Great PR is like gold dust for brands.
It can boost awareness, increase value, and expand customer outreach. It can combat negative news and crises, and improve the perception of a business and its leaders. It can even be a vehicle for positive change all around the world.
The capabilities of great PR are (almost) endless, but using it to reach your brand or client's full potential in the public eye can also be a challenging and a lengthy process. Many PR pros even debate about which is the more important factor:
Is a great hook and pitch the best chance of success, or is securing coverage all about the journalists and media professionals you know?
So in a brand-competitive landscape, what really makes good PR: the pitch or the connections?
The power of the [right] pitch
Let's talk about what you know.
On the surface, the fundamentals of the right pitch are simple. Source a story, identify the 'hook', and provide a soft call to action, or connection to a wider topic.
Look deeper, and it's so much more. Constructing a clear, concise, creative pitch isn't for the faint of heart. Contrary to popular belief, it's a hard-earned skill that many take years to cultivate.
It requires a strong instinct, yes. But more so, the right pitch will balance the need for a story which your media targets want to know, your audience wants to hear, and that will serve the key objectives of your brand or client without risking authority or value.
How to pitch:
Best practice looks different.
B2B PR often means targeting industry publications with a direct, clear-cut pitch that's specifically relevant to their readership. B2C can be more creative, and in recent years, will strive to connect to a 'greater good' such as a social or climate justice cause to appeal to consumer behaviour.
Equally a good pitch can be made that much more impactful if you get the timings right. Most journalists will be more engaged on a Monday or Tuesday morning, and if a news story breaks that's closely related to your own, treat pitching with urgency.
A great pitch is one that is:
For best results, include visual assets and no more than 2-3 links to relevant content that will ultimately make the journalist's job - and yours - simpler. Hard facts and figures can also be hugely beneficial, so if you have data to back up your pitch, all the better.
It's a juggling act, and here's the not-so-surprising caveat: your pitch will have real legs with the right numbers in your phonebook.
The power of the [right] connections
Let's talk about who you know.
Having a well-rounded network of media connections is as powerful as it gets. It enables you to tap into the full potential of your target publications, easily tailor pitches to the right people at the right time, and work on coverage with mutual benefits (more on this below).
But it takes time and commitment to build strong relationships with journalists, and just because you met someone at an event or spoke to them once or twice on the phone, doesn't mean you can call them a certified media connection. Nor will it guarantee you a story.
How to build connections:
At the risk of flogging a dead horse, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way PR professionals of all calibres operate. And in particular, how they build relationships.
Gone are the days where journalists will be sitting at their desk, waiting for the phone to ring, and expanding digital channels have forever shifted the PR landscape - from journalists accessing stories and research independently, to the power of influencer PR, to paid PR.
Rest assured, it's not impossible. Using social media, particularly Twitter, is a popular way to grasp public attention and inbound queries, and contact journalists privately who aren't replying to your emails. Promoting journalists' articles with your own (genuine) commentary on social channels can also work. They'll appreciate the free publicity, and it means they'll have a consistent view of your brand or name.
Here's a few top tips:
For best results, actually ask your contact what they're looking to cover. Even if there's no opening for a quote or interview now, that could change, and both of you will be on the receiving end of low-hanging fruit.
One more vital piece of the puzzle: a great pitch. Yep, building connections that work for you starts with an excellent story and an excellent pitch to capture it.
It's not 'either or'…
The truth is, PR is about marrying the two approaches.
A powerful pitch can grab anyone's attention, true - but if your journalist of choice doesn't have the foggiest of who you are or what the brand stands for, then that story can easily get lost in the fray as another cold call or email.
Likewise, even the strongest PR-journalist relationship won't magically secure coverage; asking nicely over 5pm drinks doesn't mean anything without a great story to sell.
PR really isn't about a 'big scoop' or spin-doctoring anymore. It's a much more nuanced, sophisticated machine that will continue to evolve as public behaviours and attitudes do. Prioritising strategic and intelligent pitching with creating genuine relationships with journalists and media pros, is the only way to gain access to a more well-rounded, diverse PR platform that will drive your goals.
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