Pitching Industry Peers

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Posted: July 31, 8:04 a.m.
by Jacquie McMahon.

In a media-heavy society and industry, public relations professionals pitch stories targeted to specific audiences. Typically, these are stories on behalf of clients to reach consumers reading popular news outlets. However, communications managers also work with industry outlets like PRWeek and PR Daily to feature current events within the profession and promote successful campaigns. Pitches to public relations publications share many similarities with those to news outlets, but it’s important to know the nuances of working with industry media to get the coverage you deserve.

Why industry media

Outlets focused on public relations news can be just as important to read and pitch as other media. Following these outlets enhances your own knowledge through understanding industry updates, learning about relevant trends and finding unlikely sources of professional development. These stories can also provide a way to reach key publics, including fellow professionals, potential new employees and clients.

Amanda Coppock, a senior account executive at Porter Novelli in Atlanta, agrees. “Reaching out to the PR media is a great way to get recognition among your peers and highlight the great work you are doing. While the coverage will be in front of your peers in PR, some of those peers could be current or potential clients, so an opportunity to impress is always a good move,” she said.

Consistently earning positive or creative media coverage inspires others to want to work with your company and join these initiatives. This type of coverage gives public relations managers the opportunity to promote their employers or display their own thought leadership.

But once you’ve made the decision to pitch a PR outlet, make sure to choose the right one for your piece.

PR Daily publishes daily news and opinions on topics ranging from content sharing tips to PR lessons from popular television shows. The editors frequently post guest content, showcasing blogs from students and professionals of all levels. If you’re interested in building your writing portfolio with insight on the industry, PR Daily might be the best outlet to pitch.

PRWeek, on the other hand, covers industry events, case studies and employee information regarding the vice president levels and above. Access to online content and the monthly PRWeek magazine requires a paid subscription. PRWeek has a devoted following, currently serving approximately 8,000 subscribers to the U.S. print edition and 100,000 unique visitors to the website each month.

“We help people do their jobs better, and that’s how we make ourselves indispensable in the industry,” PRWeek Editor-in-Chief Steve Barrett said.

What to pitch

Don’t pitch industry outlets without content that is relevant and interesting, specifically tailored to their readers.

“Every media contact you pitch will have their own specific knowledge base,” Coppock said. “In the case of the PR media, their knowledge base is the work you do!”

Because these outlets are so familiar with public relations campaigns, your pitch should include fresh insight. If you’re sharing work for a client, it should emphasize the campaign’s outcomes to prove its success.

“If you can present great case studies with results, that’s really like gold dust for us. We enjoy a fantastic story but need to see results,” Barrett said.

And these days, they’re not just looking for media results or advertising equivalency. “We want you to show us — how did you move the needle in terms of sales, or change behavior or move the audience to change its opinion?” Barrett said.

The 2014 winner of the PRWeek Campaign of the Year seems to display the results Barrett and his team are looking for. Ketchum and Gillette’s “How Does the Man of Steel Shave?” campaign not only generated 15 percent of Gillette’s total YouTube views, but also led to a spike in sales around Father’s Day. “The effort drove unprecedented ROI and sales for the brand, but it also serves as a super example of creativity for every PR pro,” said a PRWeek judge on the website.

Familiarize yourself with past case studies before pitching one. If you can show a similar level of creativity and impact on ROI, your campaign might be a future winner.

How to pitch

Next, it’s time to fine-tune the pitch. Coppock emphasized the importance of photos captured during the campaign’s implementation. High-quality visual features will enhance your pitch and increase the chances of it securing coverage.

When Coppock pitched the LessThanUThink campaign as a student, she saw the importance of proving the campaign’s success with metrics. “[The reporter] was also willing to wait for the best information, rather than turning me away because our campaign wasn’t finished with the evaluation stage yet,” Coppock said. “That was refreshing!”

Coppock and the LessThanUThink team worked closely with the industry reporter until the campaign’s evaluation finished, even setting up a conference call to discuss the results. The effort resulted in coverage of the student-run campaign.

Barrett stressed exclusivity, especially when working with PRWeek. If it’s a general piece, PRWeek will likely provide a small space at most. Barrett said the approach of reaching out to a long media list of contacts is no longer effective.

“The best pitch is from someone you know and trust that you’ve worked with before and had good results with before,” Barrett said. “When building those relationships, no matter how much the industry changes in terms of the channels or ways of communicating with people, the same sort of stipulations still apply.”

Building relationships is key for working with industry outlets. As an industry journalist scans through a jam-packed inbox, familiar names will stand out from the clutter. Foster these relationships by having quality content to share each time you reach out.

Successful coverage in public relations media shows the journalists, other companies and industry peers that you are an insightful leader in the industry. “Knowing what those people want and giving them good content, then it’s a win-win for both sides,” Barrett said.

Jacquie McMahon is a former Platform Magazine editor and director, and she is now an assistant account executive at Ogilvy Public Relations in New York City.

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