In baseball, the perfect pitch rockets right past the visiting batter as they take a desperate swing at the ball, which is already in the catcher’s glove as the umpire calls strike three, much to the delight of the home crowd. In public relations, though, the perfect pitch is a soft, underhanded lob that the journalist smashes out of the park. Your company can certainly get a base hit by incorporating a typical press release into your SEO campaign, but a carefully crafted media pitch can provide the huge home run you’ve been looking for.
There’s nothing wrong with press releases – in fact, we assist our clients with creating and distributing them on a daily basis. They’re a great way to announce company news, promote an upcoming product release, or inform consumers of exciting things a business is doing. However, in some cases, it can be more beneficial for our clients to send out a media pitch instead of (or in addition to) a press release.
Press releases are typically posted online for mass consumption without any particular recipient in mind. The hope is that news sites, blogs, newspapers and magazines, and even radio or television stations will come across the release and find it interesting enough to publish or report on. Press releases are a tried and true way to get your company name in the news, but in many cases, media pitches can be more successful because they offer a more targeted approach to drawing attention to your business.
With a media pitch, your company (or an organization like WebiMax that helps with your PR work) sends a targeted news announcement, along with a “call to action,” to specific journalists and media organizations that will likely have an interest in the news. In addition to being more specifically targeted than press releases, media pitches usually offer something exclusive or particularly insightful that will entice a journalist to jump on a story before their competitors. Just like your industry is competitive, so is the news business, and reporters love an inside scoop. By extending an offer to a reporter and indicating your willingness to work with them on a story, you are giving them a reason to respond.
In sticking with the theme, let’s say your company makes sports equipment, and you’re ready to release a brand new kind of baseball bat that helps batters hit the ball further. If you put out a press release announcing the upcoming release of the new product, news organizations would undoubtedly be interested as long as you provided the pertinent information. Is the new bat approved for use in Major League Baseball? What players will be using it? Where can the general public buy it? How much will it cost? What type of research was done to prove the bat’s increased effectiveness over traditional models? As long as you include the answers to these basic questions, it’s easy for reporters to repurpose your release into a news story, and you there’s a good chance you’ll see it a few minutes later on your favorite sports blog, hear about it on the news that night, and read it in the paper next day.
However, if you were to send out a tailored media pitch to select journalists, it might result in more substantial and in-depth coverage. Perhaps you could put out a media pitch inviting some of the most respected sports writers to a preview event, where there would be a hands-on demonstration of the new technology. Or, maybe you could offer journalists an exclusive interview with the scientists who worked to develop the new bat, or with one of the star MLB players who will be using it. A media pitch includes that more personal, more direct, and more exciting call to action which a press release often lacks.
A media pitch can generate substantial press coverage, both online and in print, if done correctly.
Of course, sending out a media pitch means there’s going to be a bit more work on your end. You need to be willing to put in the effort to host the event you’re pitching, or to send out the samples you’re offering, or to provide the interviews you’re promising when journalists come calling. However, the time and effort you put in to make the pitch worthwhile can pay dividends when it results in a home run of positive media coverage for your company.
Press releases can be great tools for promoting your company, but in order to reap their benefits you need to make sure that you’re writing your release the right way. Writing a press release can be tricky because you’re trying to find the right balance between news and advertising. But if you follow these tips you’ll be able to write an engaging release that promotes your company and has news value.
Pick An Interesting Topic
Press releases are designed to get the press excited about something that’s going on with your business, and if you want your release to be noticed by reporters you need to base it on a topic someone would find interesting. This can be difficult for some people because they already see the inherent value about what they’re pitching in their press release. When you pick a topic for your press release, ask yourself these three questions:
- “What is interesting about this topic?”
- “Why would a reporter want to write a story about my topic?”
- “Will anyone outside of my business/company care about this topic?”
If you can confidently answer each of the three questions, you’ve found a good press release topic!
Get to the Point
I did an internship at a newspaper when I first graduated college, and the reporters there would receive dozens of press releases every day. How would the reporters sort through all of the press releases they received you ask? It was simple. They would literally delete any press release that didn’t clearly explain the point of the release in the first few sentences. Reporters are very busy people. If they can’t figure out the topic of a press release in the first five seconds of reading it, they won’t even consider covering it for a news story. The first few sentences of your press release should clearly state every important point you want to make, so save all of your quotes and statistics for the body.
Inform, Don’t Promote
This is the biggest mistake people make when they write a press release. A press release shouldn’t be a sales flyer, it needs to be saying something newsworthy or attention grabbing about your company. In order to better understand this concept, take a look at these two samples:
Release A: Houston Cycling is having a 25% off sale on bike chains for the month of May. Houston Cycling provides their customers with high quality cycling supplies at a low price. They have some of the best cycling supplies in Houston, and their products are guaranteed to last long and keep you satisfied for years.
Release B: Houston Cycling is having a 25% off sale on bike chains for May. Houston Cycling provides the greater Houston region with biking supplies and equipment, and they have a wide variety of bike chains and other professional cycling equipment available.
Release A and release B both mention the merchandise the store sells, but release A sounds more like a sales pitch than a press release. Don’t focus on promoting your business in release, focus on promoting the topic of your release. If you keep that concept in mind writing your release will be much easier.