This Valentine’s Day, Let’s Take a Break (From Pitching)

Dear Journalist,

February 14th has been a tradition to celebrate Valentine’s Day for as long as we can remember. Although the world has seen hundreds of years and countless technological evolutions since the first valentine was sent via snail mail, there are a few special Valentine’s Day memories that we all have in common.

Whether it was a handmade card you sent to your secret crush as a preteen, cheap candy your mother or father bought for you to pass out to the kids in school, or the overpriced roses and assorted chocolates in a heart-shaped box you gave to your sweetheart, Valentine’s Day has always been a way to show appreciation we have for one another – whatever the gift may be.

Rather than overflowing journalists’ inboxes and voicemails this Valentine’s Day, the HB PR team has put a new meaning to the holiday and proclaimed it #NoPitchDay.

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That’s right – this Valentine’s Day we hope you can feel the love as we switch our gears into other PR priorities. Here’s a taste of the kinds of things we do when we’re not pitching reporters:

  1. C’mon, we aren’t just pitch machines – we also focus on PR strategic planning. Press releases you read today may have been in the works for months. Like any strategic business consultants, we are always living in the moment while thinking ahead.
  2. While we may always have our next pitch in the back of our minds (it’s a habit) we’re also supporting our clients’ events attendance. This means we’re uncovering the latest hot conference that could positively impact their business, and in preparation may even help formulate interesting speaking topics for them.
  3. How do you think we determine if our PR programs are effective? Well…that’s where PR measurement and analytics reporting comes into play. We are always evaluating the effectiveness of our work and making course corrections to maximize our client investment.
  4. Content creation is a critical part of modern PR. Byline writing and uncovering thought leadership opportunities are responsibilities we must master on a daily basis.
  5. Every day we conduct market research in B2B technology, high tech, energy and sustainability, and medical technology. This keeps us abreast of the latest trends and makes us better PR practitioners.

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Valentine’s Bonus: As an added thank you we wanted to share some secrets about PR you might not know.

We don’t like liars or cheaters.

We won’t lie to you just to get a story. Good PR people have integrity and it means everything to us.

OK, we admit it. We’re not perfect.

Have you been wronged by a PR person in the past? Probably. Will it happen again? We hope not, but no one is perfect.

love-actually

CORRECTION: This guy thinks we are perfect.

We impact each other’s personal brands.

PR people talk about journalists. Journalists talk about PR people. Sometimes this happens in a public forum. (That’s what Twitter was invented for, right?!) Our personal brands are at stake and we want to do our best to keep those intact.

PR people enjoy working with journalists.

One of the reasons we work in PR is because we love working with you. We spend much of our time interacting with journalists, so we better. Journalists are truth seekers and while sometimes we may give our slant on a story, we’re hoping you’ll put together all the facts and share something compelling and accurate with the world. Of course, we’ll be crossing our fingers you’ll include our clients and say nice things. Is that too much to ask for?!

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We hope you enjoy a break from our pitching this Valentine’s Day. Remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and don’t worry…we’ll be back Monday!

PR Pitches Are Valuable Real Estate

In the spirit of effective pitching, I’m going to keep this post short and sweet. PR Knowledge

Communication is expressed in different forms. I get that. So why try the same communication approach across channels? Specifically, why do some pitches reaching journalists’ inboxes start something like, “Hi, XYZ. I hope your day is going well. I wanted to talk with you about …”

“I hope your day is going well.” – Let me tell you why that’s wrong.

The potential ROI of leaving that line in does not surpass the risk you take leaving it out.

Every word in a pitch is real estate, from the subject head to a signature. The value of that real estate is dependent on the order the journalist would read the pitch. Meaning, your email subject is the most important. It’s the first impression and what will get that person to delete or open.

The second most important copy is the first two sentences of your pitch. This is where the journalist decides whether they delete or keep reading. Chances are if you’ve got them to read that far, you might actually have a shot at closing the deal or at the least a response.

So why waste this valuable real estate on an insincere-looking greeting? Do you “really” care how this reporter’s day is going or do you care if this person will cover your client?

I asked my Twitter friends to chime in on this today and had some thoughtful feedback from a few journalists. Mitch Wagner, editor in chief of Internet Evolution, said “It’s a courtesy. It’s fine.” He followed up to clarify, “Pitches are entirely impersonal. I assume they’re generated by bulk email software. And I’m fine with that.”

While conceding that the greeting is a waste of real estate, Senior IT Reporter for Ars Technica, Jon Brodkin, followed up with “…the ‘hope you’re well’ doesn’t really bother me so much. There are tons of worse things.”

Roberto

So the basic point here: While it’s not always considered a rookie mistake to include a warm greeting in your pitch, you’re wasting valuable real estate and potentially lowering the value of your pitch.

Veni, Vidi, Vici PR

jobhuntersWhen I heard my client say “I was appalled,” I knew we had a story. It invoked emotion and played up the urgency of the topic at hand, which is cleaning up your social profile for the job hunt.

But it’s not the whole story. As I reflected on the success, I thought of Bill Murray’s wonderful adaptation of Julius Caesar’s famous tripartite: “We came. We saw. We kicked it’s ass!” There were essentially three stages to getting into that piece: Getting on the reporter’s radar, getting in the story, and getting the lede of the story.

Last week, Fresh Grounder Ruth Bazinet wrote about the importance of relationships in PR, reminding us that, while story is important, relationships and tenacity are just as important.

In this case, the story would never had happened without relationships and trust. Relationships opened the door and made my phone ring. Tenacity (not so much with the reporter in this case, but with other folks who might be able to help the reporter out) got both me and my client in the article. The story my client was able to tell got her the lede.

"Belgium Pastries" by David Blaikie

“Belgium Pastries” by David Blaikie

It’s not rocket science. But it’s not a simple story vs. connections dynamic either.

They say that cooking is an art, but baking is a science. That makes the PR pitch more like making pastries: you need a little bit of both.