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Play Ball: Pitching the Media Donna Lorenson and Kate McCormick Edelman Public Relations National Association of Health Underwriters Capitol Conference.

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Presentation on theme: "Play Ball: Pitching the Media Donna Lorenson and Kate McCormick Edelman Public Relations National Association of Health Underwriters Capitol Conference."— Presentation transcript:


2 Play Ball: Pitching the Media Donna Lorenson and Kate McCormick Edelman Public Relations National Association of Health Underwriters Capitol Conference March 27, 2006

3 The Media Environment More than a dozen national television networks 1,300 television stations, 8,000 cable stations 10,294 radio stations 1,700 daily newspapers, 8,000 weekly newspapers 12,000 magazines Three major wire services, plus assorted syndicated services Numerous online news services and outlets

4 What the Media Want From Us New and different story ideas Data/research Trend information Thought leaders Spokespeople

5 BriefingsDirect Pitch Industry Events OpportunisticControlled Lay foundation of understanding with key reporters and outlets Create innovative angles to pique interest and generate coverage Drive coverage through appropriate outreach surrounding annual meetings, summits and seminars Monitor research journals and news events to leverage; take advantage of editorial calendars Use op-eds and other controlled media or position pieces to keep news flowing and reinforce leadership position Understanding Story Channels

6 Understanding the Media Media relations is not a spectator sport – being proactive is key Perception is as important as reality Every encounter with the media is an opportunity to shape perceptions and deliver your message

7 Reporters Are Not Always Our Friends Competitive (daily, weekly, monthly) Surface more than depth Short-term memory Frequent turnover Often change posts/beats Its a for-profit business

8 Meeting in the Middle Your Interests: COVERAGE! Positive, accurate reporting of key messages Avoidance of negative news Relationship so that future positive coverage is likely Medias Interests: A good spokesperson A balanced story that contains the newsworthy elements Relevance to audience, but not salesy Beat the competition

9 The Windup To get the best results, research the reporters and topics you want to pitch before you start

10 Step One: Set Goals Introduce a story? Announce an event? Establish a relationship? Respond to environmental shift? Make breaking news? Opportunistic pitch?

11 Step Two: Assess Your News Determine the newsworthiness of the story Is this headline news or sidebar material? Can it stand alone or should it be folded into a broader context or trend? Who does it impact and how? Is this a unique announcement? Does it involve conflict or drama? Does it solve an existing problem?

12 Step Three: Research Who you are pitching? The person? The medium? What are the key messages? Competitive landscape Overall trends in the industry Recent events

13 Know your Topic Gain a sense of the larger trends Go to reporters with the whole story Give them the full spectrum of the issue Offer a range of people who are available for quotes or interviews

14 Know your enemy Know who is on the other side of the issue What are they saying? Go to their Web site to get a sense of their argument and develop a counter-strategy

15 Step Four: Prepare for the Pitch Press release Pitch letter Pitch points Facts, statistics Quotes from experts Analogy Media advisory Key messages Backgrounders Sources for additional information

16 Building a Compelling Pitch Letter Opportunity to interest a journalist in your story idea Persuasive, personalized and informative Provides contact information for follow up and an offer for additional information Types of pitch letters include grabber, didja know, problem/solution Always follow up a pitch letter with a phone call

17 When Do I Pitch? Daily newspapers: Call early, deadline at 4 p.m. Expected news, 1-2 weeks in advance Special sections, 2-4 weeks Weekly mags: 4-8 weeks ahead, but late breaking news can be worked in Long-lead mags: 3-6 months ahead Know what other current events are happening and make a connection

18 The Pitch

19 Avoid Pitching Cold Talk your pitch through with a colleague or to yourself before you begin Save the reporters you really want to reach until you feel comfortable with your pitch and have found your voice

20 Find Your Voice Although it may be helpful to write down what you want to say, do not read straight from a script Have a real conversation with the reporters Sounding unprepared or unsure can shut down a reporter

21 Dont Bury Your Lead Get to the point Pitch calls should be brief and meaningful Try to grab their attention in the first 15 seconds

22 Avoid Setting off an Argument in the Newsroom Double-pitching reporters is a fast-track to trouble There are often beat crossovers, especially at smaller publications If you do pitch two reporters at the same paper be sure to say By the way, I gave insert name here, your colleague this information as well

23 Keep Careful Notes of Your Pitching If you are pitching several reporters on a story, use your notes to keep track of who you called and what was said - this will allow you to follow up appropriately with each reporter Keeping notes can help you revise your media pitching strategy if a pitch is not working

24 Cultivate Relationships If there is a particular reporter you plan to contact frequently, place a call or send an to introduce yourself Once you have made a connection, keep notes of tidbits from your conversation to ask about the next time you talk to them (e.g., just got a new dog, children are graduating, just returned from Europe, etc.)

25 Be Persistent Do not leave voic s unless you have to You have not made contact until you have talked to someone on the phone or received a reply from them

26 Aggressive vs. Annoying Avoid overwhelming the reporter with: Excessive phone calls or Too much information Let the reporter know your plans to follow up: Ill call you tomorrow, once you have a chance to look at the release.

27 Possible Outcomes Voice mail No, Im not interested. It sounds good, but… Yes, that sounds interesting…

28 If you have to leave a Voic … Top line the story in 10 seconds Leave your name and number Two messages are enough, wait for live person Wait for the human voice when the story is evergreen Keep a detailed media log

29 No, Im Not Interested. Ask your contact a few questions: Are you the most appropriate person to contact? What in particular are you interested in? Is there a better time to contact you? If the reporter is too busy to answer your questions, then simply say thank you and move on to the next call If after getting answers to these questions you still think that your story is important, re-work your pitch, re-visit your key messages and pitch again!

30 It Sounds Good, But… Reporters may need more time if they are busy or on deadline If possible, call back later Some reporters may want more time to develop an angle, follow up at a later date

31 Yes, Im Interested… Find out what information you can provide Keep your goals in mind Work closely with the reporter for win/win coverage Make sure your spokespeople are prepared Confirm coverage date but roll with the punches Monitor for coverage

32 My Message was Misinterpreted Direct contact with the reporter Mention that you are attuned to his coverage and value working together; good relationship-building tool Dont go to the reporters boss - be direct, polite and offer helpful information, to be available for further questioning and to give access to experts Call to the producer With broadcast stories, visual images do not always correspond with the right spoken word; so there is a potential for misunderstandings If mistake was major, there is a chance that anchor will correct it on-the-air or rerun the segment to an online reporter In many cases, factual corrections are posted immediately

33 My Message was Misinterpreted Letter to the editor Considered a diplomatic response In many cases, these are not printed, but if so, it may be weeks after error Serious errors/omissions Evaluate whether to break off contact with the publication A confrontational last resort: sue for libel Direct communication with key stakeholders May help to undo the damage and inform appropriately, since the error has already published

34 In Summary… There are no guarantees Media are competitive Its a for-profit business Dealing with many personalities But, you can improve your chances for success Develop messages/resources for your target Timing is everything Be thorough in your preparation

35 Pitch a Perfect Game Always present yourself as: Knowledgeable Assertive Credible Articulate Passionate Courteous Responsive


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