Leigh Gibson, account director at Intrepid, “lived and breathed” journalism before she went into public relations. Having experience in both worlds, Gibson knows the ins and outs of pitching stories to the media.
In her relationship with the media, Gibson lives by what she calls the “Golden Rule of PR” which is that “we just do everything we can to make their job easier.” Living by the Golden Rule will help provide a better story. On February 24, in a lecture held by the BYU PRSSA, Gibson gave a few suggestions in order to let the Golden Rule be beneficial in your media pitching.
1. Show the Story
In a world of short-attention spans, a visual is the perfect tool to hook someone into a story. One of Intrepid’s clients that Gibson had the opportunity to work with was the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT). Looking at UDOT statistics, an increased number of people had the perception that UDOT was not finishing projects quickly. The solution to this problem was quite simple: shooting time-lapse videos of projects.
One of the first videos they pitched to the media was UDOT tearing down a bridge overnight. The media posted the video and got UDOT thousands of views and a positive change in perspective. News outlets don’t always have the time to go out to record video and take photos. They will take whatever help they can get. Provide them photos and B-roll to use in their articles and broadcasts. By doing it yourself, you get to control the story and the media gets what they need.
2. Make it Sexy
Sometimes a story is completely uninteresting. It is unavoidable. When pitching a story to the media, they want something that the public is going to read. “With any story you have, you need to try and find what’s interesting,” Gibson taught. “There are ways to make it interesting.”
You have a responsibility to get the information out, no matter how boring the topic might be. Creativity is what makes the difference. It might be creating the right video or formatting the story content into a list. There is always an option.
There are ways to make a story interesting; you just have to try something new and share what is unique. A quote by Joseph Chilton Pearce that reminds Gibson to do just that says, “To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.”
In addition to creativity, context means everything. When you are giving numbers and data, give them in a way that the common person would understand. Art Silverman, with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, showed this by describing 37 grams of saturated fat as “more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings — combined!” Now that is an image that people can understand.
3. Know your Journalists
One of Gibson’s pet peeves as a journalist was when she was pitched a story for a topic that she didn’t write about. Knowing who to pitch your story to is as pivotal as knowing what to pitch.
Certain journalists have more experience in writing about certain topics. Before pitching a story, first figure out which outlets to pitch to, then find out which journalists would be best to write your story. Doing your research and pitching to the right journalists will make a big difference in the quality of the published story.
Read lots of articles within the topic of the story you will be pitching. Find the parts of their articles that you see as their strengths. When you have found a journalist that meets your expectations, then you will be ready to pitch them your story.
In final preparation for the pitch, Gibson said that you want to “hook them in the first sentence or two.” Make sure your pitch is straight to the point and specifically tailored to whichever journalist you will be talking to.
As soon as you are prepared, it’s time to shoot off that email or make that phone call. If you follow these three tips, your pitches are sure to stand out.
Karsten Kutterer is a public relations student at Brigham Young University. He is happily married to the girl of his dreams and is excited for his son to be born in June. He loves passing the hours away with his nose in a book, playing board games or eating his wife’s delicious cooking.