Hit it Out of the Park with a Formal Release or Fast Pitch
Timing is everything! Take this blog post for example… I wrote it August 2017 as one in a series for a start-up community that never took hold. The Twins were not so hot at the time. Now, however, it’s a different story made relevant for several reasons. 1. The content was a good fit for the entrepreneurs I just talked with 5.22 at Good Acre as part of the Food Accelerator program; and 2. the Twins are super hot! So let’s roll with this…
There are several methods in start-up mode for gaining media attention. But it’s hard to argue that you don’t need awareness and lots of it immediately. In my previous posts, Pre-Public Relations: Create Your Assets; Craft Your Story I outlined DIY steps any business owner can take at their business onset to prepare for media attention. That’s a great place to start.
If you’re ready for what’s next – reaching out to the media -- we’re diving into that here. The methods and approach with media could vary from a formal press release to an on-the-fly email, or fast pitch, to the right media contact at the right moment and everything in between. Here are some ideas on two ways to approach media.
THE PRESS RELEASE
The press release can be a fantastic tool in many ways, but don’t assume you need one in all cases. They can be time-consuming to create and distribute so first, start by thinking through what you hope to accomplish by creating one. Ask:
o Is there a compelling story to tell?
You may be biased, after all your business is your baby. Check with a trusted advisor outside of your day-to-day operations who can be straightforward with you about the relevancy of your news/story. Ideally, someone in media. They might point out that what you thought was the lead story is actually secondary or unimportant. They might point you in the right direction of the lead story, which might be a new spin on your original or something entirely new that hadn’t occurred to you.
o Is the timing right to tell that story now?
Understanding how your story fits into the media and context of current events at a local and global level is key. You may decide a social media launch is your primary focus while you patiently wait until the time is right to place your efforts into a larger-scope media relations effort.
o Who will care about your story?
Start with the end in mind. Instead of envisioning news media right off the bat, start by thinking about the end beneficiary of your business offering. Then think about what they read, view, experience and care about to determine the media you’ll want to reach.
o What is the ideal outcome of the release?
Carefully think through the purpose of your release. There are no guarantees any media outlet will pick it up and remember, if they do, you most likely won’t have editing or review privileges. Set your expectations accordingly. Often times you’re thinking front-page splash and what turns up in print is a one-sentence mention.
To get more bang for your efforts, think about additional benefits a press release can provide including:
o The press release is a way to formalize content between business stakeholders and language they’re using to share your story as brand ambassadors.
o The release sends a message to media that you’re officially ready and welcoming conversation and if you’ve created your assets – see blog – you can back this up. Also remember that while they might not immediately jump on your news, they may file it away for future use (I just had a reporter call me about a release I sent him two years ago).
o The release can be the first step in building a relationship with a media outlet, in particular, a person in media. Plan to be creatively persistent yet respectful of their time. Always be responsive, professional and straightforward to continue to build trust.
The Press Release Approach
To put a polished press release together, think like a reporter. It’s tempting to approach the task by weaving a colorful story with lots of industry buzzwords and multi-adjective descriptors. Don’t. Keep it fact-based when it comes to your value proposition and the solution you offer.
The story component of a press release should be drawn from the context of the current business or consumer environment that your product or service addresses. Are there compelling statistics or facts that tell a story about a trend or behavior that are newsworthy?
Including a quote from the business owner or representative is the most personable way to connect the marketplace challenge with your business’s solution. With this content type, you can break from the fact-based writing of the release into an insightful moment that should position you/ your business as an expert with a credible and influential voice.
If the quote content goes beyond the basic, we’re thrilled to be launching this product… and eludes to your depth and knowledge on the subject or story, a reporter will be more encouraged to pick up the phone and have a conversation with you.
It used to be that a well-written release with a compelling story could be the avenue into a media contact for a story about your business. Don’t hit send and expect calls to come in from those wanting to cover your story. Do your homework. Search online to see what the media outlet you’re trying to reach has historically covered and is currently covering.
If possible, contact the media outlet directly via phone call. If that’s not an option, focus on email and social media connectivity. With any route, frame your pitch with relevancy and efficiency. Keep it concise. Be proactive in your suggestions for content i.e. offering interviews, providing video or imagery, etc. Leave the door open for future conversations and plan to put some effort into establishing their trust.
THE FAST PITCH
If you’re a start-up, the idea of creating a press release might be daunting, time-consuming and require resources that you don’t currently have. The good news is that a fast pitch – a brief email or phone call - can work in your favor and help you capitalize on a single defining feature of start-ups: newness.
Journalists depend less on press releases landing in their in-boxes for news and more on their own insights, online and other types of research to determine what’s newsworthy. What you have to offer as a start-up pitching a story is an insider track and news that is highly time-sensitive and exclusive. Capitalize on that!
The Fast Pitch Approach
Sharing an idea in a story-based way that intrigues a reporter or editor is the goal of the fast pitch. The story can be your own or a story about some unique angle or collaboration or and end-user who directly benefits from your business or service offering.
If you’re not sending a press release to the masses, you can afford to take some time and connect your story to a reporter’s interest or their audience’s interest. How is what you have to share related? In the context of local, national, industry, related industries, what’s unique about your story? Does it offer something counter-intuitive or something so obvious that solves a problem?
A Specific Offering
Sending your fast pitch with a clear offering that helps a reporter or media connect the dots and makes their job easier is always appreciated. They don’t need you to write the story for them, just tee it up with the right supporting connections and assets and they’ll start to envision it while building a relationship with you. Be sure you can deliver on what you offer. For example if you offer a behind-the-scenes tour of your new facility, be sure to do some preliminary work getting approvals and connecting with people that would need to make it happen if a reporter takes you up on it.
Sending an email is best for starters. You can follow it up with a phone call, but email first to establish credibility. Infuse some reference to their recent work and why you think the information you have to share is of interest to them. Then get to the point. When you sign off, include your full name, contact info, website and social media links.
We’ve shared approaches from the release to the fast pitch and it’s almost feeling like a ballgame! As you vary your approaches and become comfortable with them, experiment with other angles like brand influencer conversations and event-oriented social media campaigns to broaden your brand appeal. From your in-person and digital presence to participating in a cause much larger than yourself and your business, opportunities are out there.
Remember that you’ll strike out sometimes. Other times you’ll hit it out of the park. And those are the meaningful moments that matter. Start-ups, batter up!
Hit it Out of the Park
PR strategies and tactics from formal release to fast pitch