“You had me at hello”. The line, made famous in the movie Jerry Maguire when Renée Zellweger’s character responds to Tom Cruise’s response for why she should take him back, is what everyone wants to hear when they pitch a story to a journalist. But the reality is a long way from that when it comes to getting a journalist’s attention, write PR experts Kathryn Van Kuyk and Anthony Caruana, co-founders and co-CEOs, Media-Wize
Over the last few years, more than 5000 journalists in Australia have lost their jobs or left the industry. Meanwhile, the PR industry has exploded. PRs now outnumber journalists 20 to one. This means there are more people trying to get their stories told and fewer people telling the stories. It’s harder than ever before for startups, small, and medium-sized businesses to stand out and be heard.
Delivering what journalists want, when they need it, is the best way to maximise your chances of coverage for your business.
Here are five tips to help you get cut through when you DIY PR
1. Find your unique PR stories
Let us tell you a secret. The reasons you think you’re special and unique probably aren’t all that special and unique. To stand out, you need to find unique business, founder, product, people and culture stories and insights. McDonalds gets it. They don’t put a mixture of mayo and mustard in the Big Mac – they use ‘Special Sauce’.
Journalists are looking for something different – a new angle, fresh news or a new perspective. Don’t follow the pack and dupe what you see other marketing and PR teams doing, be unique and authentic. Saying “We’re the Uber of…” is so 2017. Find what makes you special. Take a helicopter view of your business and journey – get out of the detail and look at the bigger picture to find your special sauce.
2. Start with why a journalist should care
Don’t bury the hook. Most journalists see hundreds of press releases and pitches each day. The first line of the pitch or press release must succinctly explain why a particular journalist and publication should care about your news or opinion. Do your research on what a particular publication and journalist writes about and make sure it is topical, insightful or conveys an expert opinion.
3. Make the PR pitch easy to understand
Journalists receive so many messages from companies that start with “Company X is a leader in blah blah blah and delivers paradigm changing hyperbole…”. Then there are a few buzzword bingo words thrown around. Plain English works best. And remember if you’re going to tout to a journalist that you’re the biggest, best, fastest, smartest or whatever, make sure you have metrics to back that up.
4. Have your assets ready – be prepared
If you’re looking to get something covered quickly – make sure there are supporting images easily available. Active images with people using the products or services you think are newsworthy is great. Boring product shots or screen captures are less useful. Also, make sure you have images of spokespeople that the journalist can quote. Aim to have images in a couple of different formats with a mix of portrait and landscape orientations and have both print and online quality images available.
Many journos will want fresh quotes and not just the canned and curated ones provided in the media release or pitch, so make sure spokespeople are prepared and available and able to provide a compelling message about why the journalist should care.
With many publications pushing out fresh stories every hour or more, there’s rarely time to go searching for correct information and hyperlinks. Be super careful with placeholder text – if you use the string “xxx” in the placeholder URL, that web address will take the journalist to a place you don’t intend!
Make the journalist’s job easier by ensuring all hyperlinks work, images are available and fonts used in the communication are easy to read and mobile-friendly.
5. Be a storyteller
When you pitch a story, it’s an opportunity to tell a story. It’s not a free advertisement. So, while the release of a new product might be a big deal for your company, it’s not a story unless there’s something personal in it. For example, a software update that makes data entry easier isn’t news. How you apply it or help overcome a challenge might be.
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