CEOs and CMOs know that a well-placed story in the right publication can do wonders for your business.
In the best-case scenario, your story is so cutting-edge that publishers knock on your door to hear about it. Yet how many of us truly have opportunities like that?
The reason PR can be so tough, whether you do it in-house or hire an agency, is that media outlets—the ones you want to be in—aren’t all that interested in cold pitches from PR people. According to a recent survey of 1,300 publishers from Fractl via MarketingProfs, 73 percent of editors and journalists at top-tier publications (and 62 percent at other sites) find pitches slightly valuable or not valuable.
That’s a lot of time, money and effort wasted on a task that provides very little ROI most of the time. The problem is that so many people, both in-house and at agencies, commit common errors when pitching stories to journalists:
1. They don’t do their research. Are you pitching the right reporter and the right beat? If your story has nothing to do with their interest or their editorial calendar, you’ll come across as annoying and incompetent.
2. They sound like a robot. Are you (or your agency) farming out these pitches to a glorified telemarketing service? For the love of all that is good in the world, don’t read from a script; it’s the quickest way to get blacklisted. Remember: You’re talking to another human being, so act like it.
3. They pitch at the worst possible time. Do you know when your writer or editor is working on a deadline? Contact them the hour before they have to file a story, and you can bet your life they won’t pick up the phone or look at that email.
4. They have zero relationship with the reporter. Do you know them or have you provided a good story idea in the past? Reporters are busy and don’t have time to waste listening to every self-promotional pitch (and most PR pros are doing exactly that).
Many people would have put “having a relationship with the reporter” at the top of the list of ways to get your pitch heard. (Yes, it’s that important.)
I recently got a call from a reporter for a top-tier publication who was writing a story on, of all things, the business of honey and beekeeping. She got my name and background from another B2B reporter I had worked with on stories that had nothing to do with beekeeping.
However, my relationship with that reporter was strong enough that he knew about me and my interests, I knew about him and his, and my name came to mind when this story idea on bees and honey came up. (Yes, I’m a beekeeper; weird, I know.)
It’s that type of relationship you’re looking for; you want them to come to you.
Build relationships through helpful content
It’s a bit of chicken-and-egg situation. How can you build a relationship with a reporter if you can’t get them to listen to your pitches?
The best way to do that is by being helpful. You get so much by giving, both in real life and public relations—but you have to do it without expecting anything in return. Otherwise, your “helpfulness” will have the stink of your not-so-hidden agenda all over it.
Smart, insightful content is a great way to be helpful. Get to know a reporter and the types of stories they work on, or your business prospects and their struggles. When you create something that can help them, drop them a note with a simple “I thought you’d be interested in this.” Period, full stop. Don’t add anything else about what you want them to do (at least not every time).
Be helpful, and eventually it will come back to you, in PR, business and life. It’s not easy, it’s not quick, but it’s the surest way to find long-term success.
A version of this article first appeared on Scribewise.