An Inside Look at a Pitch Craft for Press Coverage Event

The value of an excellent pitch

As Nellie PR’s director, Ellen Carroll, points out, the true value of a well-crafted pitch isn’t just securing great press coverage – although, of course, that’s the goal.

It’s also about earning credibility, for yourself, and for the company you’re representing. Having the relevance of your story recognised by a third party, and getting it published, is a huge leg-up and builds reputation.

Pitch Craft for Press Coverage

Nellie PR has been running Pitch Craft for Press Coverage courses for more than two years now, led by our own director, Ellen Carroll. Ellen has over twenty years of experience pitching client news stories, and building journalistic relationships that last, and with the recent changes to the working lives of journalists, it’s more important than ever that we take heed of these skills.

The Pitch Craft for Press Coverage events seek to provide tips and advice to PR practitioners and people in business, from those looking to brush up their skills, to total newbies just starting out. The course helps build confidence, and offers an open platform to voice all pitching queries or concerns.

As of this week, Pitch Craft for Press Coverage has also helped to raise over £1000 for the HOMELESS IN TEIGNBRIDGE SUPPORT (H.I.T.S.) foodbank. Thanks to the generosity of the people who have attended the special donation-only webinar events.

What’s it like to attend a Pitch Craft for Press Coverage Event?

As Nellie PR’s intern, I was invited to come along (online) to the latest event to take part, get some insights, and of course, learn some new skills. It was enlightening to see the complicated process of pitching laid out in such an uncomplicated way, and Ellen’s experience really shone through.

For the sake of others who may be wondering about the specifics of crafting an effective pitch, or perhaps (like me) you’re unsure where to even begin, I thought I’d share some of my findings from the Pitch Craft for Press Coverage event.

8 Effective Pitching Tips:

  1. Remember your audience. No, not the person reading your pitch – your actual audience, as in the readers of the publication you’re pitching to. Take the time to match up your story to the right readership, research the publication, and be sure that you’re sending your pitch to a journalist who writes about the topic you’re covering.
  2. Don’t overlook opportunities. Credibility is built up over time, so don’t shy away from those smaller or local publications, particularly if you’re just starting out. Previous coverage looks great to journalists, so get your name out there wherever and whenever you can.
  3. Personalise your pitches. Just like the rest of us, journalists like to know that you care about their work. If you’re pitching to them because you’ve seen their recent coverage of a story, tell them. It will prove to them that you’ve done your research and that your pitch is relevant to them – meaning they’re more likely to pay attention to it. Remember though, they don’t want to be pitched about something they have already covered – so always offer a new angle or story.
  4. Tell the story. When pitching, remember to get the basics down. Don’t forget to tell the story, and if you get stuck, remember the 5 w’s: who, what, when, where, and why?
  5. Nail your hook. A gripping hook (or ‘peg’) is what captures the attention of journalists. It’s the thing that makes your story unique, relevant, and topical, such as interesting and independent research, a reaction to recent news, follow-up, or the promise of a case study. If you’re struggling to find ideas, tune into the media (be it radio, newspapers, or social media news channels), which are always chock-full of current news stories that you can put your own spin on.
  6. Research. This is a word which keeps coming up, but seriously, research. A simple google search should tell you how journalists like to be approached as well as what they don’t like.
  7. Use Twitter. Twitter is the home of all media personnel. It’s where you’ll be about to find them, follow them, engage with their content, and if you’re lucky, get your name noticed by them. If you don’t use Twitter, start today.
  8. Include a call to action! Try to end your pitch with a call to action. An active tone will get those journalists engaged and involved in the story, and most importantly, it will encourage them to take the next step to securing you coverage.

During the event, Ellen covered all these tips and more. Really – this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to crafting the perfect pitch. Other subjects we covered included: how to structure your pitch, mistakes to avoid, how to write a great subject line, and ways to search for opportunities.

If you want to learn more, and fancy honing your pitching skills, take a look at the Pitch Craft for Press Coverage course here (Media Pitching Training – Nellie PR).

A final reminder for Pitch Craft:

Remember, journalists, freelancers, bloggers, and the like need you as much as you need them. They need stories, they need ideas and content. If you’ve got a great story and something to say, want to say it and would benefit from some amazing press coverage (what business wouldn’t), be confident in your Pitch Craft for Press Coverage skills and go for it.

Tillie Holmes

Communications, PR and marketing intern at Nellie PR & Communications

Find me on: Web

How to Collect and Project Manage a Successful Research Project

As part of the CIPR South West virtual learning series, Joey Green and Anita Kershaw, from Censuswide research consultancy (link), hosted an event on how to collect and project manage a successful research project.

I went along to the virtual event and heard the wisdom they had to impart on planning, managing, and delivering a productive research project. Joey Green, the Creative Lead at Censuswide, has a prosperous background in PR, and so her insights were effectively structured towards members of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

As a PR novice myself, it really helped to clarify the daunting prospect of managing a research project, and so I wanted to would share an outline of what I learnt.

Here are the highlights from the event:

Coming up with your idea

First and foremost, how do you generate and develop ideas for your research project? How do you know what’s going to land with your audience.

  1. Research. Find out what people are talking about (places like Reddit are great for this). Browse all your favourite media channels for ideas and inspiration. Remember, good research gets people talking, but what people are talking about can also inform good research. It goes both ways!
  2. Figure out your headline. Don’t finalise your headline until your research is complete, but you should list ten or more ideas for headlines so that you’ve got a direction to head in.
  3. Don’t be too obvious. You want your research to surprise people, because that it what makes for good news stories, so always try to put a new spin on an old tale.
  4. Consider using a tried and tested formula. They’re popular for a reason, so don’t hesitate to use the formulas that have proven to work.

Decide upon a formula

The formula for your research is dependent on what best fits your topic, so consider it carefully against your project goals. You have several options here.

  1. Pinpointing specific numbers. Example – ‘Surveys show that over 1000 people think…’
  2. Highlighting ignorance of specific audience. Example – ‘1 in 5 people don’t know that…’
  3. Profiling people and highlighting differences. Example – ‘Men are five times more likely to…than women.’
  4. Human interest. Example – Explore people’s awareness of a topic, provide them further information, then ask for their opinion/ reaction.
  5. Hijacking news stories. Example – Using current news stories to inform or inspire research around a topic.

Constructing your questions

When it comes down to writing your survey questions, there are a lot of things to consider. However, there are some things you should always be doing:

  1. Know your desired outcome. Keep your top-line in mind and know what you want your back-up stats to be.
  2. Relevant. Ensure all your questions are relevant to the desired outcome.
  3. Avoid jargon. Be clear about what you’re asking and use language that all respondents will know.
  4. Avoid lengthy questions. Long, complicated questions will incur drop-outs from survey takers. Keep it simple and to-the-point.
  5. Provide a ‘nudge’. This can be a line underneath the optional answers which helps clarify challenging (or ‘vague’) questions.

‘Tick One’ verses ‘Tick All’

Which to choose? Well, there are pros and cons for both, but here are some basic tips that will help you decide:

On a whole, you’ll have a clear winner if you choose the ‘Tick One’ format.

BUT

If you want a specific answer to appear high in the stats, the ‘Tick All that apply’ format will make it far more likely that you’ll receive a higher percentage on that answer.

Who do you want to target?

This answer to this is entirely dependant on what you want your research to achieve, so consider the story and who it impacts. Generally, there are two target audiences: consumers or businesses (B2B).

You’ll want to divide your overall respondents into smaller categories when it comes to assessing the data, so include questions that will allow for ‘splits’. Common splits include: age, gender, region, and city.

Examples of consumer splits: relationship status, number of children, annual household income.

Examples of B2B splits: job title, company turnover, industry.

You can also slice and dice your research findings by geography, including region and nearest city.

Final takeaways

  1. Work backwards from your intended outcome. Always keep your goal in mind, but don’t be too rigid. Remember that the research comes first, and the results follow.
  2. Where possible, be bold. Bold stories sell, so whenever the opportunity to make a statement presents itself, seize it.
  3. Consider topical news hooks you can tie you research to. Keep an eye on the media and take inspiration from the conversations that are circulating. As with any story, a news hook is key to your research attracting interest.
  4. Put collaboration at the heart of your project. A research project centres around people, so keep them close wherever you can.

If you’re thinking about expanding your knowledge around research projects, or maybe managing your very first, CIPR have some great tips to share. You can find more at the CIPR website, where they run a full-day course on PR research management (link – Display event – Introduction to PR research (cipr.co.uk)).

Tillie Holmes

Communications, PR and marketing intern at Nellie PR & Communications

Find me on: Web

Nellie PR’s New Marketing and Communications Intern

Professional writing student joins the Nellie PR & Communications team

When it comes to the business of communication, there’s a lot to learn, and what better way to do this than learning on the job? That’s why Nellie PR adopts an intern every couple of years. They’re keen to find emerging talent and put them to good use, showing them the ropes of creating professional communication, and unforgettable PR and marketing strategies.

As this year’s intern, I thought I’d introduce myself. Hi, I’m Tillie Holmes.

Just as interns have done before me in days gone by, I’ve joined Nellie PR to explore my skills and learn many more. As a long-term student of creative writing, I’ve always been drawn to storytelling; through interviews, articles, and short fiction – you name it, I’ve tried my hand at it. And so, in my eyes, it makes perfect sense to dive head-first into a career in PR and business communications, where I can make a living telling other’s stories.

Fulfilling what some would say is the stereotype of a creative writer, I’ve worked for several years in the hospitality industry. I’m now a qualified professional in steaming milk, fetching tap water, and remembering coffee orders.

But thankfully, that’s not what I’ll be doing at Nellie PR. I hope to be delivering blog posts, developing business copy, and learning some much-needed social media skills. With this opportunity to learn, I’ll be expanding the business writing skills I’ve discovered this year at university, where I’m currently heading into my final term of an MA in professional writing.

When I said I was a long-term student of creative writing, I wasn’t kidding.

In the last six years, I’ve completed a degree in English with creative writing, as well as correspondence courses in copy-editing and proofreading. I’ve experienced the ‘graduate wasteland’ more than once, and can tell you that it’s no easier the second or third time around.

So, I’m grateful that this time, I’ll be donning that cap and gown with some real-life experience under my belt. And paid real-life experience at that, as Nellie PR is one of the rare employers who always pay their interns.

Really, what I’m most excited for is being given the chance to challenge myself. After a lockdown-infested year of shrinking comfort zones and waiting waiting waiting, I’m thrilled (and a little nervous) to be finding my footing again and seizing opportunities wherever they appear. Over the next year or so, I look forward to pushing myself, forming connections with clients and business partners, discovering their stories, and kick-starting a career in business communications.

Tillie Holmes

Communications, PR and marketing intern at Nellie PR & Communications

Find me on: Web

How to be a Thought Leader

Do you want to step out of the shadows as a thought leader? Or, help your client or a member of your team to work towards thought leadership? You do? Well, please watch the recent webinar session I ran on this very subject: Thought leadership and how to step out of the shadows as a thought leader.

I hope you find my thought leadership tips useful and if you want to find out more about the PR that PAYS framework, please visit the PR that PAYS programme for more information. You can also find out more about my one-to-one PR mentoring here.

I shared these tips as part of the CommunicateYOU virtual summit. This one-day event brought together six business owners (including myself) to share with you their top tips on how you can communicate your personal brand effectively to connect with more people and generate better business in your own authentic voice.

If you’re interested in finding out more about CommunicateYOU and watching all the webinars, including all the following sessions, visit: Communicate YOU virtual summit.

For more information

Please contact me at ellen@nelliepr.co.uk if you need any further information or have a question you want to ask. To register and find out more about the PR that PAYS programme, go to PR that PAYS online PR strategy programme.

Ellen Carroll

Ellen Carroll is a strategic PR and communication consultant. I provide PR training, mentoring and consultancy to help people and businesses to step out of the shadows with #PRthatPAYS

Find me on: Web | Twitter

Pitch Craft Guide to Media Pitching: Secure Press Coverage

Pitch Craft Nellie PRSecure earned media coverage with my Pitch Craft Guide to Media Pitching. 

What a perfect Halloween day or rather a good enough spooky excuse to face some of your fears or rather one of your fears – the fear of media pitching or selling in your story to a journalist or blogger to secure media coverage.

Many businesses I talk to are scared to pitch their story for fear of rejection. And even if you work in PR and comms, you know that pitching is a craft that takes skill especially when you take into consideration the volume of emails that journalists receive daily. I’ve also witnessed experienced PR people wince at the thought of pitching especially if it means that they have to pick up the phone.

But don’t let fear hold you back. Media pitching doesn’t have to be scary. Indeed, once you’ve got a few successful pitches under your belt, you’ll come to love it, just like I do.

To help you, here are some Pitch Craft treats from me your friendly PR Witch – only at Halloween mind (the witch part that is) as I’m friendly all year round and really know my stuff when it comes to pitching.

Pitch Craft Treats for You

Get over Yourself

Remember, journalists, freelancers, bloggers, and the like need you as much as you need them. They need stories, they need ideas and content. If you’ve got a great story and something to say, want to say it and would benefit from some amazing press coverage (what business wouldn’t), brush up your Pitch Craft skills and get over yourself.

Why? Because it’s not about you. The end readers and viewers need to come first – answer the why or rather the ‘so what’ to make sure your pitch takes into account what the end audience wants to read, see or hear. The more you understand that audience, the better your pitch will be and you will focus on the outlet that is right for your audience.

Hook

Keeping with the Halloween theme – do you have a hook?

By hook, I mean a strong story that fits the publication/outlet in question such interesting and independent research, reaction to timely issues or news, follow-up or the promise of a case study.

In the main, the media isn’t interested in product news unless you’re talking the latest tech or selling in product for a specific feature. If that is the case, pitch away but make sure you don’t forget your hook – the thing that will make you stand out.

If you’re stuck for a hook, monitor the news for key issues in your industry. Google Alerts is a good free tool for this and could give you the hook you need to get in touch with the journalist that has just covered a particular issue – offer them a different angle or an opposing view, for example.

Research

Do your research. Is there a particular publication that you want to get in? Make sure you do your research and understand what exactly they are looking for and what taking part will entail. For example, if you’re looking for a slot on BBC 5 Live or BBC Breakfast that means an early start (so you have to be up for that and available) and the broadcast media will expect a busy and visual backdrop – so that will mean that you need to get your staff in early. Don’t promise and then not be able to deliver – you don’t tend to get second chances.

When checking out the publication or media outlet, you’ll see what sort of stories they cover and what sort of opportunities are available such as:

  • Features list or editorial calendar detailing the up-and-coming schedule – so you can time and pitch your comment in line with what they’re looking for
  • Submission guidelines – take note of these (same applies to blogs) – check out submission guides or ways you can work with me/contribute/FAQs) and follow the rules i.e. submit a synopsis first and ensure that the content is unique and hasn’t been featured elsewhere
  • Guest blog post – lots of publications give you the opportunity to submit guest blog posts. Again, follow the rules and if you get an opportunity, make sure you deliver and stick to the word count
  • Think beyond the obvious – there are some great podcasts, Twitter chats, and speaker opportunities. Take your time to understand the opportunities and where you could plug a gap or offer something different.

No opportunities or guidance listed? Drop a line to the publication in question. Many publications will issue a regular email to their PR contacts to let them know what is coming up with synopses and contact details. Make sure you’re on the mailing list.

If you’re a member of a business association, read this post: why being a member is great for PR

Be Personal but not over Familiar

Make sure you have the right person to pitch your story to. For example, if you’re a small business – focus on the small business correspondent and take the time to read/watch/listen to their previous work – so you know exactly what they want to write about or the type of stories they like to feature.

Remember, much of the media use freelancers so take the time to research and get to know the freelancers that write for the publication/outlet you want to feature in.

Here are some tips on finding the right contact and creating your very own media list.

Craft

Tailor your pitch. Spend time crafting it to the right person and make direct reference to the target end audience and the content you can supply.

Get straight to the point – bring in your hook and answer the who, what, where, when, why. Want to know what a successful pitch looks like or get feedback on a pitch of your own? Join my PR that PAYS programme or sign-up to my email newsletter list to be alerted (not spooked) with dates of my Pitch Craft workshops.

My next Pitch Craft training workshop is in July 2019.

Highlight

If you’re pitching to broadcast highlight the visual nature of the story or interview backdrop.

For radio, stress the fact that you can get to a local BBC studio (other studios are available) or that you’re happy to come into the studio.

Highlight your credibility (if pitching yourself forward) or the credibility of your spokesperson. For example, include a link to previous TV or radio footage to enable the journalist to check them out for suitability and a short biography so that the journalist/producer can check that they have the right experience.

For print and online, great photography, imagery as well as video footage (online) matters so include a link to a great photo(s) and highlight what imagery/footage/audio you have available. If you’re pitching to a particularly time-pressed visual publication (think interiors/fashion etc.) you can also embed the cut out image into the email so the journalist can see the visual straightaway.

Highlight the things that set you apart and show that you are the person to speak to i.e. the number of staff you employ, the oldest, where you are based for local pick-up, for example.

Timing

Having good timing helps.

For example, you don’t want to pitch a story too late. As a guide, in magazine land, Christmas is Christmas in July for a reason and glossy print magazines will work months in advance. Pitching something to a Sunday paper, make sure your pitch is there before Thursday.

Time your event so the media can cover it i.e. local TV needs to get to the event, film, get back to the studio and edit all in time for their slot.

Think key dates and issues – piggyback in advance of reports and figures such as the Budget, retail figures, ONS figures (the list goes on and on) and issue-jump on news coming out i.e. high profile documentary, third-party statistics, and reports.

When it comes to timing, also have a think about quiet news times. For example, Christmas can be a quiet time when a publication’s usual contacts are away on holiday meaning that you might get the chance to put forward your spokesperson, get the outlet to do a pre-record or secure some more detailed press coverage.

I’ve used quiet times to get some fantastic footage and press coverage ‘in the can’ to run over the festive period.

Be quick, if you are responding to a journalist request, including #journorequest on Twitter (not what it was but still useful for the odd opportunity) the early bird often catches the worm. The same goes for media requests you sign up for.

For more Pitch Craft advice, including tips on subject lines and how to build long term relationships, sign-up to my email newsletter for tips on PR that PAYS. You’ll also be the first to hear about my online workshops and PR training courses. My next Pitch Craft media pitching workshop takes place 16 July 2019 in Bristol.

In the meantime, good luck and here are some tips from me on making the most of your press coverage: 20 ways you can amplify your press coverage.

Looking to be more strategic with your PR? Join my PR that PAYS programme or check out ways you can work with me

Ellen Carroll

Ellen Carroll is a strategic PR and communication consultant. I provide PR training, mentoring and consultancy to help people and businesses to step out of the shadows with #PRthatPAYS

Find me on: Web | Twitter