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Small Business Marketing & Public Relations


Small Business Marketing & PR Advice

Posts tagged pitching
How to Come Up with PR Angles for Your Business
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One of the first things I do when I'm talking to a new or potential client is start brainstorming all of the angles that the media or influencers might be interested in about them. I often tell clients that kick-off meetings bring out the journalist in me as I essentially interview them about anything and everything that could be of interest and tie back into their brand, mission or ability to differentiate. In a world that's increasingly driven by consumers voting with their dollars, facts or storylines that the client isn't even thinking about can often be the most compelling, both in terms of getting press attention and in terms of connecting potential customers or users with the brand.

I also find that thinking through these pitch angles can help us make recommendations to the client around the copy that should be on their website, in email sequences, and more. Thinking about how you're going to pitch yourself to target media helps you hone in on your audience and messaging, so even if you're not planning to start the media outreach process now, it's a worthwhile exercise.

To start, here are a few prompts to get you brainstorming potential angles:

Your Background

So many people come to entrepreneurship via unexpected paths, and these backgrounds can make for wonderful stories. They can also help you fit into stories that are more generally appealing. For example, CPAs who start creative endeavors, or parents who start businesses with their kids (I have had three such companies come through my doors lately!), can make for compelling narratives. 

Look at the national landscape of news and see if there's anything you fit into. Tie into national conversations when you can, hot topics like immigration, The American Dream, work/life balance and working parenthood, etc. If your story can be part of a larger narrative, you have a better chance of being picked up.

Your Purpose, Your "Why"

Entrepreneurship is no joke, and most business owners have a more compelling reason for starting their companies than they just woke up one day and decided to do it. Whether it was a big hole in the market or a personal thing they were searching for and couldn't find, or the intrinsic motivation to become their own boss, or an even more profound and far reaching rationale, your purpose and reason for getting up in the morning and working so hard are important parts of your story.

How You're Transforming The Market You're In

Most likely as an entrepreneur, you saw a problem and wanted to solve it. Think about the issues in your market and how you're transforming them, whether you're building a better mousetrap, introducing a totally new idea, bringing choice to a landscape where none previously existed, making a solution more affordable, etc. Framing things to the media in a problem/solution context is helpful in garnering coverage. Anytime you're new and different, and especially if you have the potential to change a market, people want to know more.

The Things You Know Better Than Anyone Else

Pitching yourself as an expert can be a great way to get coverage because you're providing reporters with a source and expertise as opposed to asking them to just write about a product (a harder sell). Sit down and think about all the things you know better than anyone else about your industry or market and develop pitches around those. See something starting to trend or happen that you can alert reporters who cover your beat about? Have a commentary or counterpoint to something you've seen? Think that reporters are missing something that you can provide expert advice on? These are great opportunities for pitching.

How You're Different

It's almost essential for a company to have major differentiators from its competition to get media coverage based purely on the product or service. Think hard about how you're different and what that means for your audience. Are you making something affordable or accessible for the first time? Providing a first-of-its-kind service? Going against the grain of what is typical in the industry? Is yours just prettier, higher quality, more effective or solving a common issue that people have with similar products? Whatever it is that differentiates you can help lead to pitches around flaws in the marketplace, consumer needs and your product.

How to Give a Great Phone Interview

When clients hire us for PR, their main goal is to get coverage of themselves or their brand in target outlets. For a lot of people, they think our job is to reach out to media and get a placement. True. But there's one step that typically comes between our pitch and the coverage: the interview. And that's something that we can't (usually) do for the client, so our job is to do the next best thing and prepare them to give an interview that gets their brand across, gives the reporter information so that they have an interesting story to pursue and include the client in the story, and feel good about the piece that results.

While we put together a custom media prep for most major interviews that our clients do, there are a lot of tips that can help you do a great interview. Today, we're starting with the most common interview you'll have to do: a phone interview with a reporter, which can range from a quick 15-minute chat to an hour or more of in-depth profiling. Next, we'll talk about TV interviews, which have a slightly different strategy. Here are our top tips for acing your next phone interview with a reporter:

Do Your Research

Your first step should be to check out what the writer or reporter has written in the past. Read his or her past few articles and scan through for any that take a similar angle to what you've pitched for yourself. Simply by doing this, you can get a sense of what the writer is most interested in or his or her style when interviewing. You can quickly sense whether the writer is more surface or in-depth. Check out how long the pieces are and how much space is given to quotes; this will help you understand how to-the-point you need to be with your answers. Fewer quotes, shorter story = make sure every word you say counts. If a little longer and more in-depth, you can get a bit more personal with your answers.

Create Talking Points... and Write Them Down

Prior to the interview, jot down a few talking points that you want to be sure you're covering in the interview. You're talking about something you're familiar with, so a note or two should suffice. The purpose of writing it down is to have something to reference if you're at a loss or the interview is winding down and you want to be sure you've gotten everything in.

... But Just a Few

Three or four talking points will do ya. Don't overdo it - the point of talking points is to give yourself a short, simple message to get across. This is also a great exercise in honing in on your message and what's most important to communicate. If you're working with a PR pro, they'll help you distill these.

Don't Be Afraid to Not Give an Answer

Don't give an answer if you're not sure of it. If you expect the interview will have lots of facts and figures, memorize those or have them available to you to ensure accuracy. If you're asked something you don't know, it's OK to tell the reporter you'll follow up with the right answer. (Just be sure to get their deadline so you get them the info on time!) 

If there's a question you simply don't want to answer at all, you have two options. First, you can pivot if the question is tangentially related to something else you'd like to discuss. Common phrases you'll hear in a pivot are things like, "That's an interesting question, and it brings up..." or "A lot of people focus on that, but in fact, the important thing is..."

The second option is to be straightforward and tell the reporter that's not a question you're comfortable answering or at liberty to discuss. For example, if someone were to ask you a question about personal income as a business owner, a good answer might be, "I don't share my personal financial information. I can tell you the company has experienced year over year growth of 20%."

Understand What "Off the Record" Means

A lot of inexperienced interviewers aren't sure what "off the record" really means. So they'll say, "This is off the record, but..." There are a few things to remember about "off the record." The first is, essentially, it means nothing. Ethically, if a journalist agrees to it, then they shouldn't publish what you said. Practically and technically, the only thing stopping them is their relationship with you and their not wanting to burn a bridge, so you need to remember that when deciding what to share in any way.

I always remind clients that if you'd be mortified to see it in print, DON'T SAY IT. Ever. Unethical behavior aside, mistakes and miscommunications happen all the time.

The second reminder is that the reporter has to agree to go off the record with you. The proper way to do this is to ask, "Can we go off the record for a moment here?" When the reporter says, "Sure," then you can go ahead and continue.

Follow Up After the Interview

As a PR pro, it's our job to follow up post-interview. This is usually a time when we remind the reporter of the client's website or other brand information, send a few additional stats or talking points if they weren't shared in the interview and provide any other follow up info, as well as find out when the story will run.

If you've been interviewed, you should perform the same follow up to ensure the reporter has everything they need. If you promised them anything during the interview, like a photo, be sure to get that to them before their deadline.

Don't Bait & Switch - Be a Good Interview

If your pitch has opened the door to an interview, then make it a good one. Don't bait the reporter with a promise of a juicy story and then try to turn into a commercial for your brand once you get on the phone. Understand that the job of a reporter is to get a good story-not to promote your brand-and the more that you can help them do so, the better your relationship with the reporter will be going forward.

The Art & Science of Timing a Pitch

In a meeting with a potential client a few weeks ago, the topic of an article that your company should have been in--but wasn't--came up. This is a cringe-worthy moment that has happened to pretty much every PR person. The fact is, no matter how much we try to work our contacts and pitch our clients, there are lots of reporters working on lots of stories--unbeknownst to us.

However, there's a special art and science we combine to increase our chances of getting featured in a relevant story, and this special combination is the reason that many companies hire a PR person, when it comes down to it. 

The science piece is in consistency. This means coming up with relevant, creative angles to consistently pitch to the right reporters, writers and producers working at outlets that serve your target demographic. While targets will not pick up on every pitch, by virtue of being in touch with them regularly with good ideas, we're keeping your company top of mind and helping to cement the brand and its messaging so when a relevant story does come up, we have a better chance of being part of it.

The art piece is the way we identify reporters and producers that are relevant to the client, and how we time our pitches. We look for people who, as we call it, are covering around the subject, but haven't covered the topic yet. If someone's already covered your topic, they're likely not doing another story on it anytime soon, if ever (with the exception of breaking or developing news that is covered excessively). Here, our job is to get you in front of the reporter with how you can fit into future stories--pitching other relevant angels and introducing your brand so you're not left out again.

But the magic really comes when we can find someone who's writing around a pitch topic we're working - someone who'd clearly be interested in it, but hasn't covered it yet. That's what we, as PR people, spend our days figuring out and it's the reason most people outsource their PR work. That timing - coming in with a fresh idea just as a writer is thinking about a topic - isn't an accident. It's the result of studying and following the right people to get in touch at just the right time.

The tricky part of PR is the inability to guarantee results. Those of us who have been doing this awhile can pretty quickly get a sense of a good story, of something that's going to fly with the media versus something that won't - we can guess. But the real work comes in tracking down, identifying and timing these pitches. If you're DIY'ing your PR efforts, we suggest you spend extra time tracking the outlets and writers who are most interesting to you and ensuring that you're keeping on top of what they're working on and when an opportunity might open up.