Guest Post: ‘Tis the Season! Choose Your Pitches Wisely

Summer's coming. Have you got a pitch?

What to pitch? That’s the question on the minds of many PR pros on a daily basis. Taking the time of year into account can narrow your choices and increase your chances for success.

In today’s guest post, Brian Scott-Smith takes a closer look at how timing plays a role in successful pitching. Scott-Smith is a journalist currently working for local broadcast outlets in Connecticut as well other traditional and online news outlets. He’s previously worked for the BBC and other stations in the UK. He’ll also be a panelist at The PR Summit Conference, taking place in New York and San Francisco.

Pitching the News Machine by Brian Scott-Smith

You’d think it a simple task: send your story to the news media and they’ll be interested in it. The reality can sometimes be very different.

If the story’s hot and has a celebrity attached to it then you’re almost guaranteed success in this fame-driven society we live in. And if it’s the latest in technology with an Apple attached to it or social media with a Facebook controversy, then again, you’re on to a winner. But timing is everything and that’s hard to judge, especially when a breaking news story can rain on your parade.

With summer hard on spring’s heels, the news cycle slows down as people and organizations go on leave, so the news media are left with a void to fill. This is your chance to jump in. Here are a few tips for pitching in the coming months:

-Knowing the media’s weakness is essential and that weakness is holiday time. Easter, summer, and towards Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year’s periods are always slow news times, so find a relevant seasonal hook to your story. Make it funny or different and you’ll be loved by news rooms all over the country.

-Sell the story well to the person in the news room as they then have to SELL that story to their news editors, who are a hard-arsed bunch of people. They eat aluminum cans for breakfast and use the news room intern for target practice.

– If you’re trying to sell something like financial services or insurance (I used to be a press officer in the UK for Zurich Insurance), keep in mind that no one really wants to get insurance or plan for their future as much as buying that latest gadget that will make us even more socially inept and nerdish. An effective way to “sexy up” an unsexy industry media release is with something quirky and different. For example, State Farm created a viral video that used accident statistics in the home during Christmas.

-Whizzing off your media release by email to the distribution list doesn’t mean your job is done and too many highly paid PR companies and in-house PR officers seem to think that’s the case. Pick up the phone, speak to the news desk, or if they claim to be busy (and they will always claim that), then speak to the futures or forward planning team and engage with them about your story and what angles you can work up with them.

Remember, news is personal so make it strike the right chord, even in the cold heart of the news editor. Then the job, as they say, is done.