Here are tips on how to get noticed when pitching your story to the media like Bloomberg
By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.
In the recent episode of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur podcast, I talked about how long it can take to get media coverage — and about the need for patience and the gaining of momentum over time. I gave guidelines on how long it takes to get coverage because new clients, especially, ring up and expect to get coverage straight away.
In the podcast, I also explained some of the processes that take place inside a public relations (PR) firm or inside your own department if you want to get some media coverage. I did that because last month, we took on a client from China. And they are very keen to get noticed within the first month.
Let’s say that on the first day, you have appointed an agency or someone in-house to do the PR work for you. They may or may not have some media contacts. In our case, we already have them. But still, there’s a whole amount of work that needs to take place before they can reach out to the media on your behalf.
Some of those items may seem like a delay to you. However, these are necessary items for a PR company or your internal marketing manager to get to grips with before they can go out and engage with the media.
Do they also have a logo ready? Often, clients will say that they have that and then they guide you to their LinkedIn pages. However, the LinkedIn file resolution is small and the logo vector size is often not right. So there’s a need to have a proper photograph with a minimum of about one megabyte (MB). You also have to have the vector file of the logo so that it can be scaled according to the application. You also need that picture in colour and in black-and-white.
These are just the pictures. We also have to ask if they have B-roll videos, for example, that are available. Clients often don’t have them but if they do, it’s not accessible to the outside world. Sometimes, it’s on YouTube; sometimes, it’s sitting on someone’s computer. We need to get and load that into a platform like Vimeo where media around the world can see that content.
If it’s you, you need to write down your bio, which is different from your LinkedIn profile. A LinkedIn profile lists job experiences. A PR bio, on the other hand, is who you are. It also includes what are your key talking points and what’s your credibility for doing that. It’s only typically three paragraphs — not long at all.
You also need to include a quick mention of your education or your particular role, depending on how late you are in your career.
Often, on the website, clients will have a very sales-oriented copy. This is what we do. This is why you need it. You could buy it here. These are sales copy. But we need a PR copy. We need more factual information, not hyperbole or adjectives. What we need are facts. We need the target audience you serve; the technology behind your product, the functionality and the specifications — the facts of the matter around the product or service that you’re offering.
Conveying Your Message
The different above-mentioned elements are the ones that PR people are going to send to the media. But these are just the background information (your photographs, video, bio, history, and product data sheets). What we need to do next is to start looking at the messaging. And this is often where the time factor really comes in.
Many people as entrepreneurs start a business and then move and serve certain clients in one way; then they serve other markets in another. Some productise neatly while some are just an extension of a certain product. Some are an iteration of existing software and so on.
This shows that companies don’t move in a linear fashion. They move side to side, forward, and backward. This narrative makes it very hard for a journalist to understand what it is that you’re really saying.
This is why we have to work on a key message. And this often comes down to the vision of the company. What is the company setting out to do? For whom? Why? When? Sometimes, these are articulated on the website; sometimes, not. So we need to spend a little bit of time on the message and make sure that it’s articulated clearly.
Then, we have the so-called message home. Underneath that, we have three supporting messages:
- Product message (This is our product)
- Company message (This is our company)
- Environment message (This is the market that we serve)
Underneath these, we also need proof points. Each of your assertions needs to be backed up with some facts.
It’s not enough to say that you make the fastest, the best, the slowest, the meanest, or the highest. The journalists are used to those all day, every day. What you need to do is to have facts of how fast, slow, high, and so on. Because these will all help the journalist to have a story that’s concrete.
For the PR firm, we have to have this because we know that the journalists won’t take out pitches seriously — unless, we’ve got the data behind them.
This is what we have to do: We have to get the message home together with the messaging. And this, as you can tell, may take quite a little bit of time. It takes about a month for a company to get all these materials together.
Shortlisting Relevant Media Outlets
After getting the messaging, what we need to do is to go and shortlist the key media that are going to be most relevant for a company or client.
You may have some key media, journalists, or trade associations that you really need to talk to. PR firms will probably have relationships with these media already. If they don’t, then you may want to think about finding a PR firm that does have those contacts. In fact, by and large, people engage in those certain agencies because they do have those relationships already.
However, 9 times out of 10, an agency will need to build a media list and it’s going to have some new journalists in it. They may know the journalist from other media or they may know that publishers have publications in their portfolio and they have another publication that fits what you need.
The PR firm needs to go out and build that list and start profiling. This is the key part: They need to start profiling which stories and articles that the media have been running match the profile of what you want to say.
In the SPEAK|PR program that I coach, I talk about how context is king but context is queen. It’s not enough to talk about what you want to do. What’s important is how what you do serves the current market. How does it fit in?
Imagine any social situation. If you just turn up and start talking before listening, it’s not going to go down so well. This is the same with media relations. What the agency will do, or you will for yourself if you’re going to do your own PR, is to look at the target audience that you want to get to.
Go to the journalist sections on publications. Almost all of them will have a journalist link and it’s largely because most of these journalists now are freelance writers. So, they will want to have a byline and it will include, for example, their Twitter handle. You’d want to go to their Twitter, follow and track them, and even retweet but not in a stalking kind of way.
If you’re in the same category or industry as they’re already writing about, then if you’re following what they do, you’re simply getting up to speed with how they think and what they think about what you’re going to introduce them to. What’s then going to happen on the agency side or on your side is that you’re going to match your key message and proof points to the articles that the journalist is currently — or might be — interested in.
This is where most companies fall down. Most companies send a press release to a journalist because they think it’s going to be important to the journalist as it is important to them. The truth is, journalists get 30 to 50 pitches a day. Even if it’s a national newspaper or a trade publication, they’ll get up to 50 emails a day with pitches.
You can imagine how busy they are. Just to get one long piece of information from you saying how important you are isn’t going to cut it.
What we do in our PR firm is that we send journalists a very short email. And the headline says something along the lines of “You wrote this story and we have one for you about this.” In the body, we say:
Dear (journalist’s name), We read your article. (And we’ll put the link there). This is interesting because it relates to our client who is also in this sector and who does this. We’d be delighted to help you take your conversation with your readers further by sharing more information about how our clients solve problem X or Y. We’d be delighted to be of service. We know you’re very busy. If you have time, please click to reply or introduce us to someone that you think might find this of interest.
That’s it. Many clients want to send long, long emails that are very explanatory about what they do. The journalists don’t really have the time. And if they’re interested, they might be reading it on their mobile phone, for example, and then they could be clicking on the reply button or it could just go to their spam folder.
We know that these journalists are too busy to reply to everything. So we’re also following them on Twitter, we’re connecting with them on LinkedIn. We’re not trying to stalk them because that’s not going to win anybody any favours or certainly any coverage at all. What we’re trying to do is to find the intersection between what our clients are doing and what the media are writing about. This is where we get the lift-off, the synergy.
A Case Study
We recently got a Chinese client which I mentioned to Bloomberg Hong Kong. The journalist, Stephen Engle, is based in Hong Kong and I happen to know him from our days in Beijing together. Hence, I was able to have a backchannel chat with Steve on WeChat and I said to him that we’ve got this client but then we had to send a pitch to the Bloomberg producers in New York. It just had to be short and pithy.
As I learned, it turned out that Bloomberg now has a green section. They have a going green part in their overall morning investors show. So we needed to package the story of our client in the context of their green segment. The client’s company recycles 10% of China’s mobile phones. It’s listed on the New York Stock Exchange but that wasn’t what they’re interested in. They’re interested in carbon reduction and in the business models around the circular economy, for instance.
The client has a key message and he has proof points. And what we have to do then is to tailor those proof points to the respective interviews that are going to take place. This is where a PR agency can guide a client.
Because the client is typically keen to talk about what they want to talk about, they’re not listening to what the media would like to share with their audience.
And this is really a key point: The media are not the audience themselves — they are a channel. They take from an agency or from the internet or wherever they get their news whatever they think is interesting for their readers, listeners, or viewers. They’re not actually taking the content for their own interest or benefit. They’re all worried about ratings, circulation, and subscriptions because these are their business models. They get more revenue if they get more people to watch, read, subscribe, or advertise.
Sometimes, people think that a media entity is free or a charity service. It’s not — it’s a business as we know from people like Rupert Murdoch who became billionaires as a result.
When pitching your story to a journalist, I encourage you to think carefully about what it is that you have as a company to offer. But then, think just as carefully about what the media outlet is interested to find out and to share with their audience.
If you’ve got your bio in place and you’ve got a good photograph, some B-rolls, and facts and figures — you’re making it for the journalist to work with you much easier. If they’ve got two stories of equal value but one is already prepared and the other is going to take extra work, they’d go for the client or the story that’s already half-prepared. It’s because they just don’t have the time to do that work themselves.
I started the podcast episode by asking how long does it take for an agency to get up to speed. It really depends on how quickly and readily the client can get up to speed and share their information. Based on my experience, it takes about a month to eight weeks for clients to have everything ready.
What the agency does is to start sharing information with journalists. But they’re not all covering the story that the client has got when the client wants to share it. Just like in selling, you rarely find a client who’s ready to buy just when you meet them. One school of thought says that it takes nearly a year for someone to first learn about you, watch you, then make a decision to purchase from you.
It’s not dissimilar in PR, only that it gets turbo-charged. You can get the time scales reduced by having an agency that already knows what to do. We facilitate a faster take-up than you might otherwise get. But, certainly, it will take one, two, three, or maybe four months. To get the big win, it can take three to six months or even longer.
PR is a long-term game with some short-term tactics and activities that every client or you can do if you don’t have an agency. And I hope that what I discussed gave you some clues as to what you need to do in order to be prepared before you reach out to the media.
If you need anything from me, I’m always here to help and you can reach out to me at email@example.com. At my firm, we’re more than happy to get your company noticed.
This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.
Originally published at https://eastwestpr.com on January 27, 2022.