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HomeExecutive BriefThe Art of the Pitch: Building relationships and telling your story

The Art of the Pitch: Building relationships and telling your story

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PR perfect pitch
PR perfect pitch by Eniola Mayowa

In the years gone by, pitching press releases was tasking, tedious, and demanding; it required going around the city.

You would rather meet the journalist and personally deliver the paper copy of the press release to the media houses to guarantee the result.

Besides, you will have to be intentionally friendly to the security men and women at the entrance to get authentic information about the movement of a journalist, particularly in the period before mobile phones became everyone’s tools and devices.

I recall the many experiences of media runs in the late 1990s and early 2000s; you have to be physically present to pitch a press release.

When corporate and brand news breaks, everyone must be on the run with the news to media organizations scattered all over, from the island to the mainland, and from the north to the southern part of the mainland, where many media houses were located.

Pitching press releases has changed over time! It is easier, more convenient, and swift now! You can share your news items from your desk with all journalists and media houses across the globe if you have a robust and detailed media directory.

The emerging and evolving pitching process is one of the major enablers technology has brought to the world of public relations practice. Now, I pitch press releases to international media organizations effortlessly and with a click, when the global audience is the target.

With press release pitching made easy with technology, some public relations practitioners and corporate communication managers still hide behind one finger in managing their press releases and editorial content for results.

You must understand that pitching your press release to earn media coverage is crucial to public relations and brand visibility. To successfully pitch your news to journalists, it’s important to be strategic, concise, and engaging.

You should not consistently send press releases to journalists or media outlets with whom you have not established a relationship. Such an approach to pitching press releases creates an unhealthy perception of your brand.

Engage your audience, that is, the journalists and the media organization purposefully in your media relations.

Build relationships over time rather than just reaching out when you need coverage and interact with journalists on platforms like X, formerly Twitter and LinkedIn by commenting on their posts and sharing their content.

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It is equally important to regularly engage with journalists by sharing relevant industry news, commenting on their articles, acknowledging their feedback, and keeping them informed about future stories.

A well-crafted press release can significantly enhance your media coverage when pitched correctly.

You must write a clear, concise, and compelling headline that grabs attention and conveys the main point of your news. Let your first paragraph summarize the most important aspects of your news: who, what, where, when, why, and how, and make it interesting for readers—the journalists’ constituency is the reading public.

Note that your crafted press release is not deemed complete without providing clear contact details for a media relations representative who can answer any questions, and never forget to include email, phone number, and possibly social media handles.

Sometimes, your press release may attract an exclusive offer from a high-profile journalist; respect the exclusivity.

I recall a news editor and a good friend once making such a request. We had an urgent demand to be in the media, and the target was A-list newspapers with a wide audience in the business community.

So I called my friend to pitch the press release and pronto the offer! “I can use the press release on the front page, provided it is not shared with any other newspaper house.”

And that was the deal. The result was magical! Other media houses chased for the follow-up stories. If you have promised exclusivity, keep your word and don’t present the same thing to other writers.

I have seen poorly written press releases.

A damn good journalist with whom a cordial relationship is established may attempt to repackage the press release for use, but that may not work in all instances.

Mind you, journalists receive a deluge of press releases contending for limited space; hence, the onus is on the author of the press release to make it interesting and ensure it encourages the reader to continue to read to the end.

Timing is very crucial in pitching your press release for maximum results. You must be aware of the journalist’s deadlines and the publication’s editorial calendar and news circle. It is important to pitch your story at a time when it’s likely to get the most attention.

Avoid pitching during busy news periods or before major holidays unless your story is directly related to those events. Within the space of time, you can strategically follow up on the journalist, using the opportunity to reiterate the relevance of the press release. This must be done most respectfully.

Be sure to adhere to ethical standards in your dealings with journalists by being honest and transparent.

Ensure precise information and avoid misrepresentation to sustain trust and foster long-lasting relationships; hence, trust is essential. When offering an embargoed story, make sure the journalist gives consent to the conditions before sharing the details.

Positioning yourself as a reliable source of information and offering your expertise by making yourself available for interviews will make it easy for you to pitch your press releases successfully. This will further endear your brand and your editorial content to the media.

You can also optimize your process by ensuring that your press release pitch and supporting materials are mobile-friendly and accessible by including hyperlinks to additional resources and social media handles.

Post your press release on your company’s social media channels to increase visibility and tag relevant journalists and media outlets, but do so sparingly and appropriately.

In addition, you may consider the use of multimedia elements like infographics, videos, and interactive content to make your pitch more engaging.

To pitch your press release and earn robust media coverage, you must know how to tell a compelling story, be prepared to make your connection personal, and be intentional in building sustainable relationships across beats, cadres of journalists, and the media houses.

Valuable, timely, and relevant information with the use of technology will help you get the attention of journalists, thereby increasing the chances of getting media coverage and forming strong bonds with them. Keep in mind that successful pitching is not only anchored on the story but also the rapport established.

  • Mayowa, a Fellow of NIPR, is the COO of Stepcraft Nigeria Ltd., a reputation management firm

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