Articles Tagged with story

The secret of pitching a story

#SillySeasonPR #9

The secret of pitching a story #SillySeasonPR

The secret of pitching a story

One week I wrote newspaper articles about a new financial services company, a new shop with a community mission, a business celebrating a 30-year anniversary and a business exporting high quality, hi-tech products.

How did these businesses pitch their stories?

  1. Email to the newsdesk
  2. Press release sent to the newspaper
  3. Facebook message direct to journalist
  4. Information given on a factory tour

What’s the best way to pitch your story?

The one that works.

Seriously, there are many ways to pitch a story and they all work for some people and don’t work for lots of other people.

The challenge is to find the way of pitching that works for your story, for you and the journalist you are targeting.

Be prepared

However you pitch your story, it’s essential that your pitch:

  • is short and punchy
  • is easy to understand
  • excites the person you are approaching

and, most importantly,

  • lets the story tell itself

Of course, your story does need to be interesting and exciting in order to do all this.

On my factory tour, it was a few simple facts about the company’s achievements that impressed me – no sales pitch, no boasts – just plain facts that spoke for themselves and made me think: “I want to write about that.”

Don’t wind journalists up

Sometimes people try to tell journalists what to do, what angle to take and insist that they visit to interview a senior person. This is not a good idea. It’s one thing to make suggestions, but another to tell journalists what to do in their own publication. Understandably, journalists get annoyed when this happens.

Invite rather than demand. Suggest rather than insist.

Let your business speak for itself

Surprisingly, many businesses talk about themselves without actually saying what they do or what they achieve.

When you pitch a story, show round a journalist or just talk about about your business, your message needs to be clear and straightforward. Don’t waffle or go into needless background that tires your listener or makes them want to end the conversation.

Don’t worry needlessly about how you contact a journalist, because if you get the pitch right, your story will sell itself.

Your #SillySeasonPR #9 task is to think of how to pitch your story in a few words that will make the listener ask to hear more. Good luck and do ask any questions you have.

Tomorrow: ? Visit to find out

Use the content and tips in our videos and posts below to boost your business.

 

Three stories waiting to be deciphered

Press releases work best when there is a clear focus on one story. From the headline and the first sentence you know what it’s about.

Sometimes I receive press releases with no clear story or three little stories or even no story. I’ve even had press releases passed to me by colleagues with the comment: “I think there’s a story in there somewhere.”

You have to work hard to figure it out and if it’s not obvious, you give up, which wastes the effort of writing the press release.

If you have three stories, write three press releases to get maximum coverage. If they’re crammed into one article, you’ll lose the impact and, if it does get published, no one will realise what it’s really about.

You could also find that different stories appeal to different segments of your target audience. So you could send one story to publications for one segment and another story to publications aimed at a different group.

Good stories are valuable. Don’t waste them.

Tell a spellbinding story

Tell a spellbinding story with your press release

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Everyone enjoys a good story. Stories are the best way for businesses to get their messages across to customers.

As a business journalist, I often get people calling me saying they’ve started a new business with no idea of what to say about it. I’m always interested in why someone starts a business, especially in these tough times, so I ask them what inspired them.

This simple question is often the key to unlocking the story of their business. They tell me about their life, the barriers they’ve come up against, their dreams and how they’ve pursued them, and a lot more.

Suddenly, they’ve gone from being just someone who’s opened another business to someone with an interesting story. It usually says a lot about their business too, revealing their ethos and how they operate.

Not all journalists are ready to put the work in to discover the story, so it’s good to discover your own story and tell it for yourself.

What drives you to run your business? What has happened along the way? What thoughts struck you so you decided to make your business that bit different from everyone else?

Capture the imagination of your audience as you tell the story of your journey to success.

Make sure your press release tells real news

Journalists want news.

Do you have news to tell or are you just trying to sell?

Editorials are not the same as adverts. Editorial usually aims to be impartial and not overtly promote a product or service. It can describe and sometimes review, but on the whole does not sell. If your press release is an advert dressed up as news, it could very likely be ignored. Or sometimes the advertising department will call you to sell you an advert.

Having no story is just as bad. It is possible to read a press release and wonder if there is a story there. If a press release is produced just because an organisation thinks it’s time it ‘did some PR’, it’s likely to be vague and unfocused.

What is newsworthy about your business? What are you doing that is interesting? What have you achieved?

How many words should I write for a press release?

As many as you need to tell the story and no more.

A short, punchy press release can sometimes cover all its news in 200-300 words, while a story needing more detail could run to 500 words or so.

What is important is that every word counts. If sentences ramble or contain incidental information that does not add much to the story, they could obscure the main message you want to get across.

Is there an absolute limit? No, although a longer press release must be enthralling or contain ground-breaking news to work. If it waffles or is stuffed with words and phrases that don’t move the story on, much is likely to be cut if a journalist has managed to read it all.

The test is to ask what every sentence or piece of information contributes. If it contributes nothing, cut it.

Did they miss your story?

When working as a journalist, I keep my eyes peeled for certain topics. When I read a press release, I expect it to be about the topic in the headline and introductory paragraph, but last week I found a second story embedded further on in a press release. I left this out of the article I was writing, but it happened that this second story was of more interest to me than the main one.

This could have been dangerous for the company sending the press release as the second story could easily have been missed or ignored. They’re lucky as I’ve taken the effort to interview them for a second article, so they’ve managed two out of one, but they very nearly threw away that second story.

I suggest sticking to one story per press release. Many businesses struggle to find any interesting stories, so it’s best to use them sparingly. It also helps to create a flow of interesting stories to maintain awareness.

Busy journalists and editors can skim the beginning of a press release and never reach the bottom paragraphs. Whether that’s right or wrong, it’s not worth the risk of wasting time and money invested in your public relations programme.

What’s the story in . . . ? Wouldn’t you like to know?

Well, stories don’t tell themselves: we need storytellers.

At the start of what will probably be a very challenging year, it would be very easy to just give up after reading some of the doom and gloom press reports and opinion pieces. But wait a minute? Do you know anyone in business who is busy or who has just won a substantial order? We do. And just now a client phoned with a new editing commission.

Life goes on. Business goes on. If we let them.

But if nobody hears that businesses are winning orders, signing new contracts and achieving other successes, the doom and gloom stories will dominate everyone’s thinking.

I’m not suggesting we gloss over major challenges for businesses, many of which are not directly of their own making, but let’s aim for a more balanced picture.

How can we achieve this?

While some businesses are all to quick to send out a press release with news that is more important to themselves than to anyone else, many with real news don’t recognise its value. I usually find that most businesses have something interesting to say about themselves. A bit of thinking about how this could be of interest to others could develop some powerful public relations material.

When I work as a journalist, businesses often send me press releases that are actually sales pitches. Where I have time, I talk to them to find if there is an underlying story that can be developed into an interesting article. Often there is.

Now, not every journalist has the time or inclination to do this, so it is best to think your story through before sending your press release out or contacting the media.

What help will this be? If some PR can raise awareness of your products and services or generate new enquiries and sales, it will help not only your business but also the wider economy. That could be useful if the recent 2.5% VAT rise is affecting your sales.

So what’s the story?

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