Out of all the tragedy, hardship and anxiety that came along with the pandemic, a glimmer of hope steadily rose within our small company. We lost clients in those early days of course, but we poured ourselves into clients who were really making a difference in our news consumption (thank you Angela Rasmussen, Dyan Hes, Kathryn Smerling , Inc. Magazine and so many others for lending your expertise and guidance in those early days and throughout).
When it comes to pitching – one of the main aspects of our job – some things changed and some things stayed the same.
Pitching During a Pandemic
The biggest change in pitching, two years ago, was that clearly, 99% of news coverage was focused around the pandemic or some aspect of the pandemic. For our doctors and healthcare experts, we were busier than ever pitching them to cable news and TV news outlet and for print, digital and radio interviews for quotes on what to expect and how to stay safe.
There was an element of sensitivity that really needed to go into each and every pitch. A publicist *always needs to remember that the journalist they’re pitching is an actual, real-life human on the receiving end of that email! But during the pandemic, that same person may be sick. Their partner maybe sick. Their kids may be sick. Every time I reached out to a member of the media, I tried to remember that – and did some further due diligence by seeing if I could glean any clues as to what they were dealing with personally over social media. There were many times that really helped me – and I either pitched, because they needed experts or sources for articles – or I held off, if I saw they were dealing with an issue at home.
We also had to pivot for many of our clients. Most of the time, when your hear the word “pivot” in relation to the media, the reference is pivoting to a different topic during an interview that may be on a contentious path forward. However, what I’m referring to here is actually pivoting the entire focus of the PR campaign in light of major global news.
For example, we work with a sports attorney who would generally comment on major contracts announcements or if a pro-athlete got into legal trouble. Two years ago, we were pitching him on all aspects of pro-sports and the pandemic: when can fans expect to see their favorite teams play again? Will they get refunds on tickets? Will the athletes still get paid even if they don’t play? For many clients, we absorbed an entirely new strategy related to the pandemic.
We also saw a major opportunity for new clients and this is a core lesson for any publicist who wants to be nimble. People were really suffering and in more ways than one. Our psychology clients truly helped people by giving advice on how to deal with their mental health in those dark days. Educators and remote learning companies were there to help parents who were suddenly thrust into working full time AND managing their kids childcare and remote school full time. We found our own ways to bring value to society through the work that we do.
Pitching in a Post-Pandemic World
As we hopefully move to endemic status, there are definitely lessons to be learned when it comes to media pitching.
First and foremost, the news cycle is king. Even if your client is doing the most interesting thing on the planet … if it doesn’t fit into the news cycle … find a way to make sure it does. Or be really targeted and specialized in the types of outlets you pitch.
Second, remember journalists are people, too. They may be dealing with personal issues at home, so try to just remember that before you press “send.” Journalists, the vast majority of the time, have open social media profiles. Check them out and see what they’re up to. It really can assist in pitching.
Third, find the opportunity. It would have been easy to lose my head when clients were dropping right and left in the early pandemic days. But instead, we actively sought out mental health professionals, medical experts and remote learning programs to promote, as a way to offer the public some guidance and outlets to navigate those troubling times. This will always be the case with the news cycle – not seeing it as a hindrance, but as an opportunity to connect and work with great new clients.
Getting Media Placements
Everyone always wants to know if there’s a “secret sauce” to getting a client on TV or securing a great digital placement. Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet, but there are some steps to follow to have a greater chance of success.
First, know who you’re pitching. Take the time to actually watch the show or clips of it at least that you are about to pitch. Read recent articles that a reporter has recently written. Check them out on social media. This prep work will set you up for success.
Second, make sure your pitches are tight. No one has time for long, flowery, super long emails. Get right to the point. Who are you pitching and why should the journalist care? What’s the ROI for them in interviewing this person?
Third, follow-up. I’m sure journalists loathe this, but you have to. They are getting hundreds of emails per day – of course some are going to go overlooked. But we’ve had great success in our follow-ups and converting them into real interviews.
Fourth, say “thank you” and share the piece. Let the reporter know you appreciate their time and were happy with the way the piece came out. Share it on your social channels. Help your client to create that buzz by putting it out there.
Written By Annie Pace Scranton