Editors are simple people. It may not seem so to the hapless PR person who has pitched, pitched and pitched some more in the vain hope of snagging an editor’s valuable attention, but editors truly do have only a few basic wants. They want an easy day, a cordial working environment and, in the end, to put out a superior product, whether it’s a blog, magazine, or newspaper. But PR pros don’t have the luxury of working side by side in the trenches with editors every day, discerning their moods and tempers. Who does? Journalists.
That’s why it’s a good idea for PR pros to take some pages out of the journalist playbook when pitching a story to an editor:
1. Become a Presence – Anybody who has had a plumber working in the house all day knows the eerie feeling that comes along with having a stranger in your personal space. Sure, you and the family go about your day, but that stranger lurks, ever so slightly changing the atmosphere in your home. In this scenario, journalists and their editors are like the family and you, the poor, put-upon PR pro, are the plumber. Your best strategy? Don’t show up once in awhile, pitch a story and run. Get to know the editor – either through pitching well-crafted valuable stories as they come up or on a more personal level through professional organizations, networking or even social media. Get to know the editor and you’re no longer a stranger in the house, you’re just one of the kids asking for your peanut butter and jelly sandwich (and by peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I mean story coverage.)
2. Study Your Target – Journalists know when the EIC is in a good mood and when all the little signs (cap on backwards, closed door, murderous expression) mean that today isn’t a good day to pitch a story idea. Use your any intelligence you can gather (Twitter can come in very handy here) to discern when and how the editor likes to be pitched. Maybe Mondays are no good, or the editor despise talking on the phone but loves a long and involved email chain. And don’t flake out on doing your traditional homework either. Compare notes with other PR pros or journalist contacts about the editor’s pet peeves. And don’t forget to check around to find out when the publication is on deadline and never, ever, ever bother the editor on that day.
3. Make the Editor’s Job Easy – Any journalist worth her salt knows that if she constantly makes her editor’s life a living hell, she’s not long for the newsroom. You should follow the same logic and make your editor’s job easy and effortless. If he or she has shown interest in your story, back it up with many well-researched and impeccably sourced facts and figures, and mention sources that might be a good fit for the story. (Just don’t go overboard. Editors are proud people and will make sure any story the print is independently reported.) Make sure to promptly answer phone calls and emails, and just generally package yourself as a dependable, go-to PR pro.
These three plays from the journalist’s playbook will come in handy even when pitching the most onerous editor. What are your tips for pitching stories like a journalist? Has anybody out there been on both sides of the PR/journalist divide?
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Grab three free ebooks, including the Big Press Release Book and Twitter Tactics, here: https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/big-press-release-samples-book/
As an Editor retired from the trade press, my main cause of disappointment was not excessive ‘pitching’ by PR consultancies but the daily avalanche of inappropriate material from ‘amateur’ press officers – especially since the advent of e-mail. The comparatively rare telephone conversations with PR practitioners provided welcome light relief from the daily grind of sifting through a pile od dross to find stories that were exclusive, written in impeccable English, observed the conventions of journalism, and were relevant to the audience served by a specific publication. A conservative estimate would be: weekly input: 750–1000 texts; nett harvest: 25–40 stories worthy of publication, of which 75% came from PR consultancies.
It would appear that industrial companies, worldwide, appoint inexperienced press officers without the right skill-set – all too often the biggest motor-mouth from the sales force – and expect that ill-equipped individual to pursue the company’s marketing objectives by writing a hymn to every new product, and sending the identical text to every Editor around the world. Some texts were so appalling that I would not be surprised to hear of irate shareholders forming a lynch-mob!
Despite the fierce competition in domestic and export markets, the directors of such companies do not accept the compelling logic for appointing either a seasoned professional to this important post, or placing a realistic budget in the hands of a PR consultancy staffed by trained journalists – ideally with previous experience in the company’s industry-segment and its target markets at home and abroad. Fiat lux!
A big thank you for your article. Wonderful.
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