The goal of most public relations work is to gain media interest in your story. The first step toward media coverage is usually a pitch—a concise summary that sells your story idea to a receptive editor, journalist, or segment producer, in the case of television and radio news and magazine shows. The process for presenting a good pitch can be broken down
1. Analyze the subject, and identify the target.
2. Call the editor.
3. Write your pitch. Begin with a reminder about your telephone conversation. Then write a catchy lead and brief, informative text. Wrap up the pitch, and say you will follow up.
4. Follow up.
Stage One: Analyze the Subject, and Identify the Target
The key to a good pitch is the hook, or news angle, it offers. To find that hook, you must understand the subject you’re pitching and then consider the needs of the journalist who will receive the pitch letter. If you’re trying to promote a story about a new high-definition digital video camera, for example, the first step is to understand all you can about that camera and what makes it newsworthy and different from all others. Most of this information will be readily available to you, but if it’s not, seek it out. This may mean telephone calls to engineers who designed the product or salespeople who understand its position in the marketplace.
Most importantly, you must know the image of the product that your client or boss wants presented to the press: innovative, rugged, sleek, easy to use, refined, or ‘‘the professional’s choice,’’ for example. Identifying this angle is a key element of creating a brand image and may require a number of conversations with a team including engineering, design, marketing, and sales.
Once you understand why your product is special, you then turn to the target media. If, for example, you want the trade magazine Videography to write about this high-definition digital video camera, your approach should be technical and in depth. If instead you want USA Today, a consumer newspaper, to write about it, your approach will be entirely different, geared more toward general information. Find out who specifically at the magazine would write an article about the product you are pitching, and you must know what types of articles are published in Videography.
As a rule, the more comprehensive an article you aim for, the earlier it needs to be pitched.
Stage Two: Call the Editor
In some cases, you will know who the editor is, but most often you won’t. Call the publication, and ask who covers stories on high-definition cinematography. Once you know the person to call, you can make a brief phone pitch: a one- or two-sentence summary of your story idea.
When you make the call, introduce yourself using your first and last name, and explain why you are calling—for example, ‘‘My name is John Smith, I’m calling from XYZ Public Relations, and I represent General Electronics.’’ Explain that you have information on a new high-definition digital video camera that exceeds the expectations of cinematographers devoted to using film and that you think it would be a good story for a feature
article in their upcoming March issue on high-definition cameras and lenses.
Editors who have time to talk will encourage you to elaborate on your ideas. Their time on the phone is limited, so get to the point quickly and be brief. Having notes in front of you will help. If the editor directs you to someone else on the staff, your opening line to that person will include that you were ‘‘referred by the editor.’’ If an editor rejects your story immediately, listen carefully to the reasons (if they are offered). You can learn what will be better suited to that editor’s needs the next time. Then thank the editor, and get on to your next call.
When the editor encourages you to send more information, ask how she prefers to receive it. Confirm the spelling of the editor’s name and the e-mail address, fax number, or mailing address, depending on the preferred method of receipt and the type of material you are sending. Obviously a product sample would need to be sent by messenger, overnight package service, or priority mail.
Your credibility will be hard to reestablish if you get anything wrong.
Stage Three: Write Your Pitch
The written pitch often determines whether an editor or reporter pursues the story. Because most editors and reporters are extremely busy and don’t have much time for telephone calls, they often prefer to receive extended pitches and background material by e-mail, fax, or mail. Pitches are used for all kinds of reasons: as cover letters or e-mails attached to press releases, as invitations to events, as requests for endorsements or contributions, and so on. The most typical pitches are sent by a public relations representative to a journalist. In short, not only do you suggest a good story idea, but you also make it easy for the reporter to cover the story in depth by anticipating questions and providing research, background, bios, and previously published articles on similar topics.
Form and Tone
Pitches should always be presented neatly in standard business form on official letterhead or with your own or your company’s standard e-mail signature. The pitch reflects your—and your client’s—level of professionalism and competence. Grammar and punctuation should be perfect. If your pitch is sloppy, an editor might infer that your information is also sloppy and might discount your ideas. Forget all the shortcuts and bad habits you’ve developed text-messaging and e-mailing friends, and write in complete, properly punctuated and capitalized sentences. Before sending the pitch, make sure that you reread it carefully in addition to using your spell-check program. (Reading an e-mail aloud to yourself can be a handy way to catch errors as well.)
Unless you are friendly with the person to whom you are writing, do not use a highly personal tone, and certainly do not address him or her by first name. But don’t make the pitch too stuffy or formal either. Most of the time, you will be writing to editors and reporters you don’t know or don’t know well. Be professional and polite in your approach, and you won’t go wrong.
on next note; i would let to give you more detail pertaining to technical writing.
Tagged: CREATING MEDIA INTEREST