Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
May 8, 2013

How Charles Ramsey, The NFL Draft And A Presidential Election Can Help You Land Your Next Big Media Hit

Tying your company into what’s already on the media agenda is a great way to boost the newsworthiness of your pitch angles.

McDonald’s struck an excellent balance this week when reacting to the benevolent neighbor who rescued the three abducted Cleveland women. Charles Ramsey mentioned McDonald’s in both his now-famous initial TV interview and his 911 call, which also went viral. He was the top trending topic on Twitter for almost a full day. Many in the Twitterverse hailed him as a hero and called on McDonald’s to figuratively shower him with Big Macs.

But the company showed appropriate restraint in its eventual tweet. First, they expressed support and sensitivity to the victims. Then, a subtle hint that they would “be in touch” with Ramsey. McDonald’s reps didn’t return calls asking for further comment — another wise move to avoid being perceived as exploiting the sensitive situation.

More often, sudden newsmakers won’t spontaneously mention your company by name in interviews seen by millions. However, there are steps you can take to inject your brand into the events you know the media are already planning to cover.

Take the NFL Draft, for example. When the fifth pick of the first round took the stage in New York, sharp-eyed viewers noticed defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, on his way to the Detroit Lions, was wearing lensless, 3-D glasses.

Alert staffers at Detroit eyewear retailer SVS Vision were paying attention, too, and hustled to take advantage. They sent a new set of rims with faux lenses to the Lions’ facility, so the next morning, when Ansah arrived for an introductory news conference, he proudly donned them for the assembled media. SVS earned mentions in several articles as a result.

Not to be outdone, the IMAX Corporation also took note. A few days after the draft, they sent Ansah a letter offering him free 3-D movies for a year. They released the letter to the media, earning coverage in the Detroit Free Press,, and many other outlets.

But you aren’t always at the whim of the news cycle. You can anticipate in advance what will shape the media agenda and frame your pitches accordingly.

For example, corporate training firm, VitalSmarts, was releasing a book about how to have difficult and painful conversations. “Crucial Confrontations” happened to be published during an election year, so PR manager Mary McChesney pitched reporters on how the tips in the book could help people have civil discussions when disagreeing over their favorite candidates.

Connecting the non-political book to the ongoing political chatter earned Mary’s CEO a live interview on NBC’s “TODAY,” and propelled the book onto The New York Times bestseller list.

So, for your next pitch, make a list of the obvious items that will already be on the media’s agenda, and then brainstorm ways to make your story angle fit.

Learn more about tying into the media agenda and nine other strategies to boost the newsworthiness of your pitches — and much more — at my Pitching Boot Camp next month in New York.

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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