One of the most important skills that a PR professional needs to develop is the ability to draft a targeted media pitch that captures the attention of a reporter, producer, blogger, etc. within three seconds. There are so many ways that you can connect with the media today – whether it’s by email, press release, Twitter, Facebook or even the old fashion way—the phone.
We recently sat down with TN Communications Group’s President Tom Nutile to learn more about his career as both an editor and media professional and some of his tips on how to pitch the media.Q: What’s it like working both sides of the fence—as editor and publicist?
It’s a huge advantage. As a working journalist I received pitches all day long—and I got to see what worked, and what didn’t. Now in my PR business, I know how to craft a media pitch, a press release, a video, that’s likely to resonate with the media and gain coverage.
Q: How has social media changed the way PR pros pitch the media?
Social media has opened up more channels to reach journalists and target audiences and markets. It’s a much more complex environment to work in. The news cycle is 24/7, with updates on a breaking story sometimes coming every few seconds. The conversation—the stories—can build quickly and take on a life of their own. The feedback can be instantaneous, and because of it social media is making PR people take a much more active role in managing the conversation. But I ask, who better to own that than PR people?
Q: Do the media still matter when PR people can publish what they want?
Absolutely yes. There is still a valuable role for the media today. There’s a reason that coverage in the media—from professional journalists—is called “earned media.” You have to earn it—you can’t buy it or just write it yourself. Coverage in the media—third party endorsements, if you will—has immense value. Study after study show that people truly value and look for gatekeepers who can judge the news and package it in a way that’s relevant to them. As long as people want that independent editorial voice, you will have the media, and as long as you have the media, you will need PR people to manage media relationships and craft meaningful messages—and pitches.
Q: Pitching the media is as old as PR. Is there anything truly new to say about it?
Understandably storytelling is at the heart of what we do, and that hasn’t changed.
There are always new ways to pitch, and journalists have changed. They want things faster, and they don’t want to have to work as hard to develop a story, so background info, whether it’s a graphic or data, is very important. They want short, tight, to-the-point pitches. And they want them in different, newer formats. Remember that journalists—and consumers—can reject your content in a flash—or they can take it viral just as quickly. Another fast-moving target is the truth. A falsehood or misconception can move quickly and derail your message before you know it. Pitching the media in this environment requires good storytelling with lightning quick reflexes, plus contingency plans for that fire you just didn’t anticipate.
Q: Do we need more and better tools than we used to in pitching the media or reaching your ultimate audience, whether it is the general public or an industry?
We need tools that work, that are up-to-date, and that resonate with the media we pitch and, ultimately, the audience we want to reach. That can mean a great OpEd piece for an online publication with high readership, it can be a tremendous Facebook post or tweet that goes viral. It can be a 90-second video, a case study or tight, bright website content. I spent half my career as a print journalist, and now the vast majority of my writing ends up online. There are ways to write effectively for each of these vehicles. What works for a tweet doesn’t necessarily work for an email pitch to a journalist, for example. I’ll share some of the secrets of how to write effectively for each these vehicles and more at “Crafting the Perfect Pitch,” the PRSA Boston writing seminar at ML Strategies on September 29. (Register here.)
About Tom Nutile
Tom is President of TN Communications Group, a boutique PR firm specializing writing, editing and media relations. A former journalist with the Boston Herald, St. Petersburg Times and Gannett, winner of three national Bulldog Awards for media relations, and a former VP of PR at Staples, Tom has more than 20 years of experience helping clients gain national and international exposure through print, broadcast and digital media placements. He can be reached at 508-397-2810 or email@example.com.
About Fast 5
This is a feature of PRSA Boston’s Hot Topics blog page. The expert subject is someone who is clearly in demand, on the go, and nailing them down for a conversation is about as easy as … winning Powerball at $1.5 billion! But we know leaders like to share, so check back for insights, wisdom, author’s books about to hit the stands and other valuable tips. @prsaboston #prsabos
Do YOU have a candidate for a FAST 5 interview? Email: Joshua Milne at firstname.lastname@example.org and pitch your subject expert!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author or the individual being interviewed and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of PRSA Boston, PRSA National, staff or board of directors of either organization.