Six was to ensure your stories get media traction

This is a post from PRISM’s Social Army – regular briefings on topics aligned to our business or close to our hearts. Today’s entry is from PRISM Santa Monica’s Tom Foy. 

You could be the best media strategist, the most creative thinker or have a ground-breaking PR story on your hands, but if your media pitching skills fall flat then your hard work goes out of the window when you’re faced with an empty coverage book and a client demanding answers.

In today’s super-competitive multi-media environment, getting cut-through is tougher than ever before and, while social media success relies on great content, media relations requires a human touch. I have come across many PR people over the years who can plan and execute an idea brilliantly, but then fail at the final hurdle when it comes to pitching the story out effectively and ultimately getting traction. At PRISM we take a lot of pride in our ability to pitch the right stories at the right time to generate major media coverage for our clients. Here are six guiding principles to ensure your PR pitch wins the right coverage:

1) Assess the story: Before you even think about speaking to the media, take an honest, objective view of your proposed story and ask yourself the tough questions: Is this newsworthy? Is it even interesting? Journalists get hundreds of press releases a day – most of them generic non-stories about product launches – how does yours differ and is there a genuine news hook? If the answer is not a resounding YES then you need to rethink your angle. If you don’t believe your PR hype then there is no way a journalist will.

2) Do your homework: The next most important task it to ensure you’re speaking to the right people at the right media outlets. Nothing irritates journalists more than PR people calling them pitching stories that are irrelevant to them. Follow journalists on Twitter to know what they’re interested in and do your research to keep up to date on what the publication is doing. Calling a weekly magazine in December to pitch a Christmas story might sound like a great idea, until you discover they’ve recently gone monthly and are already working on the March issue…

3) Time to perfection: Understand the processes journalists work to and pick a time you know they are going to be the most receptive. In the case of daily newspapers, pitch early in the morning before they go into editorial planning meetings so your story is in the mix for consideration. Conversely, pitching to a weekly title on press day as they are going to print will result in your story being brushed to the side – that’s if they pick up at all.


4) Pitch brilliantly: A phone call is always the best initial approach, but keep it short, sharp and to the point. If you’re cold calling you have about 20 seconds to get your story across – don’t waste that time going into detailed product info or fluffy PR messages – just get to the angle that is going to resonate most. At all times be friendly and courteous, and follow it up with a concise email that summarizes the story and any accompanying materials.

5) Negotiate: There may not be any money changing hands, but effective media relations is also a negotiation. If the outlet is interested in your story then push for more in the article – branded imagery, another namecheck, distribution across their social media channels – anything that is going to increase your brand’s visibility. This approach is particularly relevant when you have an asset (e.g. a talent interview or some kind of special access to something) that you can use as leverage. Remember not to push too hard though, and be realistic on the amount of branding possible – this is editorial, after all.

6) Follow up: If they ran your story, always follow up to thank them for the coverage. If they didn’t run the story then drop them a short note to acknowledge it and thank them for their consideration. Sooner or later you will be coming back to them with something else, so leave the doors open for next time – they could be the key to your next coverage win.

Tom Foy

October 24, 2017