Think of the last time you “fell for” an advertisement.
Maybe it was the nearly-naked Lebron James that prompted you to order a $3,000 wall-mounted gym. The bus-side ode to Coca-Cola that sparked a sprint to the convenience store for a refreshing pick-me-up. Or the magazine spread that made you order tickets to Harry Styles’ world tour.
The average person is exposed to 10,000 advertising messages every day. So what makes us especially receptive to the ones that “work”?
Three things: timing, targeting, and text (or the content of the ad itself).
And while the work of media relations is about catching the attention of journalists instead of consumers, the same principles apply. Here’s how you can weave them together to land your next pitch.
1. Timing: Ensure Reporters Will Be Receptive
We’re most receptive to relevant messages when they’re delivered at the right time.
Maybe the Lebron ad interrupted your Bob’s Burgers binge just after the start of the year and your resolution to finally get in shape (again). Or the bus-side Coke ad drove past on a sweltering summer’s day.
The same concept applies when we’re pitching the media. Even the best-crafted pitch won’t work if it hits an inbox at 1:00 a.m. And no one is going to consider your product for a holiday gift guide in February.
Keep pitching activity confined to regular business hours. If you’re burning the midnight oil, schedule your message for the next day. Anything related to calendar dates should be sent a month or two in advance.
Also, consider the lead time of the publication. Print features generally have longer lead times (often a few months) than their digital counterparts.
Digital-only opportunities turn around quicker, but you still need to consider yet another T: trends. Because good pitches usually tie into some sort of macro trend, it’s important to ensure your idea isn’t too far off to matter today (or that it hasn’t already played out in the media).
The best PR professionals are also great trend spotters: they time their outreach for that “sweet spot”: after there’s an undercurrent of chatter but before there’s full-blown media coverage.
There’s no magic bullet to timing your pitches. This would be a much shorter blog post if I could simply reveal that you could always get a reply from a journalist on Tuesdays at 11:21 a.m., but, unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
By carefully considering the time of day, time of year, and relevancy of trending topics, you can make sure you’re delivering the right pitch at the right time.
2. Targeting: Accurately Deliver the Right Message
Targeting, or identifying the right person at the right publication for your pitch, is the most important contributing factor to its success or failure – even more than contents of the pitch itself!
And while digital advertisers have (profoundly creepy) ways of targeting you based on your personal information, you can take a more personal approach with your media outreach.
At Propllr, we take targeting seriously. With every reporter’s body of work accessible through a few quick Google searches, there’s no excuse for sending poorly targeted pitches.
To start the targeting process, first evaluate the publication:
- Who reads this publication? My potential customers? Peers? Investors?
- Would a placement in this publication help accomplish my PR goals?
- Does this publication cover stories like the one I want to tell?
- Have they covered my space or my competitors?
From there, ask these questions to evaluate specific reporters:
- Is the reporter still at the publication? Have they published recently?
- How frequently do they write? If a journalist publishes frequently, they’ll require more sources than ones that don’t, which can increase your chances of coverage.
- Who do they quote in their recent articles? Entrepreneurs? Academics? Consultants? Consumers?
- What types of articles do they write? Trend pieces? Q&As? Hard news? Profiles?
- Have they covered this exact topic before? If so, it might be better to tweak your angle or find a new target.
- What elements feature prominently throughout their coverage? Company valuation? Large funding rounds? Personal anecdotes?
Targeting takes time, and that’s okay. It’s better to send one pitch to a solid target than to send five irrelevant pitches to reporters that will have no use for them.
Luckily, this legwork can save time when it comes to actually drafting your pitch (more on that in a sec).
For example, if you know a reporter likes to include hard data or a humorous story in their articles, to include that as part of your pitch.
And last, keep in mind that targeting is not a trick to improve your chances of a successful media pitch. It’s courteous, respectful, and helps ensure the foundation of a solid relationship with a member of the media.
3. Text: Pack a Punch With the Content of the Pitch Itself
The text, or content of the pitch itself, is the most obvious tool at your disposal to help get your message across (a simple “thirsty?” paired with an image of an ice-cold Coke can work wonders on a hot day).
But, as I noted, even the best-written pitch won’t hit if it’s delivered to the wrong person or at the wrong time.
To bring everything together, consider the other “T’s,” timing and targeting, as you draft your pitch. Your mission: show why you’re reaching out to this reporter, at this exact time, in about 150 words.
Your pitch should show that you’ve done your research and that you took the time to truly understand what your target covers:
- Reference (and link to) similar articles of theirs in your pitch.
- Quickly get to the point by answering the question Why should I care, now?
Once you’ve established relevancy, keep your target interested by breaking your pitch into two parts: the problem and the solution.
The “problem” should add elements of drama and intrigue, and the “solution” should position your company (or your insight) as heroic experts swooping in to save the day.
Finally, tie it all together with a question or a call to action. Done correctly, your pitch will flow naturally toward a pleasing conclusion: an interview with your chosen target and (hopefully) your company’s name in print (or on screen).
Land Media Coverage for Your Startup with the 3 Ts
Timing, targeting, and text are all equally important elements of the art of outreach to reporters. In other words, it’s not (only) what you say, it’s when and to whom you say it.
Advertisers know this. That’s how they keep tricking us into buying home gym equipment.
As a startup founder or leader, though, you’re offering something far more valuable (and for free!): your real-world insight, dramatic founding story, practical knowledge, and ahead-of-the-curve ideas.
By paying attention to these three Ts, you’ll increase your odds of landing credibility-building, awareness-raising, “I’ve-got-to-learn-more-about-that-company” media coverage.