Ecommerce University > Ecommerce Marketing > Tips for Achieving Organic PR Success: How to Pitch
Tips for Achieving Organic PR Success:

The Plan

The web is rife with amateur and professional journalists writing stories about companies just like yours—so why can’t you get that kind of exposure? Unless you’re planning on spending upwards of $4,000 a month to hire an outside PR company or consultant, getting your brand mentioned in stories across the web (and print publications) can be performed organically.

But don’t get started unless you’re armed with the right tools of the trade. The old saying “Any press is good press” doesn’t hold water in the era of the independent journalist. Publications like Mashable and Huffington Post simply don’t work under the same auspices of traditional journalism.

01. Identify trade publications and blogs and make a list.
You’re not the only one who is passionate about your industry, and that’s why there are online and print publications already in existence that are dedicated to your trade. For instance, if you sell candy, publications like Candy Industry and blogs like “Candy Blog” are right up your alley. Candy enthusiasts and professionals everywhere are keeping up-to-date on the latest in candy news. Make a list of trade publications and relevant contacts.
02. Find journalists at news publications that cover your beat.
Ever picture your brand featured in the New York Times? It’s difficult to do, but it definitely isn’t out of reach. If you’re targeting top-tier, nationally distributed media outlets, you need to find the right reporter or editor to pitch your story to. Search websites of publications like USA Today, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Mashable to find the right contacts to cover your story.
03. Local publications are itching for success stories.
If you’re based in a major market like Chicago or New York, you have a great opportunity to find locally based publications that want to feature local businesses just like yours. If you’re in Chicago, for instance, find community business editors and reporters at publications like the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Chicago Sun Times and Metromix Chicago.
04. Entrepreneur and start-up beats are great places to get ink.
You’re an entrepreneur in the middle of tough economic times, and you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into your business. Publications like Entrepreneur and Startup Beat are dedicated to recognizing companies just like yours and sharing your story as an inspiration to other entrepreneurs.
05. Competitions and award programs give you credibility.
Think you’re growing faster than the competition? The Inc. 500|5000 is just one of hundreds of ways to gain recognition for the hard work and dedication of you and your team. Look for trade publications that recognize the best in your industry.

How to Pitch

You know where you’re going to pitch, so it’s time to figure out what you’re going to say when you get in contact. The success of your organic public relations strategy relies on the story you have to tell; whether you’re pitching news or just an interesting story related to your business, you’ll have to organize the points that make you a newsworthy contact and a credible resource.

Let’s get started with tips for pitching over email. Below you’ll find six tips to help you get pitching and generating ink for your company.

01: Create a press release.
If you have an in-house or freelance copywriter at your disposal, leverage him or her to create a press release as supplemental information in case you run into a reporter looking for more information before setting up an interview.

Don’t fret if you’re not acquainted with a copywriter; if you have strong writing skills, you should be able to figure it out on your own. For more tips on press release writing, head over here.
02: Focus on differentiators.
What makes your story or company unique? Journalists are wary of telling the same story over and over again. What they want are reasons why your company is different from the competition or why your story is unique. Make sure you incorporate those differentiators into your email pitch.
03: Don’t bury the lead.
What are the main points you want to convey to the editor or journalist? Fluff is a huge turn-off in a pitch; what the writer wants is the crux of the story idea delivered quickly and efficiently. “Burying the lead” means hiding the most important information between layers of fluff, and it’s an easy way to force the writer to gloss over your email.
04: Develop a catchy subject line.
Journalists get hundreds of emails everyday. If you want the reporter to actually read your pitch, you have to create a subject line that grabs his or her attention. Stay away from buzzwords like “cutting-edge” and “innovative” and focus on conveying the most interesting or unique element of the pitch as efficiently as you can.
05: Keep it short and to the point.
You don’t have to tell the entire story in your pitch. All you need to do is communicate the relevant information and grab the journalist’s attention. As we mentioned above, writers sift through hundreds of emails a day. You don’t have their attention for very long, so make sure to stick to the point and convey the story in 1-3 short paragraphs.
06: Offer a resource for an interview.
Like every good business communication, including a “call to action” is crucial to generating ink on your company. You have something of value to the reporter—a credible witness to your story who can give the story a human basis. Before closing your email, offer the writer access to a credible resource who can offer more information.

Who to Contact

You know what publications you want to go after and you’ve built your story out into a worthwhile pitch. Now, it’s time to learn a little more about your target audience and what you’re up against.

The most important thing to remember as a representative of your brand is that journalists are wary of PR people. The reps that are considerate of the journalist’s time, understand their beat, don’t spam and don’t send more than one copy of the same pitch are the ones that develop lasting relationships.

Below you’ll find the most common PR targets and a little background on how they work.

01. Editors.
While editors control the workflow in the editorial department, they can also be the busiest people on the staff. Getting the attention of an editor is tough work, but it’s the most fulfilling in terms of getting an interview or placement for your story. When you pitch an editor, pay careful attention to the contact’s beat. Make sure pitches are relevant, succinct and include all of the relevant facts.
02. Reporters.
Reporters aren’t slaves to their editors, but they do have to work through them to secure a story placement. They’re also extremely busy, but they’re always hungry for interesting story ideas. Reporters are second to editors in terms of securing editorial placement, but you may have a better chance of gathering a response from a reporter. Make sure to include all of the relevant information in your pitch and offer a press release as supplemental info.
03. Bloggers.
The advent of the blogosphere has changed the way PR professionals think of pitching. Bloggers can be a wildcard in the world of public relations; some blogs are updated by individuals, while others function more like online magazines. As a result, bloggers have a bit freer reign when it comes to which editorial content is posted. But, as wildcards, bloggers also present a unique challenge: if you get under a blogger’s skin, they won’t hesitate to drum up some negative press on your company. Therefore, wariness is crucial when pitching bloggers.
04. Editorial Assistants.
It’s a last ditch option, but it’s been known to work on occasion. Editorial assistants handle a lot of administrative work at prominent publications so they don’t usually have a lot of pull. If your story is interesting enough and the editorial assistant wants to gain some extra points with the boss, they could forward your pitch along and bump you up to the top of the editor’s queue.

What's Newsworthy?

PR professionals are consultants, and as consultants, they must bow to the every wish of their clients. One of the most frustrating things about working for a PR firm is when a client comes to you with company news that no one outside of the company will have any interest in. You push out the pitch because your client requested it (and refused to listen to reason), but you know the outcome before you’ve sent out your first pitch: no one cares.

As entrepreneurs, we sometimes lose sight of what makes our brand interesting. Sure, that new CRM you just implemented is exciting to you—but what makes you think your customers care?

Three developments that companies regularly mistake for news:

  • New Hires – Unless it’s the former CTO of Google, no one cares.
  • Anniversaries – Unless you’re at the century mark, it probably isn’t important.
  • New Customer – Unless you have measurable results and an interesting story, what brands you serve should be limited to your website.

Sorry to let you down like that. So what makes a newsworthy pitch for a journalist? A “yes” answer to any of the five questions below is usually a good sign you have something to talk about.

01: Have I read a similar story about a company the size of ours?
A "yes" answer to this question doesn’t secure newsworthy status, but it does mean that someone out there is interested in your story.
02: Does the pitch add insight to or capitalize off of a news trend?
If you’re selling waterproofing products right before a hurricane, it might be newsworthy. If you’ve found a solution to data security in the cloud, even better.
03: Is the story timely?
If you were the first site in your industry to offer free shipping, that’s great. But if everyone is doing it now, you may have missed the boat.
04: Do you have evidence to back up your story?
If you’re launching a new product, how do you know it works? If you’re pitching a success story, is the customer willing to talk?
05: Does it impact your customers?
A new development may affect your business—but how does it affect your audience? That’s the most important thing a journalist cares about.

Get a Journalist's Attention

The world of public relations is a cutthroat one. On a daily basis, you’re competing with hundreds of different PR professionals that are trying to catch the attention of the same editor, reporter or blogger. If you think outside of the box when you approach your PR strategy, you have a better chance of catching a journalist’s eye. Sometimes there’s a risk involved—but the payoff could be huge.

Below you’ll find five eye-catching approaches to sparking a journalist’s interest.

01. Offer an exclusive.
The last thing a reporter wants to do is cover a topic that has already been covered by a competing publication. Reporters don’t always have time to do the proper legwork in that area; if you want to grab the reporter’s attention, offer them an “exclusive.” That way, they know that they’ll be the first organization to break the news—and if they’re interested in the story, they’ll have more motivation to pursue it.
02. Describe the end result of your story without giving away how you got there.
This one is a bit tricky. Maybe you have a customer with an interesting story related to your business. For instance, one of your customers replaced a sump pump through your site—right before a heavy rain had all of their neighbors fighting basement floods. The pitch might look something like this:

"Following the destruction of a tropical storm, a man in rural Florida found out that he was the only one in his neighborhood who hadn't experienced basement flooding. Would you be interested in speaking with the man to find out why? If so, I can put you in touch."

03. Give away free stuff.
While some publications will have strict policies governing freebies, plenty of others are open to receiving gifts as motivation to write a story. For instance, if you’re in the business of selling jewelry designed and manufactured locally, sending a necklace to a jewelry blogger as a gesture of good faith (and under the assumption that the blogger will give you a plug if they like the item) is a great way to help drum up some ink.
04. Start a conversation using social media.
All of the journalists you’re looking to get in touch with are present on social media channels. A social network like Twitter is more open-ended than Facebook; it gives you an open channel to the writer whose interest you’re trying to capture. By following that writer and taking part in whatever conversation they’re involved in, you have a better chance of opening a communications channel to get your brand some promotion.
05. Pitch a contest to your favorite blogger.
Blogs and magazines can’t get enough of contests. If you’re willing to give out some freebies, ask a blogger about the possibility of partnering for a contest. Outline exactly what you’re looking to do to make the strategy as simple as possible. Blogs and magazines love these kind of things; they inspire reader loyalty at no cost to the publication (other than a simple shout-out to your company, the mastermind behind the competition).

Contacting Reporters through Other Channels

If you’re not using social media to communicate, what are you using it for? As the web becomes more interactive, businesses are finding the value in leveraging social media to accomplish their goals. Because public relations is all about communication (and because every journalist and his/her mother is on Twitter), don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when you reach out for PR.

There is a wealth of opportunities out there to establish a relationship with a reporter, regardless of whether or not you’re ready with a story pitch. Like all good business transactions, starting a conversation is the first step in the business relationship.

Below you’ll find five ways to catch a writer’s attention outside of traditional PR media.

01: Twitter.
Still not sure about Twitter? Reconsider your stance. Today’s most active journalists live on Twitter. It’s one of the most effective places to promote their stories—and story promotion is intrinsically linked to the livelihood of both the reporter and the publication.
Twitter also gives you an easy way to start a conversation with someone you’ve never met. Simply tag the writer in your tweet and write a thoughtful response to a tweet or story. They’re automatically notified and if they’re intrigued enough by your input, they may respond.
02: LinkedIn.
While LinkedIn is used for professional purposes, a lot of users are wary of starting relationships where they expect to be sold something. However, LinkedIn’s “groups” feature puts you in an open forum where you can build credibility in the eyes of a reporter (and the community) before you approach him or her to start a conversation.
03: Comments.
Print journalism is almost dead. Long live the era of reader feedback.
The "comments" section of an article is a great place to take part in the conversation started by the article itself. Journalists are much more likely to read a conversation going on within the context of their work—and you have a golden opportunity to build a report with that journalist and with the community reading that journalist’s work.
04: Linking.
Through Facebook, Twitter and your website, take an opportunity to post links to articles from reporters whose attention you’re trying to get. Today’s ability to collect analytics on where your traffic is coming from will expose your brand to the writer or blogger—and they may appreciate the exposure enough to open a dialogue with you.
05: Corporate Blogging.
Find a writer's comments particularly incendiary, agreeable or incomplete? Without insulting or brownnosing the writer, respond to the article with a blog post of your own. Remember: starting an intelligent debate is very different than throwing down the gauntlet.
by Gonzalo Gil Google