PR Tips | Want Quick, Quality Hits? Go Local

Pitching a story or oped successfully takes a lot of hard work. In fact, it can be so difficult that many people – and even PR practitioners – simply give up. But if you pitch locally, your job suddenly becomes easier. For example, let’s say you wanted to pitch a story about the mayor of a suburban town outside Philadelphia. If you tried pitching the Miami Herald, you’d probably strike out. You’d have a much better success rate if you targeted the Philadelphia Inquirer or a local paper because of the geographic connection. So going local makes it easy to get fast hits. But what if you want to make a bigger splash? You can also apply this technique in reverse. There’s often a way to broaden the appeal of even the most local stories. For example, let’s say the suburban mayor’s solution to his town’s unemployment crisis contains lessons for how other towns could solve their unemployment problems, as well. Voila. With a few small tweaks, we have national appeal. To make our pitch even more attention-grabbing, we could plug in unemployment data for whatever state we’re pitching. If we pitch the Detroit Free Press, for example, we could call attention to Michigan statistics showing Detroit has a major unemployment problem – and our small-town mayor is offering a solution.

Advice from the Media | Chelsea Glenn Fuller

Name: Chelsea Glenn Fuller Title: Reporter/Copy Editor Media Outlet: The Dominion Post Twitter Handle: Fulloffaith22 Personal Blog: Journalist Extraordinaire 1) Describe your typical workday in 140 characters or less. Reporting days: Receive daily assignments, go do the interviews, come back and write. Editing days: Edit news copy, design, layout and proof pages. 2) What's the best pitch you've ever received? I would have to say the best pitch/scoop I've received thus far was from an elderly lady who bombarded my office with calls that my superiors brushed off. When I finally talked to her, she informed me that she lived in a large apartment complex for low income seniors. Many residents at the complex received free lunch from a local state funded senior center. For most of the residents the lunch was their only hot meal of the day, and the number of lunches served was cut significantly without any explanation from the center or the apartment complex. That one scoop turned into seven top strip front page stories that exposed the agency's mishandling of the meal program. Words of wisdom: Don't ever totally disregard a pitch/scoop without listening to it first because you never know where your next big story will come from. 3) What are the greatest words of wisdom an editor ever gave you? My first editor told me that I should never assume that my readers already know what I am writing about... even the simplest things that appear self-explanatory. She always reminded me that it is not just my job, but my responsibility to be thorough and to produce accurate content that people can trust. After making a classic junior reporter mistake (I failed to double check the spelling of a source's name), she told me that taking extra time to double check sources, spelling and grammar are simple things that can separate good reporters from great reporters. There hasn't been a single day in my career that I haven't remembered those words. 4) If there was one thing you could tell every PR practitioner, what would it be? Don't underestimate the value of creating strong ties with reporters. Many PR professionals just send blanket releases to media outlets for the sake of convenience. But you would be surprised at the difference sending a personalized release can make. Good, relationships with reporters can be the difference between getting coverage for your client and having your release sent to the bottom of the stack.

PR Tips | Queries and the Art of Pitching

Just about everyone is familiar with the advice, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It's true: A product’s packaging isn’t always a fair representation of what’s actually inside. In general, making an informed decision requires more than a cursory review of the options. In the media world, however, that quick blurb – “the cover” – might be the only thing an editor looks at when deciding what to publish. Editors at the major daily newspapers – and large online publications – receive thousands of pitches every week. Somehow they must choose a few each day. When pitching an editor, it’s best to start with a query – an enticing synopsis of your event, argument or story. A query is essentially your sales pitch, whether you’re promoting an oped, article idea, or media event. The query lays our why an editor (or reporter) should accept your submission for publication, cover your event, or write on your issue. It's therefore critically important for the query to be polished and engaging. Here are a couple of tips to make sure your query stands out: 1. Keep it quick. Your query shouldn't be more than a couple hundred words. Remember, you only need to convey the main point of the piece. 2. Make every word count. With so few words to work with, each one should pack a punch. Leave out unnecessary clauses or explanations and stick to the bold or controversial points that will grab an editor's attention.

PR Tips | The Supreme Importance of Crafting a Good Intro

The competition to place an op-ed at a top newspaper is brutal. Major papers like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal receive thousands of opinion submissions every week. But they run only one or two outside submissions per day. Some days, their regular columnists fill the entire page. When sifting through that torrent of op-eds, editors tend to deploy a couple handy, commonsense heuristics. One of them is the obvious but important question: "Is this piece tied to something newsworthy?" You might have composed an op-ed of astonishing eloquence and insight. But if your piece is about a story that transpired a year -- or even a month -- ago, it probably isn't placing. That means your op-ed needs to establish a news hook within the first couple sentences. The best way to give yourself a bona fide chance of getting serious consideration is to craft a timely opening paragraph. Here are four rules to follow: 1) The news hook should be an event from the past few days. Your hook should be of sufficient relevance that it could be covered on the front page of whatever paper you're pitching. Last week, hooks of national relevance would include the sequestration and new gun control legislation. 2) Stay descriptive. Remember, at this point in the piece the editor's chief concern isn't its angle -- it's its relevance. You can save the explicit opinion for later on. In your introductory paragraph you want to provide the basic facts and create some context before laying out your thesis. 3) Keep it short and punchy. The first paragraph should be no longer than three sentences. Don't weigh it down with excess information. You should aim to include only the details that matter.

Advice from the Media | Rebecca Gale

Name: Rebecca Gale Title: Opinion Editor and author of Hill Navigator, Roll Call’s advice column Media Outlet: CQ Roll Call Twitter Handle: @beckgale Personal Blog: www.beckgale.com 1) Describe your typical workday in 140 characters or less. Read op-eds. Edit. File. Dispense Hill Advice. 2) What's the best pitch you've ever received? A former colleague pitched me about some inappropriate action in his office. I can’t repeat it, but suffice to say I passed it on to the right people. 3) The greatest words of wisdom an editor ever gave you? I was told to stop using so many dialogue tags in fiction writing. "Said" should be used more often than "asked," "spoke up" or "added" or any other of those shenanigans. 4) If there was one thing you could tell every PR practitioner, what would it be? Be nice. I’m amazed how many rude emails I receive when people are pitching op-eds. And follow up. Spam filters and excessive email traffic cause more delays than necessary. 5) What's your craziest or most interesting newsroom story? Writing Roll Call’s advice column has been interesting -- I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the quality of questions we’ve received. I hope it continues to be a resource for Capitol Hill staff. 6) What sets your page apart from the competition? I think Roll Call does a great job of knowing its audience. We write for the Capitol Hill community -- including Members and staff -- and it makes a big difference in reporting news that is relevant to your audience.

PR Tips | Building Your Media Footprint

Everyone likes to see his name in the paper. At Keybridge, we specialize in just that -- finding ways to get our clients and their messages into the media. But there's a lot that folks can do on their own to increase their media footprint. The key is to proactively present yourself as an expert in your chosen field. You have important things to say! But reporters won't know that unless you tell them. Here are two things you can do. First, sign up for the free HARO (Help A Reporter Out) service. Reporters submit queries to HARO seeking sources for the stories they're writing. Then, three times a day, HARO sends its subscribers an email with all those queries. Perhaps a reporter working on a story on home prices in Chicago would like to include some examples of recent sales. If you happen to be a real-estate agent in the Windy City, you might be able to provide the anecdotes she's looking for. Send a quick email to the reporter with your bona fides and a description of the information you can provide, and you just might land an interview. Second, set up a few Google Alerts on issues, topics, and keywords important to you. Google Alerts put the search engine to work for you by automatically delivering search results to your inbox. You can even filter those results so that you only receive news stories, blog posts, or videos with your keywords in them.

Advice from the Media | Kevin Bushweller

Name: Kevin Bushweller Title: Executive Editor Media Outlet: Education Week Digital Directions (Publisher is Editorial Projects in Education Inc.) Twitter Handle: @kbushweller Web site: www.digitaldirections.org 1) Describe your typical workday in 140 characters or less. There is no typical day, seriously. One day, I might be giving a keynote speech at a national conference. And the next day I might be scrambling to get a magazine issue out the door. 2) What's the best pitch you've ever received? Let me re-frame the question: Who are the best pitch artists? They are the PR folks who think like journalists. They see how their products or services fit within a bigger picture story or trend. 3) The greatest words of wisdom an editor ever gave you? “You are only as good as your next story.” Generating original ideas is key to survival. 4) If there was one thing you could tell every PR practitioner, what would it be? If you sound like everyone else, you will not get my attention. 5) What's your craziest or most interesting newsroom story? I arrived in New York City on Sept. 10, 2001, to work on a story about the psychological impact on a high school teacher who was violently assaulted by a student. I drove to school with the teacher the next morning, arriving in Manhattan on a beautiful day not knowing what was happening above us in the air. I spent the day at the school, working on a breaking story for Education Week’s web site about what it was like to be in a school near the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. I also used the day to observe how the teacher I was visiting handled the stress. The story about the teacher appeared in Teacher Magazine and Education Week several weeks later and eventually won a national writing award from the Education Writers Association.

PR Tips | Let’s Not Call It a Sales Pitch

Selling your product is a crucial part of any business -- and the process often starts with the "sales pitch." Although I don't think of selling that way. For starters, the very term "sales pitch" carries a stigma. It makes you think of cheesy salespeople desperate to "close the deal." Selling is my job, but I try not to pitch. I don't want to create awkward pressure. Instead, I  remind myself that the sales call isn't salesy at all -- it's simply a casual conversation introducing my product and my company to someone new . . .  so they know I'm here and understand my product. Because I have a good product, there's a high chance that the person I've called will eventually need what I'm selling, even if he doesn't need it right now. (This assumes I've done my research and called the right person.) My job is to let him know that my product exists and, if he's interested, to help him understand its benefits.