Lindsay Bell

Earned Media: Three Steps to a Killer Pitch

By: Lindsay Bell | January 15, 2015 | 

earned mediaBy Lindsay Bell

Earlier this week, Laura Petrolino gave you three steps to help you land some real ROI for your earned media efforts.

She talked about strategies and tactics, and how to narrow down your outreach so that it is well and truly unique, and highly focused on what you want to achieve.

Today, I’m going to back up her positions with a case study.

Let me tell you the story of my own little earned media Christmas miracle.

I’ll outline the strategy behind my choices, and how I played each of the three steps in the pitching process to land a client a TV news profile on Christmas Eve.

Earned Media: Hate the Player, Not the Game

I know, that’s not how that little nugget really goes. But, in the case of earned media, and the incessant pitches that assignment editors receive daily, it’s true.

We’ve written before about some of the excruciating pitches that come our way.

Our name is incorrect. The sender has no clue what we do, or what subjects we cover (we recently got a pitch for “female friendly erotica”…true story). Or, the pitch is bland, boring, and part of a spray and pray strategy.

That, my friends, is where “hate the player, not the game” comes in.

Do Your Research!

The first thing I did, before anything else, was research.

I know.

If you think this ‘tip’ sounds a bit 101, please refer to the above paragraph (female friendly erotica, people!).

Yes. I worked in the media before. In fact, I worked at the very outlet I was pitching. But it’s a huge corporation, spread across Canada. I did my research. I checked out the program’s website. I watched some of their previous clips. And I knew my client’s product inside and out.

Then, I reached out to a friend who was connected, in order to find out exactly who I needed to contact.

This prep isn’t difficult. It takes a bit of time, but it’s not rocket science.

Yes, I’m old. I’ve worked a long time, and have the benefit of having far reaching networks of people I can call upon when I need help on something.

But even if you’re just starting out in this field, trust me, you know way more people than you think you do. Presumably you attended college. Your classmates have moved on to their respective positions and industries, right? Find out where they went, and call them.

Perhaps you volunteered in your spare time? Or were in clubs or on sports teams? Call people you even knew peripherally, or who are friends of friends. Start building your networks. 

Most importantly, remember that relationships matter. Cultivate, nurture, and value them. And, turnabout’s fair play. Be sure and give of yourself when others call on you.

Make it Personal!

You’re just writing an email, right? Wrong.

You are reaching out to a total stranger, and asking them for something in return. Make that email a bloody work of ART!

In my case, in my opening sentence I was able to reference my past work at the network, and mention I was born and grew up in the province in which the show I was pitching was produced.

Lucky, eh? Really easy, right? Again, wrong.

Go back to the research part. When I did my research, I realized there was a regional angle to the product I was pitching, and I focused my pitch on that region (in this case, New Brunswick, Canada).

I strategically pin-pointed exactly where I felt I had the best shot at success for our client.

But what if I hadn’t had the unique leg up that I did? Doesn’t matter. You still research, and find a way to personalize your contact.

Find the person on LinkedIn or Twitter. Check out their bio. Maybe they’re a craft beer lover? Perhaps they have a hobby similar to yours? Or they’ve worked in an industry or location your familiar with.

There are myriad ways you can make real, human contact with a person. It’s down to you to do the prep work.

Know Your Story!

I knew the story I was pitching before I even began reaching out to people. Because I was familiar with my client’s product, had discovered the local connection, and had done some digging on that connection, the story was crafted in my mind before even opening my email.

Your job when you pitch is to make things easy for those on the receiving end. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions on how they could craft their content

Also, instead of being in a panic due to the looming holidays, I used them to my advantage. Barring some unforeseen breaking news disaster, news overall would probably be a bit slow. That said, being so close to Christmas, I knew that producers and editors would still be extremely busy, as we all are in December.

Finally, I made sure to capitalize on Christmas, and pitched the story as a heartwarming, human interest style piece that would fit the tone and mood of the holiday season.

Again, this isn’t rocket science. But it doesn’t materialize out of thin air. You can know your story for any type of client, in any industry, at any time of the year, as long as you have a clear grasp of who and what you’re pitching, and why.

Ultimately, after a bit of backing and forth’ing, our client got his feature. Here’s the link to the entire broadcast. Fast forward to the 3:40 mark to see the story. 

New Brunswick is not a huge province, but the news show he was featured on has the potential to reach close to three quarters of a million people, and the local connection to my client’s story made the piece personal to that evening’s viewers.

Not bad, if I do say so myself. 

Do your research. Make it personal. Know your story.

Obviously, our client had a great story to sell. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. But you won’t even get your foot near the pigsty if you send out a crappy pitch.

About Lindsay Bell

Lindsay Bell is the content director at V3 Marketing, and works in Toronto. A former TV producer, she’s a strong advocate of three minutes or less of video content. She has a cool kid, a patient husband, two annoying cats, and Hank Dawge, a Vizsla/Foxhound/moose hybrid. Ok, maybe not moose.

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54 responses to “Earned Media: Three Steps to a Killer Pitch”

  1. Awesome story (both the research/pitch and the placement!)

  2. belllindsay says:

    Eleanor Pierce You want a hug…..?? LOL

  3. belllindsay Eleanor Pierce FROM THE NEWS STORY. The guy with the cars and the hugs!

  4. belllindsay says:

    Eleanor Pierce HAHAHAHA! Oh man. Tired much???

  5. belllindsay says:

    jasonkonopinski Hugs are good. 🙂

  6. Digital_DRK says:

    Kickin the tires!, what a nice huggable story!  Excellent “how to “pitch,  with a charming  and visually appealing end result.

  7. belllindsay They sure are. I’m a fan.

  8. belllindsay Eleanor Pierce Dr. Ellie prescribes scotch and an early bedtime tonight, Lindsay!

  9. bradmarley says:

    You nailed it belllindsay. Writing a pitch mail is less a lesson in drudgery and more like creating a work of art. I don’t know about you, but it’s a good day when I can get a reporter to reply to my pitch based on the words I’ve written

    Kids (these days!) just entering the PR today, I think, are not getting the practice they need to pitch a good story. it’s a bit of a lost art. They’re blasting entire media lists instead of taking the time to find the right reporter and come up with a smart and clever pitch.

    We’re only as good as the stories we place. And if we can’t get a reporter to bite, we might as well find a new career.

    Great post!

  10. TaraFriedlundGeissinger says:

    This is so awesome. You ROCK belllindsay!! Not only did you do everything right with this, but you took the time to share it with us. Thank you for giving me something I can easily hand to my team as a little roadmap on how to handle pitches like this. It’s so easy to say “personalize your pitch” without knowing what that means. I love your specific examples — look them up, do your research!! 

    As an aside, my favorite fail is when someone emails me with a “Dear Sir” heading. That’s a quick trip to my trash folder! 🙂

  11. bradmarley belllindsay I like everything about this comment!

  12. Ra Ra Ra!! I love how you laid this out! And this was such a great placement at a really difficult time of year. Great case study in doing it the right way!

  13. biggreenpen says:

    Eleanor Pierce belllindsay hugs AND a bear that has a special song!

  14. biggreenpen says:

    I really loved this story, Lindsay, and the way you broke it down. Great job!

  15. belllindsay says:

    biggreenpen Thanks, Paula!!

  16. belllindsay says:

    LauraPetrolino Cheers, Laura, we’re all kind of impressed down here! #MontyPython!

  17. belllindsay says:

    TaraFriedlundGeissinger Ha! Tara, thanks so much – it was fun and I’m super glad that we ended up with a story placement – which is the ultimate goal, right??

  18. belllindsay says:

    bradmarley Oh dear – “Kids these days” is absolutely right!! As much as it pains me to say it! LOL

  19. belllindsay says:

    Digital_DRK Hugs rock!!

  20. belllindsay says:

    biggreenpen Eleanor Pierce Oh no – are you speaking about Waldo, Paula!?

  21. Great case study and tips Lindsay. You did an amazing job for both me and Wheels and Deals. They were so excited to receive the coverage. You made a Christmas miracle 🙂

  22. I’m speaking there June 4. Come for the party, stay for the hug!

  23. Every car they sell comes with a singing bear. The funny part is when people trade in the car a few years later Wheels and Deals often finds the bear still in its seatbelt in the backseat 🙂

  24. belllindsay says:

    bradmarley Also, the ‘lost art’ thing is so true. I don’t know what it is really…laziness? Not being taught well…? Not taking the time to stop and *think* about what they’re doing, before doing? Whatever the issue, it’s sad.

  25. […] Three Steps To A Killer Pitch (Spin Sucks) – In public relations, we’re only as good as our ability to pitch a story to a reporter. After all, we’re paid to drive coverage, even if the current incarnation of the business makes it seem like we’re straying from that ideal. We’re not. Like I said in my comment, the kids entering the business today need to learn this skill. Lindsay Bell does a great job of laying out a few ways (three, to be exact) they can get better at it. […]

  26. bradmarley says:

    It’s all of the above, really. With more focus on social and content creation, newbies to he profession think they’re succeeding when the tweet they wrote gets 50 likes.
    Now, I realize this makes me sound like an old man, but I think pitching and landing a story is the best way to separate ourselves as PR professionals.
    Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!

  27. belllindsay says:

    lkpetrolino <# SpinSucks

  28. belllindsay says:

    LTPR Hello, Portland!! Thanks for the share, much appreciated! SpinSucks

  29. belllindsay says:

    TaraGeissinger Hi Tara!! Thanks for sharing that one out. Write for us soon?? cc lkpetrolino SpinSucks

  30. belllindsay says:

    WaynePorteous1 Cheers, Wayne, appreciate the share! SpinSucks

  31. belllindsay says:

    helenhmosher Helen!!! Thanks for sharing! 😀 SpinSucks

  32. belllindsay says:

    BHSMITH Hi Bradley, really appreciate the share! Cheers! 🙂 SpinSucks

  33. belllindsay says:

    IRandCompliance Hi folks, cheers for sharing that one! SpinSucks

  34. LTPR says:

    belllindsay SpinSucks Hello right back! Of course… great content

  35. belllindsay says:

    StickyBranding It was fun, Jeremy!! And you were great!!

  36. belllindsay says:

    bradmarley HAHAHAHA! I sound 102 at LEAST three times a day! Join the club!

  37. TaraFriedlundGeissinger says:

    @belllindsay TaraGeissinger lkpetrolino SpinSucks Gladly! 🙂 Let’s pick a topic or I can send you some ideas.

  38. belllindsay says:

    TaraFriedlundGeissinger TaraGeissinger lkpetrolino SpinSucks Please! Send away!

  39. belllindsay says:

    mcgaffin Thanks for the share, much appreciated! SpinSucks

  40. belllindsay says:

    CraigMcBreen Hi Craig!! Thanks for the RT! 🙂 ginidietrich

  41. CraigMcBreen says:

    belllindsay Hey Lindsay. Have a great weekend! ginidietrich

  42. belllindsay says:

    CraigMcBreen You too, sir!! 🙂 ginidietrich

  43. belllindsay says:

    MuseCOM Grazie!! 😀

  44. belllindsay says:

    Cision Woot! Thanks for sharing that one, my friends! 🙂

  45. belllindsay says:

    Barry_Keegan Hey Barry, great to meet you – thanks for the RT! 🙂 Cision

  46. belllindsay says:

    prweb Cheers, guys, appreciate the share!

  47. belllindsay says:

    robscoms Hi Rob, hope you’re having a great week. Thanks for the share! 🙂 SpinSucks

  48. belllindsay says:

    BabsSH Thanks for the share, Babs, cheers! 🙂

  49. belllindsay says:

    digett Hey folks, thanks for the RT! Cheers! 🙂 ginidietrich

  50. digett says:

    belllindsay You’re very welcome. Happy Wednesday!

  51. […] if you’re aiming for some earned media results and craft an excellent pitch, missing one tiny little tidbit of AP style isn’t going to get your […]

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