Pitches and hits, block and tackle… PR too is a competitive sport. And the World Series-worthy triumph? Getting a response to a query from a reporter at a top tier news outlet with, “I’d like to interview your C-level, mid-level or other company media expert. Landing this kind of interview tops a free day at a spa and front row seats to a Bruce Springsteen concert.
But unless you’re pitching the Apple IPad, achieving the interview request response from a David Pogue at the New York Times is allusive — typically 2 parts miracle, prayer and luck, and 1 part skill, research and a sense of humor. That assumes the technology has legs, affects society as a whole – or at least a segment or 2 – and doesn’t just improve upon an existing mousetrap.
So let’s talk about the skill part. Why do most pitches fail? Well first, think how crabby you’d be if you had to write, produce and file 3-4 stories a day, plus blog, tweet and post your own opinions, not related to your own stories. Now imagine getting 100 to 1,000 emails a day, depending on your stature, from PR people who haven’t taken the time to research your stories and know the subject matter you cover. That’s who we PR types are trying to engage. Quit before you start? Or strap on your protective gear and let the games begin!
First, know thy story. A description of your company’s new digital platform and one-way marketing messages do not tell the story. Remember composition 101? A story needs elements: a theme, plot, characters, action, conflict, setting, a point of view. People tell the story…
Your customer Lisa has multiple sclerosis and can’t walk without a walker, nor more than 10 steps without being tired. A 3-time triathlon winner becomes physically disabled; her future in ruins. Your startup’s new balance weighted medical device is changing Lisa’s future. Not only has she given up her walker, last week she hiked five miles, without support – just her balance weight device, and her 50 oz Camelbak and some trail mix.
Now that’s a story destined for CNN Medical News. Why? Life was severely hampered for our protagonist Lisa but she overcame her challenges with your product. It has the potential to help all people affected by diseases of the nervous system and you have the videos to prove it. It’s got characters, drama and a theme.
To pitch that story, distill its elements down to 4-5 hard hitting bullet point chunks: how many people in the US have MS; what are the worst effects of the disease; who was Lisa – before and after diagnosis; what happened to her post balance vest; what is the balance vest technology. Then offer the “actors” for interviews: Lisa, the vest inventor, the company CEO, an unbiased medical expert.
Stay tuned for pitch samples…