Pitching an Ocean Full

I’ve never considered with great thought the process that it takes to catch a fish.

I once took a try at the sport on a lake about two years ago and had minimal success. It could have been that my reel was getting stuck in the brush or that my eyes had been squinting too much because of the reflection from the water.

In any case, the task was definitely difficult and allowed me to see that fishing requires precision, organization and above all, practice.

As a senior studying the profession of public relations, I’ve had many opportunities to explore this approach in my internships- I just never realized the cool analogy between ‘reeling’ and the art of media pitching. Thanks to the insightful post by SHIFT Communications Principal Todd Defren, I was able to see this approach more clearly.

In Defren’s blog post titled, ‘How many hooks to catch a fish?’ He discusses how it is that PR professional tackle (no pun intended) a pitch worthy to send out to the vast amounts of media professionals. He says that many pitches are brief and to the point. Others may be ‘overstuffed’ with information.

The main point that I got from his piece was that we as PR professionals need to learn the power of good pitching and if one style isn’t working, then we need to adjust in limited time, to a new style so as to save on time and ultimately help our client. The key is, a good storyline combined with accepting that the tactics to disseminate that story will change.

I believe pitching can be associated with providing, delivering, promoting and convincing. How is it though that we are to deliver with speed and efficacy? My answer? It won’t always be easy.

If one form of delivering isn’t working what is the best way to develop a new form with maybe only a few hours left on deadline?

I can tell you that I’ll be brainstorming to find solutions, and I will add, that long gone are the days when traditional pitching alone could, as Defren put it, ‘reel in the worm.’

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7 Responses to Pitching an Ocean Full

  1. astrazzara says:

    I agree that some news PR professionals pitch doesn’t have dire importance, so journalists often don’t even bother opening the email or just disregard it. As PR professionals, we have to come up with convincing ways to pitch our clients. There isn’t one right way to do that. In fact in may be trial and error because each client has a different message and target audiences.

    While a traditional press release may work for them it won’t work for all. Just as a client has a tailored message, it’s up to us to effectively disseminate it through tailored communication channels. We cannot except to not adapt to changing technology around us.

  2. ekozak says:

    Although pitching the media is a significant part of public relations, the key to being a successful public relations professional is about building the relationships that will help the client meet its goals and objectives.

    If a PR pro has relationships with members of the media, those people will most likely provide constructive feedback that can help the PR pro when tailoring the pitch for the next media outlet. In fact, sometimes the world’s worst pitch might be read because of the established relationship and the world’s best pitch might be overlooked because the editor/writer/producer does not know or trust the source. Those relationships can also steer the PR pro to the channel most preferred by the individual members of the media (email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.), which will also help to ensure that the pitch is received. It is also important to note that if a PR pro continues to send “overstuffed” or off-topic pitches, that will adversely affect his or her relationship with members of the media, which is why it is important to clearly (and briefly) outline the newsworthy aspects of a potential story and identify why the story is important to the news outlet’s audience.

    Additionally, it is helpful to get to know members of the media early and not just contact them when you need them to write a story about your client.

    Overall, I believe that using relationships is the best way to determine the style of a pitch, the correct channel for dissemination and the best way to “re-cast” when your pitch is not getting any bites.

  3. bjohnson says:

    Astrazzara: thanks for your comment. I agree that lots of times trial and error is what PR novice professionals go through. I know I have had my share of what and what not to do when pitching. Also, knowing what communication message will be received through what channel is key.

    EKozak: You make a good point. It may be true that the definition of a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ press release may not be the issue but rather it is the relationships that help disseminate the information or message. I also agree that getting to know the media early is important so that when the time comes to pitch a certain story, the relationship is already formed.

  4. edean says:

    I agree with Defren that there are definitely those who “overstuff” their pitches to journalists. During my internship as a breaking news reporter, I learned many journalists, especially those who covered cops and other breaking news, just really view public relations practitioners in a bad light. They only see the “overstuffed” messages that get sent out and are quickly trashed.

    Effective PR pitching involves what we already know and love: Relationships. When you take the time to learn who writes for what column, it enables you to pitch personalized information that can ultimately make their job easier. If they know you’ve done your homework, they are more likely to listen.

    Journalists today are so busy trying to punch out articles on deadline that (most of the time) they will happily take relevant information about the company that they don’t have the time to research themselves. On the other hand, if the press release is bogged down with shameless self-promotion, it is quickly rejected and the journalist will opt to do the research for his or herself.

  5. cgharai says:

    I agree with Defren, there are so many ways to ‘catch a fish.’ I personally find a lot of techniques used today, over-killed to say the least. My pr exposure thus far has made the obvious pitching techniques such as, making the pitch relevant to the person pitching it. This is such a cliche trend. Also, some professionals hire professional help to contact the media, when they are very capable of doing it themselves. A lot of pr professionals focus more on expanding their database rather then building a relationship with the person they are pitching to. Your contact base is irrelevant in this circumstance.

  6. mkuhl says:

    I really liked the way you began your blog. It caught my attention and made me want to keep reading (one skill that will greatly be beneficial in PR). I found it interesting that two seemingly opposite topics, fishing and public relations, could in fact have much to learn from each other.

    Finding the right way to pitch a story is one area that PR practitioners often struggle with and something I think about for my own future. I do agree that a lot of PR reps “overstuff” their pitch, which can make reporters hesitant to use your story. Sometimes, less really is more.

    You also had a great closing to your blog. You tied it off while keeping the readers enticed, with zero awkwardness. Great job!

  7. bjohnson says:

    Edean: I agree with you that journalists want to have the stripped down version of press release material in many cases. They want the 5 W’s and the most important information only. I think longer press releases are needed but it definitely depends on who the pitch is going to.

    Cgharai: Unfortunately PR professionals, who should be best at forming relationships, don’t for some reason. They should and I think all of the comments show that trust is the best way to get someone to listen to you.

    Mkuhl: Thank you so much for the comment! I really liked what Todd Defren did with the comparison too. Thank you for the comment about the ending. I love blogging and I love PR so it was a fun post for me to write to get my thoughts out!

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