ComPRehension

Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
May 15, 2014

This Makes Pitch Research Unnecessary


How often do you actually read or watch the outlets you’re targeting? (I know it takes time; shortcuts coming below).

During my “Pitching Boot Camp” in Chicago this past March, the attendees were crafting pitches with some of the initial tips I’d shared. I was helping here and there when Marc Gutman from Colorado called me over.

Marc explained that his client is a doctor who uses a pioneering stem cell therapy on knee injuries. The treatment is innovative but no longer brand-new, and Marc had no new research results to share, which pretty much nixed the targets I would have otherwise suggested — medical writers.

I was about to say, “That would be a great story for Outside magazine,” when Marc said he had pitched the 650,000-circulation adventure sports and travel mag, and had a good response.

The reason Marc and I immediately thought of the same top outlet is because we’re both into that kind of thing — living near mountains, we both like to hike and snowshoe, and, well, read magazines like Outside. We knew that lots of its readers ski and more than a few of them have knee injuries. From reading lots of stories in the magazine over the years, Marc intuitively knew how to structure his pitch without needing a ton of research:

  • Cite the number of knee injuries that result from skiing.
  • Briefly explain how the procedure works and is different than surgery (in layman’s terms).
  • Offer examples of skiers who have had the procedure.

In fact, after we got home from the workshop, Outside posted the lengthy and favorable story.

The most successful media relations pros I work with regularly read sites that cover their industry — not just when researching pitches. You don’t have to be pitching your hobby for this to work. I know single, childless 20-somethings who devour Parents magazine each month, so when their “mom and baby” client comes out with a new toy, they know just how to position it.

Yes, regular media consumption is an investment of time, but it needn’t be inordinate. To prep for a client interested in pitching Fortune, I went through nine issues during one wait in my sinus doctor’s office and the next day’s flight to NYC (it’s actually faster to review hard copies than web versions). With a DVR remote in your hand, you can fast-forward the hard news and out-of-your-league segments on a three-hour morning show, and instead watch the segments relevant to your client in about 20 minutes.

Pick one high-leverage outlet you don’t consume regularly and add it to your weekly intake — I promise you’ll save more time knowing whom to target and how to frame your pitch than you’ll invest.

Marc was kind enough to send in this testimonial after the workshop:

“I’ve participated in many, many professional development workshops over my career, the latest being Michael Smart’s Pitching Boot Camp and Media Relationships workshop. What was different about my participation this time is that I paid for it. Out of my own pocket. Out of my bank account. Like, my money. To say I was nervous about the value I’d receive is an understatement. It’s easy to attend a workshop when your employer foots the bill but when you’re paying, it better be worth it. In addition to the cost of the workshop, I paid my own travel and hotel from Denver to Chicago. All I can say it was well worth the cost of dollars and my time. I run my own firm and time out of the office is time I can’t bill. However, I found great value in both sessions. Practical value that I started to put into practice the first day home. This is not a ‘theoretical’ workshop but one that delivers new skills and insight immediately. I’m excited to send Michael my first ‘Look what story I placed because of your workshop…’ email. I’m sure I won’t have to wait too long to have that success story as long as I follow Michael’s model.”

I’ll be sharing specific tips and examples on how to get your pitches opened and covered at my next “Pitching Boot Camp” in NYC on June 12. The following day, I’ll teach you how to become friends with key journalists and bloggers, even when you don’t have stories to pitch, at my “Building Media Relationships” workshop. Take advantage of both courses and receive a discount!

Michael Smart, principal of MichaelSMARTPR, has been landing top-tier coverage for 15 years. He also has trained more than 4,500 communicators across the globe on how to boost their media and blog placements, including pros from Allstate, Disney, Verizon, Hilton, Honda, Edelman and many other organizations, large and small. He has been among the top-rated presenters at the PRSA International Conference three times.

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