Eric Berto

How to Overcome the “Vendor” Label When Pitching Media

By: Eric Berto | November 29, 2018 | 
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“Sorry, we don’t cover vendor news.” 

“We only accept vendor talks as sponsored content.” 

“If you would like to contribute an article, our Brand Voice team has information about that.” 

These are common refrains for media relations teams who pitch stories, announcements, and content in the software space.

All too often, an innovative solution which fulfills a market demand is met with resistance, in turn resulting in a poor media coverage.

Typically, that’s because of the concern that any coverage for this type of brand or service amounts to advertising.

Therefore, our job as communications consultants at RH Strategic is to cut through this perception and offer valuable stories to media.

But when it comes to media pitching, how do you shift the focus away from your client’s company name and shine the light on their message?

Or on your brand’s ability to legitimately solve a problem?

Here are a few media pitching tips I’ve found helpful during my career in the enterprise software industry.

Media Pitching for Vendors: Have a Real Story

Your iterative, incremental product update is not news.

But the trend behind the market demand that drove the feature request is an interesting story.

Build a package with market research, a customer story about the transformation the solution enabled, and an analyst reference.

Now, you have a story an industry outlet will want to run.

Factor in some original research, economic impact data, or an emotional human story and you can transcend to top-tier media as well. We tell ourselves we’re storytellers, and this is our opportunity to show it.

The concept of newsworthiness is a radically different calculation for each outlet, each industry, and each day. Deciding when to pitch can be just as crucial as what you are pitching.

Ensure you have all the approvals, spokesperson availability, and final materials at the ready before hitting send for the first time.

When writing a news release or product announcement, consult with the subject matter expert. And dig into the development process or technology that was developed to support the new features.

It can be difficult to find the story behind the story, but it is often there.

And if it’s not? Then consider that this should be a blog post and not a media announcement.

Media Pitching for Vendors: Use a Customer Voice

When we pitch a story for our clients, we seek out the best-possible expert for that story.

But often the best way to shed the vendor stigma is to shed the vendor voice.

By enabling your customers or partners to be your public evangelists, you can quickly break through to coverage.

Customer case studies can yield two types of coverage: straight-forward problem/solution/results or lessons learned from fixing a problem.

Create a story of how your customer changed a process, developed a new product, or solved a problem using your solution.

Media folks prefer to hear the insight directly from that customer.

We’ve found success by using a pitch as short as three sentences:

  • Intro: Here’s the trend/universal problem.
  • Solution/learning: Here’s the customer and the learning/process/result they experienced.
  • Call-to-action: When can you interview the customer?

This results in the ability to tailor the specific angle to an outlet. And, should you secure the interview, it lets the writer control the interview and story.

Using a customer voice works with consumer-packaged goods companies, as well.

While launching a new device for a global software company, my company developed an integrated content strategy using real-world examples of “makers” and “doers,” using the device out in the field for their photography, filmmaking, or even surfing adventures.

And at a global manufacturing company, we built a pro-staff program to ensure a consistent flow of content and external evangelists who would tell great stories.

Pitch Resources, Not Just Sources

Whether you’re creating a speaking proposal or pitching inquiries, it’s helpful to identify small-to-medium enterprises within your industry or your customers who have expertise on the topic.

Recently, we were approached by a writer working on a story about artificial intelligence.

Instead of using a source from our client, who had only a high-level understanding of the specific topic, we were able to connect the writer with a source at an external company who is actively pursuing a Ph.D. in that specific topic.

The benefit? The writer gets a valuable source who isn’t trying to work a key message into the conversation. And this is a great way to build future pitch karma points.

When drafting a speaking proposal, seek the engineers or development lead behind a topic.

For one client, we worked with the software engineers behind a globalization effort to present on localizing software at a DevOps conference.

This is a great way to showcase the true technical acumen of your client. And your attendees won’t feel like they are attending a 50-minute infomercial.

Media Pitching for Vendors: Take it to Social Media

Sometimes the best way to tell a story is simply to tell it.

Do this by encouraging the development of a blog post or video tutorial.

Oftentimes, having visual elements can be enough to entice a writer into asking for complete information or a conversation with your client.

By writing a blog post, you can bring in external stats and resources and potentially drive engagement around topics you are trying to share.

Once the draft of your blog post is complete, and before hitting the publish button, do one last round of outreach and submit the topic as a contributed article to your industry and trade media outlets.

A significant number of outlets will want to see the full draft and make decisions based on that content, so it expands the outlets you can pitch.

Media Pitching: Change the Perception of Vendor Content

These tactics are imperative. Not only in creating a storytelling program. But also in helping your brand or your clients become a valued voice in a crowded chorus of monotone corporate announcements.

It’s not about pitching your entire list of media contacts every idea you have.

It’s about offering value to your publication and your target publication’s audience which is crucial to an effective content program.

Ultimately, when it comes to media pitching and shedding the stigma of the vendor label, you must change the perception of the type of content a vendor can provide. How? By offering newsworthy, interesting, or impactful information and ideas.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

About Eric Berto


Eric Berto is an Account Director at Raffetto Herman Strategic Communications, where he helps cyber security, enterprise software, and technology companies tell their dynamic stories. His approach to public relations blends established tactics with emerging digital strategies in order to deliver actionable, results-focused communications plans.

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