A note from Jeff Morosoff: Hofstra Honors Program students in my PR Fundamentals class are required to submit guest blog posts throughout the semester. For my regular post, keep scrolling after the guest column. The following is written by public relations sophomore Nathalie Salazar:
On Friday, Hofstra hosted the “PR on a Budget” conference for nonprofit organizations “struggling to move their message,” either through the media or in their own community. The conference featured various speakers who taught how to use social media in the most cost/time effective way and gave advice on each nonprofit organizations’ problem areas. Along with 35 nonprofits in attendance, I and several other students were there. And I found the presentation by Jaci Clement, executive director of Fair Media Council, and David Chauvin, vice president of Zimmerman/Edelson Public Relations, very thought-engaging and idea-sparking.
Clement and Chauvin talked about pitching stories to the media, from the local to the national level. In today’s media world, journalists are being pitched hundreds of stories a day.
How will yours stand out from those hundreds?
To begin with, news is “something out of the ordinary,” said Clement. The story PR professionals pitch must be unique and interesting. In actuality, a journalist only has about 30 seconds to hear your story, so you must set priorities, set the message, set a plan, and stick to it. Begin your pitch with a catchy headline, avoid using words such as “fundraiser,” “conference,” and “event” (because those are everyday occurrences), and if you can, try to find a human element to your story that can connect with the audience.
Chauvin also emphasized that you “must do your homework.” Research the reporter you are pitching to, make sure you are pitching to the correct news outlet (one that will reach the specific audience you are targeting), and when pitching, make sure the information is at your fingertips so if the reporter asks anything, you will have a quick answer.
Lastly, Clement and Chauvin explained how to make a local story into a national story. The key to this is the human component. Readers look for stories they can connect with and ones they could understand on a personal level. Also, local stories can go national if it has a connection to a national trend or issue. Keep in mind that national stories appeal to the masses.
Pitching stories is tough. But it is also our job.
So, when writing your pitch letters, ask yourself this: Who am I writing to? What is unique and interesting about my story/message? Is there a human element to the story I am pitching? And is there a way I could connect my local story to a national issue or trend?