The New Secrets of Media Pitching Success [National Conference]

Editor’s Note: The PRSSA 2013 National Conference was in Philadelphia from October 25-29. All National Conference posts can be found here.

In one of the final professional development sessions of the PRSSA 2013 National Conference, Michael Smart, principal of MichaelSMARTPR, shared “The New Secrets of Media Pitching Success.”

Twenty-first century digital world media relations has changed dramatically from what it used to be. Five years ago, public relations professionals could count on a day-long news cycle and a specific journalist for each beat.

But as the traditional newspaper industry loses steam, public relations professionals have to adjust to the new atmosphere.

“It’s harder than ever to reach media influencers,” Smart said. “But, it’s easier than ever to land big coverage once you break through.”

To help students get to the breakthrough point, Smart shared a few tips for creating compelling content that makes a media practitioner want to learn more. First, he said to remember it’s not a news release anymore. It should be a story people actually want to read. He also said good visuals attract reporters’ attention.

When it comes to following up with a reporter, Smart said never to ask a reporter: “Did you get my email?” Instead, pitch again or try to reach out and move the process along. He also said to use gentle follow-up phrasing that acknowledges reporters’ busy schedules and reminds them of the topic without pushing.

Because the media industry is constantly changing, reporters no longer have time to spend hours on every story. Smart suggests helping reporters do their work by finding them credible sources and providing them with as much information as possible.

To catch a media practitioner’s attention within 10 seconds, Smart said to reference their previous work specifically and sincerely, and create a subject line that acts as a content teaser rather than a summary.

If you’d like to get a copy of Michael’s presentation, email to sign up for his weekly email brief, which includes information and case studies about how media pitching can still work despite changing trends in the industry. 

“It’s harder than ever to reach media influences,” Smart said. “But, it’s easier than ever to land big coverage once you break through.”

CASE STUDY: Sometimes, the content is the story.

Smart shared a case study from his time at Brigham Young University. The university wanted coverage to highlight the fact that it housed the best math student in the country. When the university tried to pitch the story traditionally, no one cared. But when they turned it into a rap music video, people started watching. In the video, the “mathletes” team dressed in basketball uniforms and showed off their skills.

BYU didn’t need a large budget to create the video, either. They shot the entire rap video in one three-hour session in their university’s basketball arena, provided $250 of pizza to bribe the extras and used talent from within the BYU marketing department.

Before they posted the video, BYU tested it with students to make sure it would be well received. Additionally, the sports-themed math music video came out in March, which created additional newsworthiness because of the March Madness basketball tournament.

How will you implement these new secrets of media pitching as a public relations pre-professional?

Lyndsey Sager is a senior public relations student at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. She is the vice president of public relations for her university’s PRSSA Chapter and the author of the PRFail Blog. Follow her on Twitter @lyndsey_sager.

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