5 Tips for Pitching the Media

If you’re pitching a story that you wouldn’t read, don’t bother pitching it. That was the advice from a panel of reporters speaking to an audience of PR practitioners.

The panelists shared their tips for pitching them. Their advice was spot on, and, at times discouraging. Today, there are fewer reporters so it’s more challenging as PR practitioners to get our stories covered. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Here are five tips to help you.  

A panel of reporters share tips on how to successfully pitch them. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

1. Perfect the pitch.Reporters are busy, too. “If I can’t read your pitch and understand it in 60 seconds, I’m deleting it,” said Dena Potter, news editor with The  Associated Press in Richmond, Va.

2. Don’t bury the news. Potter has a related piece of advice. “Don’t bury the news under a bunch of prose just to show me how well you can write.”

3. Know what’s going on. In other words, don’t pitch your feature story in the middle of a hurricane or election night coverage.

4. Use Email. Greg Gilligan, business editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, advocated for a strong subject line that “gets to the point.” He also said to paste the release or pitch in the body of the email. If he’s reading a release on his mobile, it takes too long to download and he’s likely to give up.

5. Identify contacts and spokespersons. Lara Malbon McDuffie, assignment manager of WWBT-NBC12 in Richmond, cautioned having a backup spokesperson if the primary spokesperson is unavailable. She also likes easy-to-find contacts on the website and – even better – after hour phone numbers.

What successes have you had in pitching the media?

The Power of Introverts

I’m an introvert. Those who have seen me in action at work or at the NFPW conference always challenge me when I say that. But it’s true. I’ve learned to function in many settings as an extrovert. I even enjoy it.

However, at the end of the day, I need to allow for quiet time, which is why at conferences I prefer to room alone and why I build time into the day for a peaceful walk in between meetings. These become my “restorative niches” as described in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

It’s a great book for understanding the value of introverts. For introverts, it offers ways to function successfully in a society that emphasizes group work.

Cain describes the difference between introverts and extroverts.

“Introverts focus on the meaning they make of the events swirling around them; extroverts plunge into the events themselves. Introverts recharge their batteries by being alone; extroverts need to recharge when they don’t socialize enough.”

In her book she describes how our culture emphasizes group work – from elementary school into the business world. My book club talked about how so many of our meetings are designed for leaders to think and work as a team, leaving no time for introverts to process. While I function in those settings, that point really resonated with me.

I’m making a conscious effort with my team to give the introverts time to think and to process big ideas before we come together to discuss. That means I have to be a bit more organized providing background materials in advance. At the end of the day, though, we arrive at a better product.

Ultimately, the book, which is filled with research and insights about introversion, makes a strong case for paying attention to the listeners and thinkers.

Thanksgiving Blessings

This year has been one in which I have made a conscious effort to acknowledge the good in my life and to be thankful for all that goodness. One way I’ve done that is through my photo a day, where I capture an image that either makes me smile or reminds me of my blessings. It’s good to look back and reflect.

Another way I express my gratitude is by giving of my time, talents and riches. I contribute to several organizations by writing a check. In the past year I’ve been involved with the Education Fund of the National Federation of Press Women. Through the fund, we are able to provide opportunities for members to learn and grow as communicators. It feels good to be able to do that.

As someone who has taught – and continues to serve as a guest lecturer – at my local university, I realize how important education is to a young mind, which is why this Thanksgiving I decided to pledge $500 to the Virginia Press Women Foundation’s capital campaign. I’ve already sent the first installment.

I’m also walking to raise money for the Foundation. Each time Louise Seals, who is the president of the Foundation, and I meet to walk, we record the miles. We have pledged $1/mile. Unfortunately, our schedules haven’t allowed for the distances we want, but I suspect we’ll keep walking and pledging more funds.

Louise also gives of her time and talent. She’s quite active with the Richmond Tree Stewards. Not only does she get more exercise and fresh air, but she is helping to care for and advocate for street and park trees. Most weekends she is pruning so people can walk in their neighborhood without dodging branches or so drivers can see stop signs clearly. You’ll also find her watering newly planted trees and planting trees.

It’s a joy to do something for others. This holiday season I put together a gift bag for a resident of a senior home. Her wishes were simple and, I couldn’t resist putting some extras in the bag. I hope it brightens her holiday. I know it brightened mine.

It’s easy to get frustrated by long work days and too many errands and chores. Taking time to be thankful for what I have is always something I welcome at the holidays. Giving back is even better.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pinterest Attracts New Audience

Last week Pinterest revealed it was offering secret boards. As the email said, “Secret boards give you a place for things you’re not quite ready to share yet, like a surprise party, special gift ideas, or even planning for a new baby.”

Pinterest boardPinterest is testing the feature. For many, though, Pinterest itself is a secret. Pinterest is a virtual pinboard to organize and share the things you love. At a recent meeting focused on Pinterest many in the audience were only vaguely familiar with the social media platform. Others weren’t sure how to fit it into their communication strategy.

One way to measure the success of Pinterest is by how much traffic it drives to an organization’s website. Wendy Scherer, who oversees social media efforts for Cabot Cheese, a cooperative of 1,200 family-owned farms in New England, said huge volumes of website traffic come from Pinterest.

For Cabot, “The boards aren’t just about us. We wanted to be inclusive,” Scherer said. “We talk about Vermont. We talk about farms. We talk about cows.”

That leads more people to find Cabot Cheese because they are coming to the site, not for the company, but because of things they are interested in. “They find us through our content, like a recipe, rather than our brand.”

For the National Wildlife Federation, Pinterest is ideal for fun and inspiring messages, said Danielle Brigida, digital marketing manager for the NWF. “We’re trying to be fun about it.”

Loren Pritchett, who is a colleague of mine at ChildFund International, also served on the panel. She talked about how Pinterest targets other audiences. “We see this as a place where we are reaching out to the next generation of ChildFund supporters.”

She added, “Many are sharing because of social interest.”

As with all social media, determining the platform’s return on investment is tricky. Most are measuring through repins and which boards are most active. Referring traffic also is studied.

“Everyone is trying to track,” said Danielle. “It’s crazy, though. Pin shares often go farther than a Facebook share.”

5 Tips to Tame Email

I recently spent a week out of the country on business. Usually when that happens, I return to an inbox that has exploded. By that, I mean that it’s brimming over, and I don’t even know where to begin to tackle the emails. I was determined on this trip to not have that happen, and it didn’t.

What worked this time?

Set Goals. I checked the number of emails in my inbox before I left on my trip. My goal was to return with that same amount in my inbox. This required spending about an hour each day, either before or after my meetings, reviewing emails. I responded to critical emails. I deleted emails that were not relevant.  When I returned to the office, I only had five additional emails than when I had left. Goal reached.

Create a Folder. I created a file folder within my inbox where I moved emails that I needed to handle back at the office. Those emails all needed to be printed for various reasons or they required me to confirm with someone that the action had been completed. Having them in a central location made it easier to find them. As soon as I finished, I deleted the item, and by day two in the office, the folder also was deleted.

Schedule Email Time. I know that when I am out of the office, the emails will pile up. I also know that I will have numerous meetings when I return because updates need to be shared and projects need to be advanced. Before I leave, I block the morning of my first day back so that I have time to respond to emails, review project plans and organize the week. If I don’t schedule the block of time, I end up doing it on the fly, and that never works.

Set Expectations. Before I travel, I turn my “out-of-office” message on a day or two early. Inevitably, that leads to a flurry of emails that I am able to handle before I leave. That allays everyone’s concern and the email flow slows. I also alert those with whom I communicate the most that I will be traveling and indicate any time zone differences so people will know when to expect a reply.

Mix It Up. I often group my emails by “sender” instead of “date.” This allows me to handle all emails from my boss and from those with whom I’m working on tight or critical deadlines. I also can quickly identify junk email and delete.

It was nice to return to my office and not feel overwhelmed by an avalanche of emails.

Agent 007’s Secrets Help with Office Success

I saw the new James Bond movie Skyfall this weekend. It was just what I needed following a busy, but not as productive a work week as I would have liked. Bond reminded me what I need to do next week at the office.

James Bond’s tricks of the trade may just come in handy at the office.

If the plan goes wrong or isn’t working, improvise. I’ve been trying to advance several projects but roadblocks keep appearing. Sometimes they thwart me. After seeing Bond in action, I realized I need to change course and quickly.

True, I’m not dealing with imminent threat of death if my plan doesn’t work, but I don’t see any point in dragging out my efforts either. This coming week, if my plan doesn’t work, I’ll immediately change tactics.

Have the right tools. At the office, having the right tools usually means a working computer and a business or PR plan. Sometimes, we forget to create the plan, which introduces chaos. Sometimes, the computer doesn’t work. My computer has a glitch that sometimes prevents the audio from working. That’s a problem when I’m trying to place a Skype call. I need the right tools, even if they aren’t cool ones like Bond has.

Have a hobby. We all need to create work-life balance. A hobby helps. Bond may need to work on his a bit because when asked by the villain what his hobby was, he replied, “Resurrection.”

A good soundtrack helps. Sometimes when the day is frustrating listening to music with a strong beat can push you past your afternoon slump or help you finish the report that is due in an hour. Headphones are actually a cool tool to have at the office for listening to the right music. The new James Bond song performed by Adele might just carry you to the finish line.

The movie grossed a record $30.8 million when it opened Friday. Obviously, Bond still has what it takes.

Social Campaign Plays Out in Election

Today I may become more active on Facebook and Twitter. For the past few weeks, I have not been active on either because I was tired of the political posts and the ads. No place was safe. Several friends posted requests urging other friends to stop sharing their political rants.

How social was the election this year? According to ABC News, in 2008 there were 3 million people on Twitter. For this election there were 70 million people on Twitter who tweeted 358 million times about the election!

Words that gained attention included Big Bird and binders. Word clouds were dominated by hope, pride and relief.

Social media allowed candidates to spread their messages to larger audiences and reach a younger demographic. The platforms also encouraged voters to get out and vote and to “stay in line” during yesterday’s long lines throughout the country.

I had tried to vote in the morning but the wait was an hour, and I had meetings to attend. By mid-afternoon I had received tweets and a text message telling me the line was short. I headed out to vote.

Throughout the evening, I watched the coverage until it was time for my volleyball matches. In between games, I checked the results online.

Thanks to social media – and the campaign issues — this was an election that engaged a nation.