As a recent graduate, I remember my public relations assignments always involved well-known name brands with an extended history and tons of name recognition. The prompts for my assignments included newsworthy company happenings, and we were told to pitch to publications such as the New York Times to see whether the editor would accept the pitch.
Unfortunately, what I learned in one of America’s best-known journalism schools doesn’t translate very well to the small and medium-sized businesses I pitch today. In my experience, the best way to get pitches accepted is to use a more modern approach to PR, which consists of traditional PR methods enhanced with content marketing.
In fact, 61 percent of PR professionals believe that PR will, over time, become more closely aligned with marketing. Although traditional techniques may work for some PR companies, the simple truth is that they’re fading out and making way for a more strategic approach.
To enhance your traditional PR methods through content marketing, take the following steps:
1. Build up Your Client’s Credibility With Content
The first step in my process is to review the credibility of the client, and that means confirming that the client’s company or personal brand has an online presence. And what does an online presence require? Content. According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute, 75 percent of B2B organizations have a content marketing strategy.
At Influence & Co., we help our clients create guest-contributed content, blog posts, whitepapers and infographics that enable them to establish a presence in their industry. Through these pieces of content, our clients position themselves as thought leaders and learn how to write about what they do in a nonpromotional way.
In the past, PR pitches focused on touting a client’s brand and achievements. Today, pitches should focus on highlighting clients as experts in their field who can educate readers about industry trends.
2. Keep Your Audience in Mind
In a traditional PR approach, PR professionals distribute press releases to journalists with a particular beat who write for one publication with a homogeneous audience. Now, journalists specialize in a variety of topics and beats, contribute to multiple publications and have a segmented audience to attract through different channels.
Each niche audience requires a different communication strategy, which means you have to adjust your pitch to the journalist to match the content he or she writes. One of the best pieces of advice I got when I first started out came from John Hall, co-founder of Influence & Co., who advised me to keep the journalist’s goals in mind when sending my pitch.
He says, “It might sound counterintuitive to prioritize value to the audience when you’re in PR. The role of the PR department is to hype the company however it can, but when you’re working with media contacts to get press for your brand, don’t forget to consider the end reader. When you offer relevant, valuable content to the reader in the pitches you send, your contacts are going to be much more inclined to work with you and continue the relationship.”
3. Write Personalized Pitches
Many PR companies across the country use a media database with an email distribution service. Large-distribution pitches have worked in the past to get news to a lot of journalists in a short period of time, but journalists can spot these pitches a mile away and tend to reject them.
According to Cision’s State of the Media Report, 72 percent of journalists say PR professionals can improve their chances of acceptance by tailoring the pitch to suit their media contacts’ beats and coverage. My best pitches always include the journalist’s name, publication and — most importantly — an article he or she wrote that relates to my pitch
It can be easy to forget that journalists receive hundreds of pitches a day, so take the time to learn what they write about. This both shows you care and proves that you are looking to work with them instead of just begging them for coverage.
4. Don’t Overlook Distribution
According to The State of Digital Media 2018, publication editors determine success through social shares, pageviews, and time on site. These metrics are some of the top priorities for publications, and in order for journalists to keep their columns, they need to have high-performing content.
To help maintain mutually beneficial relationships with your clients and journalists, you as a PR professional need to make content performance your priority as well — and that requires a distribution strategy. Encourage your clients to share content in press releases, on social platforms, in client newsletters and through email campaigns.
The PR industry is changing, and content marketing is a big reason why. So although professors continue to teach students traditional, outdated methods, it doesn’t have to stay that way.
About Maddie Hirsch
Maddie Hirsch is a PR & Media Relations Strategist at Influence & Co., a content marketing firm that specializes in helping companies showcase their expertise through thought leadership. Influence & Co.’s clients range from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands.