How the PR pitch will change in 2016
This post first appeared in Muck Rack Daily on December 16, 2015.
For those of us who work in PR, figuring out the perfect story and how to tailor it to the media is one of our never-ending struggles.
We all want to help our clients build credibility and gain exposure while also providing a valuable service for journalists — the trick is finding the right way to effectively reach out to journalists when inboxes become every more crowded and attention spans get shorter.
As we move into 2016, the process of crafting and selling successful PR pitches is going through its own unique evolution. PR pitches in 2016 will be more social media oriented, more personalized and more of an ongoing process.
So….how will PR pitches evolve in 2016?
The New “Sharing Economy” of PR
In 2016, editors will care more about article shares than ever before, because more media companies are paying attention to tracking how much their content gets shared. Keep in mind that journalists today don’t just want great story ideas — everything they write is being measured for social media lift, and they want shareable stories that will help them amplify their stories and give the publication they write for, that additional lift and website traffic. The more their stories are shared, the more they’ll go back to you for commentary.
Social media is becoming the front page of the American news media — according to the Pew Research Center, as of 2014, 30% of Americans got their news from Facebook, 10% got news from YouTube and 8% got news from Twitter. So when you pitch a story idea, also come up with a plan for sharing the story and don’t be afraid to share that plan with the reporter before, during and when the story posts — and even share the results of the uplift and amplification you provided to help to extend the life of the story they wrote or article they published. Part of the value that PR people can provide to journalists is showing them that we’re on their side in helping to spread their stories via social media — and this is also a great way to build relationships for your next story pitch in the future.
Social Goes Deeper
Not long ago, most PR pitches were focused on first sending a pitch email — writing a compelling subject line and crafting a few concise pitch paragraphs — and then potentially following up with the reporter via social media (DMs on Twitter or connecting on LinkedIn). But in 2016, your pitch process should start with social media. There are more tools and resources than ever before (like Muck Rack!) to help research journalists and make informed decisions on what journalists are interested in, and how to most effectively reach out to them.
In 2016 you’ll want to go beyond the usual social channels and dig deeper into your professional network of LinkedIn connections, Twitter, Facebook, and more — build up your insights about reporters and build relationships with them via social media in tandem with the pitch, without being spammy.
You’ll be connecting via social media with the reporter regardless, so it makes sense — before you send your pitch — to dig deeper with all of the social tools to find out what types of stories the reporter is most interested in and how they prefer to be pitched. Then work on building relationships with reporters via social media, and then once you have a dialogue going, make your pitch. Instead of relying only on email pitches, start by commenting on a blog post, then following up on social media, then reaching out directly in that process.
Ideally, your pitch should be a natural progression of the outreach and conversations that you’re already having with the journalist on social media. For ideas on how to do this, check out this article on “How to Flirt With Journalists on Twitter.”
More Colorful Story Pitches
In 2016 the pitch is going beyond email to get more eye-catching and visually impactful. Look for PR firms to start using more creative visual content in their story pitches, with video, prominent photos, colorful illustrations, infographics, humorous memes and other colorful assets.
It’s fine to get creative in terms of what’s included in your story pitch, but be careful not to bombard your journalists with too much content at once — a recent Muck Rack survey found that 58% of journalists say that the ideal length of a pitch email is two to three paragraphs. So whether you’re sending a short video clip or a bold infographic, make sure that it’s a concise and compelling visual “tease” of your larger story — try to maintain a visual equivalent of that two to three paragraph limit. And try not to send attachments so your email doesn’t get dumped into spam. Create links that lead to all your assets.
Tie It All Together
Journalists are busier and more bombarded with pitches than ever before, so it’s important to make their lives easier. Make sure your pitch does not require the journalist to chase down the loose ends of your story ideas. In 2016, more than ever, you’ll need to make sure your pitches are detailed, well organized and loaded with all of the relevant information to remind the reporter of why your idea matters to them. Link together all of the necessary pieces in the pitch, for example:
- Previous articles that the reporter wrote that are relevant to your key trend or story idea
- The future vision for the story
- Why your story matters to the their readers
- Weave in facts and stats
- If submitting an article, just include it so you don’t waste time going back/forth
- Offer up statements and quotes so they can grab the content and run with it — many journalists don’t have time to interview
- What impact it may have to the market as a whole, including thought leaders, influencer quotes — and maybe even offer a series
Also, offering reporters an exclusive is more important than ever — if you can find the right outlet and build the right relationship upfront, and deliver a well packaged pitch with a coherent assemblage of details and relevant data, you might get more mileage for your story with an industry exclusive. This is especially beneficial for tech PR product announcements and other breaking news stories.
PR pitches have always been an evolving process and as the media becomes ever more complex and “always on,” it is becoming more important to realize that there is no separate “pitch” anymore — instead, the final email or story idea you share with a reporter should ideally be the latest step in an ongoing dialogue of relationship building and collaborative idea exchange. The more PR firms learn from journalists, the more we can harness the power of digital media tools for influencer outreach and results tracking, the more value we can deliver to them — and the more value we can create for our clients.
Making a good PR pitch in 2016 will be less a matter of writing a cleverly worded email or grabbing a reporter’s attention on a one-time basis, and more a matter of making sure your clients are relevant to the ongoing conversation that affects their industry and reputation — every day, all year long.
Juliet Travis is the founder and Principal of Travis Communications, a Bay Area-based digital communications PR agency. Born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, Juliet has a great sense of adventure and loves a challenge.
Photo: 2016 via Shutterstock