When it comes to editorial coverage, journalists are a brand’s best friends. Always on the hunt for new angles and interesting stories, they are eager for newsworthy pitches that stand out from routine content streams.
Regular Releases But Weak Returns?
When a company is battling for editorial space, it’s time to take a step back and analyze its press relations strategy. Even valuable content can sometimes get lost in the social media hubbub. So here are a few hints on tailoring pitches that appeal to reporters and their audiences, whether niche or general interest.
Remember: Approach always outweighs angle. The way a story is told grips an audience far more than its subject. However, effective editorial coverage must be comprehensive and complete, supported by dependable experience and expertise, backed up by verifiable facts.
The Wow! Factor
Possibly illogical, frequently inexplicable, and often irresistible, emotions are powerful drivers that steer countless activities and choices in everyday life. These feelings can easily be swayed by just a few words, which is why headlines and taglines are so important.
It’s the headline and tagline (and the emotions they trigger) that initially attract audiences – who include journalists listening to pitches! So when drafting press releases, house writers should decide on the emotional resonance they want to induce:
- Surprise (I’m stunned!) and curiosity (Really?) are probably the winners in the must-read-this-article stakes;
- Validation (I knew it!); justification (Quite right too!); promise (Oh yes please!); disbelief (No way!); and pleasure (That’s great!) are also useful reader magnets;
- Proving something (or someone) right or wrong, with both headlines prompting a pleasantly self-satisfied Told you so!
There are two other factors that can flip an apparently routine news item into viral mode: humor (That’s hilarious!); and the unexpected (Who’d have thought it!). Ideally, releases should close with a satisfying aha! moment that continues to burnish the brand image subconsciously, as readers go about their daily lives.
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However, even the most intriguing headlines and taglines must be backed up by solid facts and relatable opinions in the body text, building up confidence in a brand, its products, and services.
The three main elements for distributing newsworthy content that garners media coverage are:
- Data that is original, exclusive, interesting, and relevant to target readers. This can include unforeseen uses, outstanding performances, milestone events, industry benchmarks, personal accomplishments, and even individual opinions, particularly from celebrities and authorities;
- Trustworthy sources (with links included for added impact and authority) that are up-to-date and accurate. They include reputable commercial websites, academic institutions, international organizations, and government offices. Other excellent sources of original information are in-house research projects, customer surveys, and public polls;
- Impacts that reach out to general or niche markets. A well-written pitch outlines more just than its topic and unique angle – it also defines its target audience. Journalists want to know whether a release will be interesting to a lot of people, with relatively general information that is of interest to society as a whole, or whether it provides more detailed data appealing to specialized (but often high-value) audiences.
Think Like A Journalist
Quite obviously, no story is going to interest everyone. However, brands eager to extend their media coverage would do well to consider journalistic principles that have long withstood the test of time:
- Human interest: when not enlivened by a human angle, stories can be flat and even boring. Readers need to relate, and that means reaching out to them through feelings, recounting experiences they can relate to at a personal level;
- Respect readers: by providing them with high-value information that is compelling, rewarding them for taking time out of their day to read your content. This means solving a problem to which they relate, or developing an emotional connection to which they react positively;
- Be authentic: as branded content faces an uphill battle, in terms of credibility. This is why it’s important to draw a clear line between two kinds of press releases: some are written by the marketing department to boost conversions, while others are prepared by the PR people, establishing a corporate identity and pursuing brand enhancement;
- Never assume: few things are more irritating than trying to plow through an article spattered with acronyms familiar only to corporate insiders. Buzzwords that are commonplace within a business or industry may well be unknown to the rest of the world, particularly for content intended to boost brand value, even within niche markets. Writing clearly ensures that the message is conveyed effectively to its target markets, instead of pushing readers away through obscure terminology;
- Tighten the focus: readers tend to have limited attention spans and are often pressed for time. Instead of trying to cram a mass of complex content into a single article, break it down into shorter, simpler topics that are enjoyable to read and easy to understand. Pitching an info dump packed with technical facts and figures – no matter how significant for a company – is a sure way of discouraging any journalist from picking out a few points that could be woven into a readable article.
Why Should They Care?
When planning a pitch, the first question the PR department should ask is Why? Why should journalists – and their readers – care about this information? Reporters are trained to look for the hook, the compelling reason that attracts readers, triggering reactions that include comments, shares, and links.
That’s why smart pitch planners do as much of the heavy lifting as they can before reaching out to their press contacts. They know that a steady stream of newsworthy releases keeps journalists happy, confident of their relevance and readability.
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