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PR 101: How to become a national treasure


Victoria Usher

Published On:

August 2, 2017

Published In:

PR & Communications | PR and marketing

In the world of public relations, getting your client featured in a national publication is the equivalent of winning the lottery.

Competition for column inches has never been so fierce. National journalists are sent thousands of emails from PRs and entrepreneurs offering their expertise every day. So how can you cut through the noise?  

Choose your moment carefully

Firstly, you need to consider the objectives of your pitch. What are you hoping to achieve and why would a national journalist be interested in the first place? Your answer might be that your client wants national coverage and they are a leading cybersecurity expert.

Unfortunately that’s not enough.

Step into the journalist’s shoes. There are hundreds of cybersecurity experts out there, so what makes your client so special? Why are they relevant right now? What’s the story?

It must be newsworthy, and timing is the key to your success. It’s therefore crucial that you are monitoring the media and Twitter for breaking news stories which are relevant to your client’s field of expertise.

For example, news breaks that customer data from one of the UK’s largest online retailers has been hacked. This is your opportunity to ensure your cybersecurity expert is available to national journalists at exactly the right time.

Pack a punch with your pitch

So you’ve found the perfect opportunity to get your client in front of a national journalist – what next?

Picking up the phone right now is unlikely to be appreciated, especially if the journalist is racing against the clock to meet their deadline. You need to craft a killer email pitch that’s straight to the point.

You will only have a few seconds to grab the attention of a national journalist so don’t overlook the email subject line. It must be hard-hitting and concise, ideally under six words in case it’s being read on-the-go. For the email itself, you need to be clear about your client’s positioning on the subject and their availability to discuss or provide a written comment by.

Remember not to get too technical in your email. National journalists are looking for the bigger picture when it comes to a topic, so don’t bore them with the mundane details. Think about what the reader will want to know, which is primarily what went wrong, whether their personal data is safe, and how they can better protect their data online.

Sealing the deal

You’ve sent your email but the clock is ticking and you still haven’t heard back. As long as you keep to the point, don’t be afraid to give the journalist a quick call – ideally on the same day. Nationals move on fast, and today’s news is tomorrow’s Google search.

It’s also polite when following up to let a journalist know when your cut-off point is. There’s nothing worse for a journalist than responding to an exclusive offer, only to find that you have already had it commissioned elsewhere.

If your excellent pitching and tenacity has secured you a commission with a national journalist, be aware that the best-laid plans can be stalled if an even bigger news story breaks. Never demand coverage if it is taking time to publish a piece; it may be that editorial decisions out of the journalist’s control are in play, and the proposed article may have been postponed to make way for a last-minute piece.

And if your fantastically-crafted pitch with your extremely well-informed client is met with a less than favourable response or – even worse – ignored, don’t be disheartened. Chances are it’s not personal; it’s more likely to be a case of bad timing, a busy news day, or editorial agendas.

Perseverance is key, and hopefully your next pitch will hit the right note and secure that elusive national commission every PR professional strives for.

Read more about GingerMay’s PR services here.

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