Pitching to the media is not always easy, but there are ways to increase your chance of success.

An effective media release all comes down to research, preparation and a targeted pitch.

You’ll notice that last point I mentioned was a targeted pitch – this goes against the traditional approach of PR, but times have changed and therefore our approach needs to change too.

If you are a small-to-medium sized enterprise (SME) the media is likely not going to go out of their way to cover your story. So you have to do something to tip the balance in your favour. One way to do this is to make it as easy as possible for the journalist or editor to use your article.

An effective media release all comes down to research, preparation and a targeted pitch.

News is now a 24-hour cycle, which means media outlets are always on the lookout for content, but they also have an overwhelming workload. So it stands to reason that if you make their job easier by pitching something that is not only relevant to their audience, but clearly created just for them, you increase your chances of getting published. This is the exact opposite of the old-school approach, which is to create one press release and then mass-mail it to all the media outlets on your database.

Success of a press release is never guaranteed, but my below tips will hopefully give you an added boost.

1. Have an (actual) hook

The ‘hook’ is industry jargon for the subject matter of the press release that gets your attention. This can often be a hard one, because what you think is interesting a media outlet may not! So you have to step back and be objective when considering your hook. Media organisations want their article read – particularly online, because that increases their click through rates!

2. Write a killer heading

Whilst media outlets may change your heading, thinking creatively about your heading is the first step in getting your pitch email opened by the journalist or Editor. Like all of us, their inboxes are likely very full so you need to stand out from the crowd. You may well have a different email subject line to your heading, but make sure both are interesting.

3. Ensure you have relevance to their target audience

I mentioned previously that mass-mailed press releases are an old-school approach to PR and not nearly as effective a personalised approach. The down-side is more time and effort from you, but the benefits should outweigh this, with you tipping the scales in your favour. You need to look at your media database and determine which ones are more likely to run your story. Then you can demonstrate your research by personalising your email to the media outlet. Include your contacts’ first name and the reason this article is suitable for their target audience.

4. Write using their style

This one is a little harder, but with a little research it is doable. Do they use first names for quotes or titled last names? How do they present date formats? How do they present their quotes? Do they have long or short headings?

5. Use a spokesperson

Providing quotes from a spokesperson within your article gives it some personality and authority. This is also a great way to get more subjective content included, as it is attributed to a person. When a journalist or editor runs your press release they want to be able to appear objective, therefore any flowery language will frequently be cut, unless it is said by someone else.

6. Provide an image that is pertinent to the article

These days the vast majority of articles have an image with them so it is in your best interest to provide an image. The best images are those that are original – so something you have had taken for your organisation. It could be a photograph of staff, or a product, a location, a publication, an event – the options are endless! Remember to always caption your image and attribute it to the photographer if required. If you don’t have something original another option is to use a stock image, but please take your time and pick something that is professional, has not been used a million times before and presents your company in the best light.

7. Provide logo files

When you provide your press release and photograph it is also a good idea to attach your logo as well. Online media outlets will sometimes include a logo at the base of their story – but even if they don’t at least they now have it on file.

8. Include online links

Following on from the above, many media organisations will include link in the online version of your story. Provide all your online links, but also embed them as part of your media release, if appropriate.

And do you know the benefit of undertaking all of the above? You become an easy pitcher. What do I mean by this? I mean the editor, journalist or blogger likely had to put in a minimum of effort to run your article, so in future it is likely that your pitches will be looked upon favourably and they may even seek you out for comment or contributions.

There are never any assurances that your press release will get a run, but by following these tips you’ll definitely be on the right path!


HollyMartin_150x150px_Apr2016Holly Martin is a small business marketing dynamo! She breaks down marketing jargon and concepts so SME businesses can confidently take control of their marketing and make educated decisions. She is the Director of Just Holly and runs 6-week online marketing workshops for business owners, administration staff and marketing graduates.

You can connect with Holly on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram or via her website.

When I received feedback from a client that read, “Thank you for your advice, we put it into action and it went down a storm! We never thought we would accomplish what we did, thank you”, I considered that a priceless comment!

This company achieved a full-page news article in their local newspaper, based on our advice and input concerning media relations. Never before had they attempted this, believing they weren’t good enough, interesting enough or newsworthy.

They achieved what they deemed to be the unachievable, and also received a huge dose of recognition and credibility – I love PR for having the power to do that.

How did they achieve this? They developed a story that was authentic and relevant to their audience.

Here I share with you 3 PR tips to help you capture media attention, whether its for yourself or your business.

1. Be interesting

How do you make your story interesting but, keep it authentic and rich with content that is relevant to your audience. Be honest with yourself, is the story you are contemplating interesting? Maybe you have a hero in your business, a product that makes your customers’ lives easier, or a quirky service.

Just think of the most gripping stories, they can be exciting, scary or enlightening – but regardless, they engage.

Just think of the most gripping stories, they can be exciting, scary or enlightening – but regardless, they engage. One of my clients didn’t think they had much to announce this month so we got talking about business and developments and it turned out they had achieved new business on a national scale. From a provincial business they had developed into a UK wide business. We were able to develop a piece of communication around this to ensure the audiences they wanted to engage with knew about their capability and credibility nationally.

2. Be unique

Maybe you have a new service or product, or have achieved something unique in your industry. Maybe you are the only company in your industry to reach a particular milestone. Perhaps your recent new starter is unique – perhaps the only male in a female environment? Maybe your product is the first of its kind off the production line.

It isn’t good enough to create corporate fluff dressed up as a good story; think about how you would want to read about you. Only last week we identified a story that demonstrated my clients business performance and innovation in their market with their investment in electric vehicles. This is a worthy piece of communication for my client as they are the first company in their sector to make this investment.

3. Be newsworthy

Putting aside scandal and conflict, which the media love to focus on, ask yourself: Is my story really news? Is it bang on trend, an opinion piece, or hard-hitting? Is it filled with human interest and local interest?

Ensure it is timely – and by that I mean current. Your stories need to be fresh, and relevant to the media channel you are engaging. We easily achieved success for a high school that had organised a school trip to England’s chocolate capital to learn about its history and heritage. No, it isn’t hard-hitting news, but it’s full of human interest, relevant to the geography of the school, and let’s face it – who doesn’t like chocolate?

If you can identify a few of these PR nuggets you’ll be achieving top quality PR results that will connect you to your audience, create more understanding about what you do, and develop your reputation. What’s not to love about PR!

Maybe you’ve put a lot of energy into getting your branding right, the brochure is nothing less than a masterpiece, you feel proud to share it, maybe your website is the same, a visual masterpiece, this in itself is good PR but it isn’t where communication stops.

Today, consumers expect you to be present on social media channels. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat all actively encourage brands to set up profiles. But is it enough just to be visible? If you want to really engage with your customers, you need to go where they spend most of their time – and embrace social media or be left behind.

Here are my top 10 tips for brands to make their PR socially engaging:

  1. Make sure your content is targeted and relevant to your audience. Social media users share a wealth of information about themselves – use it wisely.
  1. It’s not a sales pitch. They have invited you into their phones and their homes – sales driven updates will only annoy your audience.
  1. Post regularly – but don’t make trivial updates for the sake of updates. They don’t care what you’ve had for lunch – unless you’re a food critic!
  1. Everyone loves a freebie. Consider offering a promotional code or small gifts to encourage initial sign-ups.
  1. Your customers will create content around your brand if they love the product or service experience. Encourage them, real recommendations are worth far more than any paid advertising.

If you want to really engage with your customers, you need to go where they spend most of their time – and embrace social media or be left behind

  1. Monitor what is being said. Social media happens in real-time and you’ll be ready to grasp unique opportunities and prevent any negativity before it spreads.
  1. Social media is replacing customer service phone numbers. Why would a customer call to tell you something is wrong when they can do it quickly and publicly shame you across social media? Turn it to your advantage with a speedy, transparent and human response that highlights your excellent customer service skills.
  1. Support your content with images and videos – they are more likely to be viewed and shared than plain text.
  1. Dare to be different. Don’t bore customers by posting the same content week after week. Try something new now and again.
  1. Lastly always keep a record of your campaigns and social click-throughs to your website. What has worked? What hasn’t worked? How can you adapt future campaigns to ensure success?

I’m working with a company who planned PR into their strategy for growth, they knew exactly how it would work within their company, and what they wanted it to achieve. From their website, to social media and print media they engaged PR to develop a consistent message across all platforms. As a result of this activity they won a hundred thousand pound contract!

Plan your communication and join it up to embrace all the channels available to you. This is public relations use it and share it and watch your public image grow.

Want to know the truth about PR?

Education is the key to creating understanding and ridding those pesky negative preconceptions that can often hound and taint many a sector and industry.

This is generally the role of PR, to pro-actively develop, action and maintain a strategy of communication that hits the right audience, with the right tone, the right information, and all at the right time to maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and the public.

Only the other day a client said to me they would never have received a request to quote from their dream client without the help of PR. Another said they didn’t have to hire a business development consultant thanks to the work of PR and the credibility it has given them.

This isn’t just great news for me but validation that the industry I work in does achieve what it says it does. But PR as an industry suffers from negative preconceptions, and I challenge those every day by doing a good job to dispel them.

Successful PR takes time and experience and the honest truth is PR isn’t easy; PRs just make it look that way.

So here I’m sharing with you 5 truths about the PR industry that many people just aren’t aware of:

1. It’s more than just writing.

Some days can be purely devoted to research. As a PR pro being informed and educated on a wide variety of topics isn’t just required, it’s essential. Some days it’s about problem solving and looking for solutions. Other days it can be devoted to looking for and creating opportunities for your clients.

2. It’s stressful.

Whether it’s making sure results are achieved, being organised, staying on top of your tasks, working with different personalities, and managing those inevitable last minute demands, PR can be a juggling act based on integrity to do and achieve the best for the companies you represent.

3. It isn’t 9 to 5

Say goodbye to fixed routines. Being pro-active is the key but reactive equally so. You have to be able to react quickly and that can mean working during unsociable hours. Sometimes a response, a story, a statement is needed NOW, and no, it can’t wait until the morning.

4. Proving your worth.

Not everyone understands the importance of PR or the skills and attributes needed to provide it. ROI is generally king and the sole preserve of the sales department, but it’s important to demonstrate how ROI comes from PR activity too. Without reputation and credibility how would a company survive? It isn’t tangible people cry, reputation is tangible, it’s an asset that attracts and retains customers – what are customers worth? What’s your reputation worth?

5. Anyone can do it

Where do I begin?! You must be a self-starter, be able to spot opportunities, be a good listener, good communicator, good at developing relationships, be discreet, take responsibility, be creative, skilled, knowledgeable, a quick learner…

…The list goes on and any self-respecting recruiter will tell you not many people have all those qualities rolled into one. The number of people I have given the opportunity to fashion a career in PR and they just didn’t have the will-power, drive or inclination believing the job was just too demanding and not the glamorous party they were looking for.

If actions are the result of the perception of facts then PR is the part of your business that is working to create, change, challenge or reinforce perception. Your reputation doesn’t clock off at 5 and neither does PR.

Last week I was asked about how to create perfect news. My response from my public relations experience was to say that typical news stories have two or more of the following qualities: Impact, topicality, size, impact, human-interest, or an element of the bizarre. However it isn’t as simple as that and although those components are essential considerations, it’s what you do with them that’s important.

Very rarely will your story have every component mentioned but so long as you have identified a news story that is topical, timely, and relevant, you should have enough information to develop a story fit for distribution.

Here are a few more top tips on how to create the perfect news:

1. Make your headline stand out

Creating a news story starts with the headline, so often overlooked, this small line of copy is THE most important part of the article – it is the part that encourages the reader to continue reading. One simple way to get this right is to ask yourself, “Would this make me read more?”.

I’d like to think the title I’ve used for this item attracted your attention enough for you to read on. I usually demonstrate the importance of headlines by sharing examples from the tabloid press. Before you scoff at the thought, notice how short, snappy and attention grabbing their headlines are – this isn’t an accident, it is crafted that way to grab your attention; and it works.

2. Use the inverted pyramid

Once you have deliberated and created your perfect headline the next rule of news is: Important information at the top and least at the bottom. Also known as the inverted pyramid to journos, the first paragraph should always try to answer Who, What, Where, When, and Why. This presents your message immediately and encourages the reader to continue reading.

If you go back to the top of this article you’ll notice I have given you the most important information about creating perfect news to attract the attention of your audience first. In the time it’s taken to read one paragraph you are more informed about the subject and are in no doubt about the information I am communicating.

Expand upon your introduction in the second paragraph, maybe even into the third, unfold your story and go into more detail explaining the facts. Don’t repeat your introduction, it’s easy to reiterate without realising you haven’t actually contributed anything new, the purpose here is to explain and inform.

3. Human interest – give it personality

Humanise your story and add a comment, or comments from a spokesperson or people, who relate to your story. This is a great opportunity to put someones opinion, thoughts and experiences across so use it and make it of value. I’ve added my comments in this article by way of illustration but hopefully it humanises it more for you and helps you understand the message I am putting out here.

4. Highlight authority or expertise

Conclude your story with a bit of background about who you are and what you do. Don’t use it to sell, simply sum up who you are, where you are based and what you do. Have you been in the business for 10 or 20 years? Are you an award-winning speaker or authority on the subject?

Presenting the perfect news story isn’t always as easy as it looks but if you keep it short, to the facts, in simple language – no waffle or jargon, and humanise your message, you’ll have created the perfect news story for distribution.

Colette Lowe is the Founder and owner of Chew PR. Colette has worked in PR for over 15 years. She has seen both sides and worked for consultancy and in-house teams providing her with an insight not many see. Colette will be contributing to the Public Relations section. She is based in Wakefield, England.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Do you admire those succinct communicators, the ones that find it incredibly easy to leave modestly at the door as they talk about themselves, or the ones that are so passionate about what they do they hypnotise you with positivity? They’re engaging aren’t they?

Communicating is essential in order to attract new clients, as well as retain them. In the world of PR this is called ‘engaging your audience’. Public relations has a very specific role here; and it can carry out that role on many different levels, and with differing degrees of success.

You don’t have to be a motivational speaker, or an exhibitionist, just consider the importance of engaging communication – it helps build solid relationships, creates wider understanding and awareness, and invites open and honest conversations.

Here are three tips to help you create engaging communication from your business and be more engaging in your PR:

1. Be transparent

That means no sales fluff or hyperboles. Just be honest and let others within your organisation; customers, and advocates, learn about what’s going on in your business. Communicate your future plans, growth, investments, successes and achievements. Sharing this information is valuable PR, it helps create an understanding and awareness about who you are and what you do but more importantly it creates trust and loyalty as you form genuine relationships through genuine dialogue.

2. Share positive stories

Everyone loves to hear good news. We like to read it too; so consider how your business can communicate a positive vibe. Do you have a fantastic human interest story just waiting to leap into the public realm? Maybe you’ve achieved something wonderful for charity, maybe a good deed has transformed someone’s life, or maybe your company expansion plans will create masses of local employment opportunities. Communicating positivity in the face of our perpetually negative media can seem like a challenge, but try it, we all like things that make us feel good and secretly the media does too.

3. Find your enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is like a huge smile, once you’ve shared it it will be carried on. Embrace what is good about your business and be enthusiastic about it. I know there’s trepidation here, but ignore those endless rows of people that make it their job to dampen the spirit of enthusiasm. Think about your company values, good service, staff development, great after sales care; and tell everyone about it. Trust me its worth sharing, and once you do others will share for you too.

There you have it, engagement, just share your stories and celebrate communication – you’ll be an engagement expert before you know it.

Colette Lowe is the Founder and owner of Chew PR. Colette has worked in PR for over 15 years. She has seen both sides and worked for consultancy and in-house teams providing her with an insight not many see. Colette will be contributing to the Public Relations section. She is based in Wakefield, England.

photo credit: How to Earn Customer Loyalty By Focusing on Customer Experience via photopin (license)