On a dreary Tuesday morning, your VP of Sales emails you an urgent request: Your company is launching a new product and NEEDS press around it—local and national—this week! “We need a press release! This is a big deal, so you should have no problem getting media coverage,” the email reads. [sigh]
You take a pull from your venti flat white and start writing. So, how do you determine what makes your new product—your company’s “big deal”—a big deal to journalists? As a former TV news producer turned PR pro, I’m telling you it all revolves around a story. To find that story, ask yourself these questions:
Is it timely?
As the old saying goes, NEWs is new. It’s happening now. A good pitch has a reason for the reporter to do the story today. Speaking from experience, most “evergreen” story ideas get filed away … and live in that physical or digital file until it’s time for spring-cleaning. Then, they’re “recycled.”
Is it local?
If you’re pitching to a local or regional outlet, make sure your news has a tie to the region in some way—and make that clear to the reporter. If your news doesn’t have a local tie, but broader implications to that market, make sure you’re not wasting your time pitching to a locally focused reporter. Pitch to a topic-specific reporter instead (like the business reporter, food editor, etc.).
Is it visual?
Because [almost] all news stories are posted on the outlet’s website, the reporter is going to need an image to go with it. Stories don’t only live online, but are vying for views and engagement in the social space as well. Visual content is more important than ever. For example, Facebook posts with images get 2.3 times more engagement than those without images. Online and social aside, if you’re pitching to the local TV station, you’d better make sure your news is worth watching.
Is it valuable?
There has to be an element of “What’s in it for me?” Is it practical, or does it help solve a problem? There you go; there’s your hook. Make sure you make it clear to the influencer you’re pitching to.
Is it high profile?
Let’s face it. If your company, product or spokesperson is a celebrity—locally, regionally, nationally or globally—you’re going to have a better chance of getting your story covered. If you’re not having luck, but could generate buzz through your owned channels (your social presence or website, for example), influencers may be more apt to take notice.
Is it impactful?
Back to “What’s in it for me?” The more people your news affects, the better chance you have of getting coverage. Make sure your pitch demonstrates the impact. Sometimes it’s not as easy for someone outside the project or company to see the potential reach.
Is it unique?
This ties into the first point: What’s new? If your product/event/idea isn’t new or different in any way, why is it news? Emphasize your differentiator, and you’ll have a better chance at coverage.
Is it disrupting?
Think about your favorite fictional book. I’m willing to bet it has some suspenseful chapters with deep-rooted conflict. Disruption makes for a good story, and good journalists are great nonfiction storytellers. Whether your news is causing disruption (good or bad) or has the potential to, that’s where you can find the news value.
Is it interesting?
Make sure you’ve taken a good look at your pitch from an outsider’s point of view. Yes, your story may be interesting to you, your manager and your CEO, but ask yourself if your mom would care. If not, consider bringing in a client or third party as another piece in your story to clearly demonstrate how your product is directly helping people. Just make sure they’re willing to participate in any stories that may come from your pitch.
Is it sexy?
Let’s take interesting up a notch. Is it flashy, exciting, racy, fascinating or trendy? If you can answer yes, then pitch from that angle.
If you answered a resounding yes to more then one of these questions, you’re all set. Draft your release! If you’re having trouble making it timely and visual, consider coordinating a launch event and inviting the media. (Including kids or puppies can really sell a story too. Just kidding … kind of.) Remember to make your pitch clever, concise and tailored to each journalist you’re targeting, both locally and nationally. Congratulations. Now, time for lunch.