How to pitch the 5 stories every PR pro dreads

September 27, 2013

We help our clients tell their story across multiple communications channels. But not everyone has a compelling, interesting, and newsworthy story to tell. Or do they

The fact is, in newsrooms across America, editors are imploring their reporters to FIND the story. That means even if a story is not apparent, they need to dig hard to find something of interest to the audience. The same is true for businesses. Some stories are tougher to find, but they’re always there, regardless of how mundane a company, product, or service might seem on the surface.

Today, we’re listing the five toughest stories to pitch, and sharing some insight on how to tackle them in ways that will get results for your clients:

The obvious story.

  • Why it’s tough: This is the most common, and perhaps the toughest, story for a PR pro pitch. Some examples include an IT consulting company that wants to tell the world: “It’s important to protect your data,” or the healthcare organization that touts: “Regular checkups are crucial.”
  • How to pitch it: Tie it into something bigger. Relate your client’s story to one that is timely and getting traction. Keep your eye on the news cycle in that client’s space and find a new angle that only your client can speak to. For example, we’ve worked with leading website performance technology companies across the world. And granted, getting the media to care about the importance of website monitoring is a challenge. That is, until a big consumer site (Amazon, Google, etc.) fails. By putting in place rapid-response PR programs that monitor for outages and immediately links the media to our clients, we have won worldwide media coverage every time Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, or Google goes down.

The data-driven story.

  • Why it’s tough: Reporters often don’t have time to sift through a 30-page technical study or data-driven findings.
  • How to pitch it: Think visually. How can you condense data into a single graphic, image, or infographic? Or produce an explainer video? For example, we put together an infographic while working with a large cloud computing company that boiled down a 30-page study on the future of the cloud. We ended up with a visual that reduced mountains of data into a single easy-to-read story.

The over-told story.

  • Why it’s tough: Companies in a crowded marketplace often have similar messaging which can make it difficult for your client to stand out. The tech industry can be one of the most challenging industries to work in because of this.
  • How to pitch it: Bring in a third party that can help shape and support your client’s differentiating market position, such as an analyst, industry expert, or an end-user with tangible results. An example? The media ignored a client with a new app that converted important voice mail and emails into encoded SMS. Nothing new there — until we found a hospital using it as its HIPPA-compliant master messaging system. The media fell in love with it.

The hyperbolic story.

  • Why it’s tough: The story is so full of marketing buzzwords and hyperbole that reporters lose interest by the second sentence. It’s the nail in the coffin for any media relations campaign.
  • How to pitch it: Strip away the excess adjectives and find the real story. Look beyond the marketing collateral and analyst speak. Put the story in human terms and kill any word that a high school student wouldn’t understand. How? Talk to customers and users. Learn how they are using the product or service. Stop drinking the client’s own Kool-Aid and instead talk to real people in the real world and borrow their words and thoughts instead of canned corporate jargon. Google how reporters are covering the industry and how they report for a wider audience. Their language might help you improve your own.

The David vs. Goliath story.

  • Why it’s tough: Your client is small, and the industry is dominated by a giant competitor. Bigger companies often control the news cycle, making it difficult for smaller players to gain media attention.
  • How to pitch it: Play off the Goliath’s name. Include its ticker symbol in your own press materials. Created pointed, on-mark media tools that draw direct comparisons between your product’s strengths and the Goliath’s weaknesses. Be confident in your assertion. One of our clients competes against Microsoft. The client’s product did one thing better than Microsoft’s, and we constructed an entire PR campaign against this single benefit — issuing releases, developing comparative grids, writing blog posts, and even featuring ex-Microsoft customers on the client’s blog. By shifting the conversation, the client won new-found awareness in trade and technology media, generating interest, leads, and conversion.

The common thread is that stories exist everywhere. It’s our job to find them, capture them, and liberate them for the world to see.

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