rack survey found that 58 percent of journalists say that the ideal length of a pitch email is two or three paragraphs.
Whether you’re sending a short video clip or a bold infographic, make sure that it’s a concise and compelling visual “tease” of your larger story. Maintain a visual equivalent of that two- to three-paragraph limit. Avoid sending attachments, so your email doesn’t get dumped into spam. Instead, create links to all your assets.
Tie it all together
Busy journalists are bombarded with pitches, so it’s important to make their lives easier. Make sure your pitch does not require the journalist to chase down the loose ends of your story ideas.
In 2016, make your pitches detailed, well organized and loaded with relevant information about why your idea matters. Link all the essential elements in your pitch:
- Previous articles by the reporter that are relevant to your key trend or story idea
- The vision for the story
- Why your story matters to their readers
- Pertinent facts and stats
- The article itself (if you’re submitting a completed piece), to avoid a back-and-forth exchange
- Packaged statements and quotes; many journalists don’t have time to interview
- The potential impact on the market as a whole, including quotes and insights from key industry figures
- An option to produce a series on the subject
Consider offering an exclusive. If you can find the right outlet and build a solid relationship up front—and deliver a well-packaged pitch with coherent details and relevant data—you might get more mileage with an industry exclusive. This is especially beneficial for tech PR product announcements and other breaking news.
PR pitches have long been evolving. As the media landscape becomes more complex and journalists are “always on,” you should realize that there is no separate “pitch” anymore. Instead, the email or story idea you share with a reporter should be a progression in relationship building and a collaborative idea exchange.
As PR pros learn from journalists, we can harness the power of digital media tools for outreach and results tracking. Then we can deliver more value for them-and for our clients.
Making a good PR pitch in 2016 will be less about cleverly wording an email or grabbing a reporter’s attention on a one-time basis, and more about making sure your clients are relevant to the ongoing conversation that affects their industry and reputation—every day, all year long.
Juliet Travis is the founder and principal of Travis Communications, a Bay Area-based digital communications PR agency. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.