Traditional media may not be what it once was but it’s still an important channel to reach customers and key audiences. We picked the brain of one of our favorite pitch guys, Michael Lindenberger, about what organizations should keep in mind for their 2023 media engagement strategy.
Michael has seen the highs and lows of the news industry, having worked in PR for decades. Though his focus has been tech, he also has editorial and reporter relationships in business, management consulting, and sports and entertainment. Spring Green has worked with Michael to help land coverage for clients in outlets including CNBC, eWeek, Forbes, PBS and TechRepublic. Read on for Michael’s take on what makes a good pitch and what he thinks of sponsored content (spoiler alert: it ain’t all bad).
Q: What are the essential elements of a good pitch today?
A: I think the elements of a good pitch in 2022 are the same as they were in 2012. However, pitch writers have a higher bar to clear today than they did 10 years ago because there are simply far fewer journalists now relative to the number of PR people pitching them stories. There are way too many of us and too few reporters!
That said, here are three “timeless” elements that still capture the attention of busy reporters:
- Proprietary, trending data: if you/your client has data that no one else has access to — particularly if it can convincingly uncover a burgeoning trend — that information is gold to reporters. And, while smart PR people will typically push their clients to produce a report based on this type of data, a full report isn’t always necessary to get media attention. If you have two or three data points that illustrate a trend, consider shopping them around as an exclusive, along with the opportunity for the reporter to do a deeper dive on the data with you or your client.
- Focused spokespeople: it’s natural to want to offer up your CEO client as a spokesperson to reporters. But others in the company will often have greater expertise on a particular topic. While the CEO title is nice, reporters generally care much more about the interviewee’s subject-matter expertise.
- Customer stories: this is a no-brainer but it’s worth emphasizing — reporters want to hear directly from the people who are using your product or service. While it’s often challenging to get customers to speak, it’s worth making the effort given the potential payback.
Q: What should MarComm leaders expect from a media pitch cycle in terms of landing coverage? What kind of expectation setting do you do with your own clients?
A: I think it’s important to let clients know that not every interview will lead to coverage. For instance, “intro” calls with reporters rarely lead to immediate coverage. But they’re absolutely worth doing as these new relationships will often lead to coverage down the road.
This dynamic is particularly true with the trade press — once a reporter at a trade discovers what expertise your client has, there’s a good chance they’ll circle back with you once they’re working on a story for which they think your client could be helpful. I’ve had reporters circle back with me six months after doing an intro call with a client and request to interview the person for a story they’re working on. Public relations truly is a “relationship business.”
Q: It’s been reported that Bill Gates once said, “If I was down to my last marketing dollar, I’d spend it on PR.” If you had a client with a similar “last marketing dollar,” how would you advise they spend it (a PR pitch cycle, sponsored content, advertising, web SEO)?
A: “All of the above.” Yes, I know that was cheating. The reality is that all of these forms of marketing work off each other and have limited ability to move the needle on their own. That said, I think it’s worth calling out “sponsored content” as an increasingly important aspect of a good marketing mix.
There was a time not long ago when most PR people (including yours truly) sort of scoffed at the idea of doing much in the way of sponsored content. But, with more and more publications turning to a sponsored model — particularly for contributed articles — to some extent, I think we have to play along. I still steer clients away from most sponsored content opportunities, but there are certainly some worth doing. An obvious example is the “Forbes Council” program. The fee is relatively nominal and, in addition to being able to post content at Forbes.com, members also have the opportunity to network with others in their field. It’s these types of programs that I think are worth considering.
by Tia Over