Incorporating the Media Business Model into Pitches

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been looking at outbound media pitches and reconsidering the way we should be approaching media.

As PR professionals, we tend to fall into a comfortable pattern. We’re given a piece of news from a client and, based upon our knowledge of the media, we shape up a pitch. As long as you know your contact well and the pitch is sound, this generally works. However, I think where PR slips up and where we as an industry could do better, is on our approach. We tend to ask the media to come around to our way of thinking on a pitch, rather than shaping the pitch to showcase how covering this news would benefit the reporter and publication. Basically, we should approach the pitch as a business transaction.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about pay-for-play or anything unethical. Instead, I believe that if we think through how the media business model works when pitching, we’ll find that there is a greater return on investment for our clients.

In a nutshell, media platforms make money by running ads packaged with content. The more a piece of content is viewed, the more valuable that content is. Reporters are generally expected to write multiple posts a day in order to generate the most amount of content to monetize. On top of that, most publications are diversifying where and how their content can be seen, with even some of the most stalwart publications, like the New York Times, looking to sites like Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp, etc.

Now, that all may seem extraneous, but when looking at a pitch, are we factoring all of this into the transaction? In my experience, pitches generally talk about the news and that’s it. Instead, I find it beneficial to run your pitch through the media business model and see if there are additional areas to explore:

  • Start with subject line. We are unfortunately living in a clickbait society, and everyone is tired of reading “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!”. But your subject line IS the first thing a reporter is going to read. If your subject line is enticing enough to open the email, you’re already illustrating to a reporter that the news is interesting enough to generate clicks on their article. Think through what you think the headline could be and modify your subject line accordingly.
  • Diversify your story. Rather than go for the traditional briefing/coverage model, think through the assets you have. If it’s visual and you have b-roll, pitch it to the publication’s video editor. Publications are spending millions of dollars on video because it generates engagement; your story could be used on multiple platforms.
  • Get your ducks in a row. Reporters don’t have the time to spend weeks working on a story. Before going to your target, get all the assets you’ll need (data, 3rd party sources, quotes) before pitching, so that if there’s a quick turnaround time, you’re not spinning your wheels.

This isn’t revolutionary thinking, and I believe we are doing this – to a point. However, thinking more about the business of media does more than just improve our pitching skills – it allows us to become a greater asset, not only to the media, but to our clients.

Justin Finnegan
Senior Account Manager

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Posted on February 24, 2016 in Media, Public Relations, Tools

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