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.
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.