Longtime pitching guru Shelly Gordon, principal of G2 Communications and a workshop leader for a training company called WriteCulture, has witnessed the arrival of Twitter and the swan song of the press tour. Now, she’s embracing the 140-character landscape by doing her research, staying creative and building relationships in new ways. We asked Shelly for her best “lived it” advice on pitching.
Q: How have your approaches to journalists changed in the past two years?
Today there’s a paradox: There are far more ways to communicate with journalists, but you’re far less likely to reach them, unless you can schmooz them at a tradeshow.
The chance that a journalist will answer the phone nowadays is slim because half as many journalists are doing three times as much work. I follow journalists on Twitter and LinkedIn, and comment on and share their posts.
Nowadays, the most important question is: “Can you distill your pitch down to its essence… about the size of a tweet?” I have texted and direct-messaged pitches to journalists who follow me on Twitter. One journalist I know likes quirky medical studies. So I sent him a direct message: “Just found a quirky medical story. Want to know more?” That tweet got a response.
Or I’ll pitch with 2-3 lines in an email and then write, “See below for details.”
Q: Are the traditional approaches dead? What classic tactics still work well?
A: What has not changed is the story angle that merits a response from the reporter—“…battery storage is hot; we have an energy storage battery killer. We have a utility company that’s testing the product and willing to share first impressions…” Good story angles will never change even if newspapers disappear entirely.
Also, the way I talk on the phone when reporters do pick up.
I make a point of matching their tone, speed, cadence and energy. If they speak quickly, I speak quickly. If they cut to the chase, I cut to the chase. Most importantly, I speak succinctly in plain language about their reader’s pain points, and convey a story about peoplethat has some element of implied or explicit emotion.
Storytelling is the heart of what makes news. That’s not going to change. If you don’t have something that helps journalists spark and develop a story, then you won’t be able to get covered.
Q: Does the new landscape offer new opportunities?
Instead of only relying on reporters, I create content for clients, get it published in their preferred media outlets and posted on their social channels. From industry publications to Forbes and Fortune, editors are now accepting content from vendors.
The model of pitching to a reporter is still a big part of the business, but now I can also be the content producer, and the content I create has a longer shelf life.
If your content has a decent ranking, prospects will find you on the Web, come to your website, download your new e-book and buy your product. There’s a much bigger echo for your client’s message that goes far beyond a single published source.
Q: How do you get reporters to focus on your clients?
You have to always be thinking, “How can I come up with something different? How can I make what my clients do compelling?”
If I have a small client without much news, I offer the CEO as a topic expert or a customer for a real-life anecdote.
You play the odds, you do everything in your power you can think of that’s creative and unique for the reporter, and when they respond, it’s thrilling and satisfying.
PR has always served two masters: the client and the journalist. Now, a new way we serve the media is by doing more of their legwork. We take a larger role in producing content they can use.
We also interact with their content in a way that’s similar to how we wish they would interact with our client’s messages. It’s still very much a symbiotic relationship.
Guest contributor Lauren Edwards is CEO and founder of WriteCulture.