PR Pitching: Developing Your Proactive Strategy

Meghan DuCille
Meghan DuCille

 

It pays to be the first to run a hot trend or newsworthy story.

Proactive pitching isn’t something new to the public relations industry, but it is something that PR professionals can forget about.

And we don’t blame you, because running an integrated PR campaign is no easy job. It involves extensive planning and execution across earned media, digital, social media and paid media.

Wow - that’s a lot, eh. 😬

As a previous agency gal myself, I know that no matter how well your team delivers on announcements, speaking opportunities, media tours or defusing a crisis, the deciding factor is about you taking initiative. The trust and performance from your client will stem from how well you know their business, the media landscape, and whether you’re proactively creating newsworthy stories.

What exactly does proactive pitching mean?

Proactive pitching, in a nutshell, is to take initiative to find PR opportunities instead of being reactive. It also means:

  • Seeking out new media opportunities that live outside of your client’s ‘baked’ campaigns.
  • Listening to the trends and hot topics around you to identify where your client can fit into the conversation.
  • Taking advantage of an already newsworthy topic, and spinning it in your client’s favour.

Proactive pitching requires you to be at the cusp of industry news, by having a constant ear to the ground on what is trending and being talked about. As a PR pro, you already know how time consuming this can be, aside from juggling 20 other deliverables for the day.

 

 We’re going to give you a few essential tips to help you. Take a deep breath, and repeat after me.

Monitor, monitor and monitor some more

The news cycle changes faster than you can repeat the sub topic above.

If you haven’t noticed, news is travelling digitally these days. In 2018, the Canadian Broadcast Commission (CBC) announced they were officially a digital-first broadcast station, meaning all news stories would be online before being broadcasted on television.

Now, more than ever it’s crucial to implement a media monitoring tool that collects media and social mentions on topics that matter to your client. In order to have the first set of eyes on fast moving conversations, using a monitoring solution like Mention can deliver you key insights by collecting the most relevant mentions on topics that matter to your client.

You’ll be able to watch the news cycle in real time, without having to dig through keyword searches on Google, or flipping pages of the newspaper. From there, you will be able to make judgement calls on which trending topics you can leverage for your client. Voila!

You can then start brainstorming creative pitch ideas that align with timely industry trends.

 

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You must talk and listen to reporters

So now you have the most holistic view of your client’s industry landscape. And then what? It’s time to take your media ‘friendlies’ out for coffee or lunch. This will keep the lines of communication open so you can confirm your monitoring insights on what topics are most newsworthy.

Today’s hub of reporters is sadly shrinking, this means more than ever you’ll need to hit them with stories that really stick, and are most relevant to their publication. I know it can be grueling, trust me I’ve been there. But I can’t stress how important it is to have 1:1 conversations with reporters and ask them questions like:

  • Has your story focus shifted in the last month?
  • Are there industry trends and topics that are very important to your publication? Are there ones you won’t report on?
  • I saw that X, Y, Z topics having been in the news a lot lately, would a story like [insert your killer pitch] be of interest to you?

Yes it’s super awkward sometimes, but having a face-to-face conversation with a reporter will be 100 x more valuable than sliding into their DMs on Twitter. They will remember you, and most importantly - they will remember the conversation you had when it comes time to pitch!

 

If you’re having trouble building your media list and keeping on top of reporters (they tend to hop around to different publications), a great way to have the most up to date contact information for reporters is using a platform like Babbler.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Make new press contacts and segment your media targets
  • Share news stories in real-time with journalists or even influencers

Leverage your new found insights, and share your ideas

Now that you’ve got your newsworthy idea and confirmation from reporters, you can start to build a pitch case to share with your client.

You’ll want to outline the most relevant stories in the news, and how they can steer the conversation. You can reference your conversations with reporters as validation that this will secure coverage.

For an extra boost, you can share a link to a report and show the most relevant trending topics and which publications have the most influence around the conversation. Creating a report with Mention allows you to create a list of every mention of your keyword you’ve entered for your brand’s alert. You can filter this list of mentions to include news articles pulled from a specific time period.

It looks something like this. You can even automate it to send to yourself, or your team, daily, weekly, or monthly.

 

Having a report to backup your idea will riterate your in-depth understanding of your client’s business, and where they fit into a fast-paced digital news cycle.

Proactive pitching is a powerful thing.

Aside from pitching strategy, performing media monitoring daily offers unrivaled insights that you can use for client meetings, coffee chats with reporters, and as a benchmark to look back on during quarterly planning.

 

Remember that this delicate combination of media monitoring, building relationships and sharing ideas with your client is the best way to interject their brand into the news cycle.

Again, I’m not saying this is a PR revelation. In fact, proactive pitching is at the core of public relations. But with the shift in the industry and the change in the way news travels, proactive pitching has become harder to grasp. Conversations are shorter and they travel faster, meaning if you’re not actively listening to what is being said on social media or in the news cycle, you may miss a business opportunity.

So tell us, have you ever secured news cover from pitching a proactive news story?

 

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Meghan is the Content & Public Relations Manager at Mention.