PR Secret: A Good Story Will Get you in the Media Today

With all of the new theories, programs, classes and seminars and master mind groups on how new media and social media are changing the world of PR, one thing remains constant, to be successful in the PR world, you have to have a story – good, compelling story with a strong narrative. All of the newest sites, gadgets, bells and whistles will get you nowhere, if you don’t have that in place.  Not that long ago, when the dot.com explosion firmly set on its head, the fact that AOL was set to swallow up Time Warner, was a story.  It actually should have been placed more in the realm of fiction, or better yet science fiction, but it sure as heck was a story; and one that received non-stop media coverage.  But if your company’s not about to gobble up Facebook, or Google, or Apple, how are you going to interest the media?  Some imagination and creativity on your part are in order.  You need the newest PR secret, which is also the oldest; you need a compelling story!

For example, if you’ve started a new website for your business, a press release announcing that your new site has been launched might get your company some ink in certain trade publications, you have a shot at garnering some online mentions on Yahoo and Google, but is that really what you want?  If you’re intent on launching an effective media relations campaign, you need to offer the media more than the fact you’ve created a new site.   What makes your site unique, special, different, or cutting edge?  What problems does it solve?  What questions does it answer?  How does it make a person’s life easier, happier, or more effective? 

This is no longer a one-story-fits-all world, and it’s imperative that a company develop press releases, hooks and ideas that will compel an editor, writer or producer to want to do a story. Think of the media less as a unified country than a segmented group of islands, each with its own interests, philosophy and needs.

What interests the Wall Street Journal will not necessarily interest USA Today, 60 Minutes, People, Vogue or your local media outlets.  The job of an effective media campaign is to interest each one of those venues.  Depending on  the campaign, the name of the game is to reach either a specifically targeted group or the largest number of consumers.  Each objective has its own strategy, but regardless of the strategy or objective, every campaign comes down to one main component; a good hook.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2012

Snow, Shane. “8 Hot Media Trends You Need to Know.” Photo. Mashable. 19 Apr 2012. 20 Apr. 2012. <http://mashable.com/2012/04/19/hot-media-trends/>

5 Steps to Creating Successful PR Pitches

Whereas you want to keep your marketing efforts active and on the front burner, you also want to take time to reflect and come up with public relations and promotional ideas that are new and interesting.  You don’t want to keep focusing on or pitching the same ideas.  If your marketing or PR focus is working great, keep with it; if it’s not, shift it, but either way be working on a new and different approach that you can utilize when the time is right.  Don’t be afraid to try or at least consider different or initially uncomfortable ideas.

For example, a while back I found out that Time Magazine was doing a cover story on sex.  One of the clients we were working with was a long term health care center.  Not a very good fit, right?  Or so I thought until I talked to my client and found out that it can be quite an issue.  I pitched that story to the Time magazine editor that was working on the story and we came away with a full side bar on sex and seniors.  A Time cover story usually leads to quite a bit of other media coverage, which this did.  If we hadn’t given the angle a shot, we would have never landed the story.  This particular story might have nothing to do with you, your business or your product, but the moral is step outside of your comfort zone.

So how do you develop story ideas that work?

  1. Be creative.  Make a list of ten story ideas that you could pitch.  Let them be crazy.  Remember, this is an exercise you don’t have to use them.
  2. Refine that list and narrow it down to stories that you could actually pitch.
  3. Now pick two of those stories and write a press release based on those ideas.
  4. Next build a media list that you want to pitch the story to.
  5. Now – pitch it.

Remember media relations and PR can provide you with relatively inexpensive coverage and can connect you and your company with large and diverse audiences.  Unlike an ad or a direct marketing piece a news story or segment can give you ongoing and in-depth coverage.  Once you place one story you can use that initial placement to generate other media coverage.  Being covered on TV, magazines, newspapers or on the radio offers you validation and legitimacy.   News stories can offer a comprehensive explanation of your company, your product or your service.

Try the five step exercise above.  Keep creating and refining your PR ideas.  Some will miss the mark, but others will hit, and when they do, be ready to grow your business.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

Small Business PR Success Tips

Brad Pitt’s publicist’s job isn’t to pitch him to the media, but to coordinate media for him.  Brad Pitt commands media because, well, he’s… Brad Pitt.  He’s a star and the media is going to cover him or his new film, whenever he’s willing and ready to talk.  But if John Smith is starring in a new film, that’s a whole different story.  No one knows who John Smith is, except for maybe his friends, family and Twitter followers.  So John has a different job cut out for him, unlike Brad whose main job is figuring out what media interviews he wants to do, John needs to convince the media that it’s worth their while to run a story on him and his film.

As a small business owner you’re in the same position as our friend John.  He has a great film that he can’t wait to promote, you have a great business product or service that you want media coverage for.   And, like John, you’re not Brad Pitt, which means you need to come up with a compelling reason why the media will want to cover you and your story.

The first thing you want to do is figure out what your main stories are.  Reviewing the following check list will give you a good start.

1)  How do you present that in a way that separates you from the competition and makes for a good news story?

2) What makes your story interesting?

3) What is it you do that solves problems?

4) Do you help people lose weight, make money, save time or find a relationship?

5) Do you have a strong local angle you can pitch to your local media?

6) Is there a national story you can tie in to.  Can you discuss or address a story that’s already in the news?

Effective public relations all comes down to effective story telling.  Remember you’re not pitching you or your product, you’re pitching the media outlets a story that will interest their readers, viewers or listeners.  You want to entertain, teach, instruct, or solve problems.  The last thing you want to do is try and sell the media, because the media doesn’t want to be sold.  Media coverage not only reaches your target market it offers you the  validation and credibility that no other form of media can offer, which is why it’s so important that you present the media with a news story and not a sales pitch.

Being a small business doesn’t have to be a PR liability.  It can actually work in your favor if you think creatively and come up with interesting stories that solve problems, educate and inform.  Focus on your strengths.  You don’t need to be Brad Pitt to make it onto the evening news; you just need to learn to be media savvy.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

Media Pitching Lessons

To have yourself, your service or your product featured in the media, you need to effectively pith the media.  It’s an art.  By appearing in the media you create a bridge between your company and your clients or customers.  You also build your brand by establishing credibility that only comes with being featured as a news story.  Your best bet is to hire a public relations firm or PR consultant to develop, launch and implement your media relations campaign for you.  It can be a tricky business and you can often do yourself more harm than good by trying it on your own.  But, if money is tight and you’re not in a position to retain a firm, you don’t have to wait to get started.  There are some PR tips and secrets you can try.  With that in mind, the following is a pitching overview.

One approach to pitching a story is to use statistics in order to introduce your topic.  Let’s say you represent a skin care company and are doing a pitch to beauty consumer magazines or trade publications. You could start your pitch with a stat similar to the one below:

According to Skin Inc. “The markets in both Europe and the United States have seen positive gains in 2010. Europe has recovered posting a 3.0% increase following a 3.3% decline in 2009, and sales in the United States have increased by 2.7%.”

It may or may not be the right stat to lead with because it entirely depends on the specific angle or pitch you want to present. If you’re pitching a story about how the skin care arena is growing, look for statistics that back that up.  You can use one of two angles, one being that more and more people are using skin care and your product is at the leading edge of this boom, and the other being that your product or services are unique within this growing field.  Lead with the statistics to grab the media’s attention then follow with you particular pitch or angle.

It’s now time to make your specific pitch.  Remember you are not pitching a product or a service, you are pitching a story.  Don’t approach it from your perspective, but from that of the media.  Sure you want to sell more products and land more customers, but the media wants to tell a compelling story that interests it’s readers and helps it’s ratings. So when pitching, appeal to the media’s needs.

Now that you have the media’s interest, let them know that you have an expert who can address their needs.   Give your qualifications and explain why you are indeed an expert. Even it you’re pitching a product; it helps immensely to present yourself as an expert.  Remember, you don’t want to present a product spokesperson, but a true expert in the field of beauty and skincare; one who can talk about the product but can also discuss the latest trends, ingredients and changes in the field.  If you’ve been featured in other media outlets, let them know.  It makes the media feel more confident in your abilities if they realize that you’ve been in the media before.  If you haven’t that’s fine, but establish why you are an expert.

Finally, close with other topics and angles that you can address or comment on. Who knows, they might pass on your original pitch, but book you for one of the other suggestions.  More importantly the media will begin to see you as an expert in your field.  Those are the ones that get placed in the media rolodex, and that’s just where you want to be.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

To Phone or not to Phone (pitch) The Media

You’ve come up with your story ideas and pitch angles, you’ve written your press release,  you’ve sent out the email pitches and you’ve placed your release on one of the paid wire services and… nothing!  Not one editor or producer has called  to interview you or write a feature on you.  You’ve done everything right and everything’s gone wrong.  What now?

Time to turn to that small hand-held device that blinks and buzzes and rings (in an endless variety of tones).  Yep, the phone.  While you could pick it up and see if that editor or producer ever read your emailed press release, I can already tell you that chances are 99.9% that your release was never read.  Don’t be discouraged, however. Instead pick up the phone and interest the media in your story, not to try and sell your product or service, but to offer the media a compelling story idea that appeals to them.  There’s an idea.

An effective phone pitch is rarely jazzy or funny (although it can be both) but one that is real and genuine. Your objective is to briefly and succinctly let the media know how and why this story idea will work for them and their viewers or readers.  It’s not the time to try to sell.  Be you when you present the story. It’s best to pretend as though you are not calling someone who’s in the media when presenting this pitch.  It’s important that your enthusiasm is evident in both your voice and your delivery.  You don’t want to sound like a salesperson but like someone who is truly interested in the topic and wants to share it with others.

Review your press release and  break it down into the most important bullet points.  When you’re doing the phone pitch you won’t have time to pitch the full release and you definitely don’t want to read a pitch verbatim  from your release.  You’ll sound like a robot, which will make you less believable.  But do use your bullet points from the release as an aid.  Have them  in front of you and let them guide what  you want to say.  Don’t insist on sticking to a scripted approach.  It’s a conversation and as with any conversation it will ebb and flow and have its own rhythm.

Come up with the most compelling aspects of the story and lead with those.  Introduce yourself and let the producers or editors know that you’d like to give them a story idea.  Be polite and respectful.  Before starting your pitch, ask them whether or not it is a convenient time for them to talk. If they say it’s not a good time, thank them and ask if you can email a release and call at a later date.  Find out when would be a good time, thank them and get off the phone.

If the answer is yes, start your pitch and keep it concise.  Remember you don’t have to tell your whole story.  You want to hit the highlights, the points that make it interesting. And you want to illustrate why this story is a great fit for the particular media outlet you’re pitching.    When to make your pitch, how to pitch national versus local and how to leave a voice mail pitch will be covered in my next article.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

 

The 15 Most Important PR Questions

Time to launch your PR campaign?  Make sure you’ve asked yourself the right questions to prepare yourself for success.  Create a media relations checklist.  Better yet, read this article and review the 17 most important public relations questions you can ask.  Each business is different, so you need to supply your own answers, but the following questions offer you a framework around which you can build your campaign.

Before starting this process the first question you need to answer is: what is your primary reason for launching your PR campaign?  You don’t want to take step one until you’ve carefully answered that one.  Once you’re ready, answer each of these questions with thought, care and honesty.  The journey starts below:

1) What are your main stories and pitches?

2) What are your primary target markets?

3) What is your secondary target market?

4) What media outlets reach those markets?

5) How can your stories and pitches be modified to meet the needs of various media outlets?

6) What are your primary anecdotal stories that can be used as pitches?

7) How can your personal story be used as a media pitch?

8) What are the business or entrepreneurial stories that can be pitched?

9) What are some quick phone pitches that you can make?

10) Are there events or anything you can stage that will interest the media in covering your story?

11) What are some strong visual stories you can pitch for TV segments?

12) Does your pitch have a hook?

13) Is there a media call to action?

14) Is there a consumer angle?  For example, is your product safer, time-saving, less expensive, more convenient, better quality, etc.?

15) Is there a different, unusual or one-of-a-kind angle?

Approach these questions from your perspective first.  Then review them again from a journalist’s perspective.  This is a great exercise; as you review them with your journalist’s hat on, keep asking yourself why you’d want to cover this story.  What would interest your viewers or readers?   Keep reviewing your questions and refining your answers.  Once you’ve written out your responses, you’re set to launch; use this as your roadmap.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

Broadening your PR and Media Bulls-eye

The best way to launch a successful media campaign is to give the press options.  You have a story that you want to tell through the media.  Chances are you have one or two main angles or story ideas that you want covered.  Those are where your focus lies, they are your primary objectives.  But what if you were to broaden your scope a bit? Let’s say you own a cosmetic company. Your primary pitches to the media have to do with your products, your latest line of color cosmetics.  Great.  But what if you also pitched a story on how inner beauty can enhance outer beauty?  You could come up with a pitch on the top four ways to boost your inner beauty.  Not exactly the angle you want?  Maybe.  But what if that lead to more media coverage which gave you more opportunities to mention your new beauty line?

We all have different expressions, different moods, and different topics we enjoy discussing. None of us have one-note personalities, but so many people try to launch one-note media campaigns.  This doesn’t mean you don’t pitch your main ideas, but that you expand them, come up with new angles, think beyond the obvious. Remember, your job is to meet the media’s needs. Broaden your scope. Come up with other ways to pitch your story. You’ll be able to talk about your story, but not until you interest the media.  And to do that, sometimes you have to use the indirect or back door approach.

If you are a landscaper, you may have to pitch a story that has you critique the pros and cons of the White House grounds. That’s not the story you probably particularly want to address. You want to tell people that you are a wonderful landscaper and that they should hire you, but there’s no story there. By talking about the White House grounds, you have added another dimension. You have raised the stakes. You’re not just discussing how to landscape Joe Blow’s home, you’re outlining how to best landscape the First Family’s home. These are grounds that everyone has seen (at least in photos or TV) and can relate to.  More importantly, you are establishing yourself as an expert in your field.

Be open to new ideas, brainstorm.  Come up with as many ideas as you can.  Let them be as crazy as you want – don’t edit yourself.  Now review your list and start to edit out the ideas that don’t work. Formulate two or three new story angles. Write them up as releases. Broadening your scope will help ensure your success.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

 

PR Follow-up Etiquette

Once you’ve come up with your PR campaign strategy, developed your various media pitches, and created your target media list, it’s time to launch and contact the media.  Initially pick five or ten targeted media outlets to send your press release to.  Press releases are important; they are generally your initial contact with the media.  Make them short concise and compelling.  But sending or emailing releases out is just the start.  You don’t want to just sit and wait.  You want to be patient, yet proactive.
After you’ve sent out your releases, give the media a day or two to read them, but don’t make the mistake of waiting for weeks, hoping for a call.  You need to make follow-up calls after sending out your press release. Initially it’s often best to concentrate on your local media. The local press will usually be more open to your calls and pitches. Keep your follow-up calls brief (three to four minutes maximum) and be polite. Be upbeat and enthusiastic. Don’t spend your time explaining why yours is the best store or product in town, or why they will be missing the story of the century if they don’t use your idea – everyone tells them that. Never beg or berate the media. You’re calling to introduce yourself, make sure they have the information, and ask if they have any questions or need any other information. Don’t be pushy, but be assertive. Don’t sound intimidated. Be upbeat and polite. Listen to the editor’s or producer’s feedback. If the person on the other line can’t talk, acts hurried, or says no, remember that chances are you caught him or her right in the middle of a story deadline. Don’t push it. Politely ask when would be a good time to call back, say thank you and hang up. Then, make sure you call back.

If the person on the other line starts a dialogue or asks you questions, be open, keep the conversation going, but don’t try to do a sales job. You are not there to sell anything, but to be a resource. If you’re told there’s no interest in your story, don’t try to bulldoze him or her. An effective public relations campaign is about telling good stories. Find out if there are any stories they are currently working on that you could help out with. Find out what kind of stories that particular editor or segment producer usually works on.

Your initial follow-up call is to make sure that your information arrived and was seen by the right person, and to introduce yourself. Keep the call short, polite, and very much to the point. Be courteous and quickly get off the phone. Although it is almost impossible to be effective by simply sending out press releases, don’t call until you have given your release some time to do its job. But keep in mind; you are going to have to make follow-up calls.  Without them media placement is often a real crapshoot.  Nine times out of ten, you will call only to find out that no one saw your email or received your letter. If that is the case, during the conversation, give a quick thumbnail sketch of your release, ask if you can re-send it, and thank them for their time. Be polite and get off the phone quickly. And, don’t call back twenty minutes later to see if they are now free to talk. Be judicious in your calls. In time, you will cultivate a working relationship with some of the media and begin to develop your own, unique and effective follow-up etiquette.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2011

 

4 (more) Secrets to Developing the Perfect PR Pitch

You might have a great story, but if you don’t know how to present it, you’re not going to grab the media’s attention.  Remember what seems like a great story for you might not seem that way to the media.  Building a great pitch for a TV segment or magazine article takes some time, thought and creativity.  Have fun with this process.  Give it some time and you just might uncover some hidden gems that will launch your PR campaign.

Before you approach the media, study and review the press release or pitch you’re going to be using.  Again, simply because it looks good to you doesn’t mean it will resonate with the media.  Keep working on and refining your pitch with the focus on how it will meet the media’s needs.

1. Debunking a myth:

If there are certain preconceived ideas in your industry, or surrounding the topic you’ll be pitching, focus on those and pitch a story around how those myths or preconceived ideas are wrong.  For example, if you’re in the fitness industry, come up with some points that debunk some commonly held misconceptions about working out or losing weight.  Present yourself as the expert who can set the record straight and  educate the public.

2. Comment on a national issue:

If there is a story being covered in the media, or if there is a particular topic that is being discussed that you can comment on do so.  For example, if you are an attorney and there is a particular legal case that is in the news, or if there is an issue or topic that is being discussed that you can address, pitch yourself as an expert in the field who can clarify and explain the topic.  Perhaps take a side and explain why the other side is wrong.  Make sure to explain why you are the expert to address this topic.

3. Seasonal Stories

The media always covers season stories.  It has to.  Whether the story has to do with the Christmas holidays, or summer, these are stories that are covered every year.  Find a way to pitch yourself or your product as a part of one of those stories.  For example if you own a beauty salon, or a cosmetic company, you can pitch a “new look for the new year” New Years story.

4. Your journey.

Often the best and most compelling stories are those that tell the story of your journey.  We’ve worked with a wide range of clients from filmmakers to physicians, and in almost every case the story of how the client developed his or her business, created the product, or started the service, served us well.  The media and people in general gravitate towards human interest stories that show how someone overcame odds to achieve a dream.

Keep all of these approaches in mind when you’re putting together your list of stories to pitch to the media.  Remember this is not a one-size-fits-all type of campaign.  Shift your pitch to match the needs of the particular media you’re going to be contacting.  Let the media know why your story works for them.  Keep your pitch short and to the point.  Present your story as a news segment, not as a pitch.  These tips work, so be prepared.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010

 

 

Six Ways to Market Your Business on A Shoestring

Very few businesses thrive or even survive without marketing.  But it can be an expensive process. There are several options that businesses can utilize that won’t break the bank. Start with the simple stuff.

1) Business cards can be a quick way to introduce your business and pass the information on.  Use your cards wisely, don’t just put your basic information on it.  Come up with a line or two that you can put on the card that explains who you are.  Use it as a way to promote yourself and your business.  Then get the cards out there.  Come up with a gameplan to get your cards in as many hands as possible.  See if there are places where you can have your cards displayed, or boards they can be added to.

2) Network. Join civic and business groups.  Do some homework and find networking groups in your area that you can join.  These are places where you can pass out your business card, but more importantly, these can be great places to make contacts.  If the people you meet at the groups can’t utilize your services or products, they very well may know others who can.  Also develop your verbal business card.

3) Find a way to deliver your pitch in less than a minute.  Ann Convery (www.anncovery.com) is the expert at this.  Utilizing her Speak Your Business in 30 Seconds or Less technique you can develop much more than an elevator pitch; she helps businesses craft their verbal brand.  Once you’ve developed this you have a powerful and effective way to describe your business and give prospects a call to action.

4) Once you developed your 30 second verbal brand, build on that and come up with stories and pitches that you can send to the media.  When pitching the media, position yourself as a resource instead of a sales force. This is particularly important to keep in mind when calling producers or editors to follow up on a PR pitch. When defining your media message, be specific. Sharpen your story. You may have numerous talents, you may have several stories to tell, but don’t try to tell them all at once. You don’t want a one-note campaign, but you do have to play each note individually. If you slam all of the piano keys down at once, you don’t get music, you get noise. What you’re looking for is melody, music. You can tell your various stories, but don’t try to give them to the media all at once, tell them sequentially.  Come up with five or six different topics or hooks that you can comfortably and expertly address. Now put them in order. Prioritize them. Don’t pitch all of our stories to the media at the same time. You want to be targeted and succinct in you media pitches. An effective public relations campaign can be your strongest marketing and branding tool

5) Offer your services as a speaker.  Offer to speak on your topic for free. Your objective is not to make money from the speeches themselves, but to make contacts, establish yourself as an expert and have prospects find you via your speaking engagements.

6) Create an attractive, functional website to drive prospects to.  Make sure and have your URL on your card.  Consider creating a blog and position yourself as an expert in your field.  Go on various social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter and post your blogs.  Also post information that would be of help to your clients and prospective clients.

Bonus tip) Post and traditional media coverage that you land on your site, your blog and on the various social media sites.  This is one way you can maximize your media coverage and turn a local story global.

There are countless other ways to market your business.  But these are some good tried and true ways.  Start here and start to build your business.  After awhile review your marketing mix and see what’s working the best for you. Soon you’ll find the right fit for your ultimate marketing campaign.

Copyright © Anthony Mora 2010

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