By: Hadie Tobar
Once you get in the game now it’s time to pitch your stories and hit it home with your idea. Aside from who to share your pitch with, it is really important to know when and where to do your pitching. While there may be multiple people and places to pitch to, here are some pointers shared by the pros to help you increase your angle’s success rate.
Cassandra Walker, CEO of RCW Media Group, Haley Sawyer, sports editor at The Signal, Bill Imada, chairman and Chief Connectivity Officer of IW Group, and Eljay Feuerman, Director of Insights and Ideation also from IW Group spoke about their experiences in the field, understanding the process and some advice on how to aim well.
Writing effective press releases for your company or a client is just as valuable as it is to catch a journalist’s attention. Have all the much-needed stats in your press releases and you’ll have a better chance of getting a response. After you’ve sent your emails to a journalist, it is highly recommended to call them later that same day. Whether in print or digital media, the best time to call them is by 3 p.m. Be aware of deadlines and avoid contacting them during those times, though. If you’re calling someone in broadcast, however, it is best to call them the next morning by 7 a.m.
Do your best to read the person you’re speaking with over the phone and know if it’s either a get-straight-to-the-point or a more personable phone call. One suggestion when learning to call prospects is having one or two words written down to help prompt questions or thoughts. Ask the journalist if there is anything else they will be working on with the topic and give them enough resources when pitching. Another recommendation about calls is to practice with a script or an outline in advance so you’re ready when you contact them.
Start with having your mindset that every story pitched must be published. Never stop pitching. Don’t give up. Be aggressive. When contacting journalists, don’t have it set in your mind that your pitch won’t work or of moving on to the next person, which is why they said to watch out for having too many pitches sent to too many places. A good strategy is to have two for broadcast, two for print, and two for digital media. And, always don’t lie. It takes one lie one time to affect your future connections of getting your pitches heard.
Using Google Docs and Sheets will help you to organize everything and keep track of reporters’ articles and the stories they are currently covering. By reading and staying on top of what journalists are writing, it will help you when pitching your idea and or writing your press releases. The guest speakers mentioned that it is good to check LinkedIn and social media accounts to learn more about the journalist you’re trying to reach. Sports Editor Haley Sawyer said that, in journalism, replies are more casually sent through twitter. Another way to get their attention is to keep strategically tagging them in social media to get a contact from them.
After a call, send a thank you card or a gift. Publicist Cassandra Walker told the group that she sends about 40 gifts or thank you cards a week. It’s a good small way to show your appreciation for taking your call and listening to your pitch. If you are sending unique gifts to clients and journalists, be creative on how you give them. One thing to remember is to not go over the top on the type of gifts. Some ideas shared of what you can get were food, fruit, and pastries. Major event tickets are not a good idea because of legalities. And, if someone rejects your gift, the best response is to kill them with kindness. Be positive, and still do reply to them.
They advised everyone to stay in touch with people so it helps you extend your career. It is important to be early to events and meetings so you’re able to have more conversations with professionals. Just like an elevator pitch, have a question ready to spark a conversation with someone. Listen to the person’s answer, especially where and how they start to answer your question so it engages your mind with more ideas to ask about them. While making great connections remember to always network genuinely with others. It is okay to admit that you don’t know something so expand on every idea that you may have and take the next steps to push it forward. Cassandra mentioned that instead of having the fake-it-until-you-make-it mentality, have confidence and be the person you want to be.
When you’re working at an internship job, don’t be bitter with it if it seems like you’re only doing remedial tasks. Instead, use the opportunities to have conversations and learn from those professionals while you’re getting them coffee or making them copies. “Have humility and the ability to work hard,” Eljay Feuerman told the group when taking initiative and earning the right to be bold at a workplace. There is no perfect candidate for Public Relations so do notice your strengths and weaknesses when learning at a job. Work for free to gain the work experience but know your value and keep your worth.
In any setting that you are in, ask for advice and have a diverse support network. The speakers told the group, “Find things that scare you because you’ll learn more about yourself.” They explained the difference between having a static mind -which is proving your value to others -and a growth mindset where your talents and skills are developed. Have curiosity and ask yourself, “How do I understand it better?” They encouraged everyone by saying, “Be easy on yourself and let yourself grow.” This mentality will contribute to your career while balancing work and life.
There is no specific pattern to follow. “B doesn’t always follow after A,” they said. So, follow your instincts. What is your gut saying to you? Be specific with what you want and ask for it. To make your ideas pop, take risks and be smart on getting attention for it. Be creative in any situation to share your designed pitch. It will also help you to have thick skin and be prepared for rejection. If things don’t go as planned, remember the good things and surround yourself with sharp people to learn from and get feedback. “It’s not ER, it’s PR,” Cassandra reminded the group.
Give yourself time to yourself. Even if you start small, take pride on what you write and do well. There are so many bases to cover in the game so perhaps rewarding yourself with drinking your favorite coffee will help you stay creative. Eljay shared about the importance of knowing your message while pursuing your mission. His is “Inspire positive creation.” What’s your message?