4 Tips to Power-Up Your Pitch During the Pandemic

by | May 26, 2020 | Marketing Strategy

“Where there’s a will (alongside some added guidance) there’s a way,” is a mantra most media professionals — myself included — are working with these days. The ability to cultivate media relationships to garner impactful press coverage has historically been a challenge in and of itself. Now, in the wake of global turmoil, writers and reporters are far and few between. However, identifying current media reps is only half the battle.

When Cision — a trusted media resource for agencies — published its 2020 Global State of the Media Report, our team quickly took to absorbing every bit of information relevant to our specific skillsets. We did the heavy lifting and compiled a shortlist of useful information and expert insight to share in a reader-friendly round-up format (don’t worry, we live for research and often spend our free-time learning in some capacity).

Share What’s Newsworthy

If you look at most stories now, you’ll likely see experts discussing reopening plans. For you, that means you should already be thinking about “back at work” stories. How can companies ensure social distancing in their offices? How has the lockdown changed office culture? What happens if an open business has a sick employee? These are stories relevant in the coming weeks.

However, journalists are realistic about COVID-19 fatigue setting in on audiences, but as this is a fluid situation most audiences still want regular updates, especially on a local level. One journalist mentioned that non-COVID-19 feature readership was also up, so if you have a feel-good local story don’t be afraid to pitch it. Another media rep expressed “I’d love to see more timely/local stories that are NOT about the virus. Even just one a day would be refreshing.” And finally, as one respondent said, “We could all use a little positivity in this crisis.”

Finding the appropriate angle is especially important when pitching at the moment; as each state is handling the crisis differently, many of the respondents are only interested in local news pitches. “Understand yours and our target audience and make sure your story pitch works with our publication’s demographic, area of coverage, and subject matter. Random press releases and generic pitches not tailored to our publication are useless and annoying.” As one respondent said, “Directly tell me in one or two sentences why this is important for the public to know about – not just why it’s important for the company or client.” Make sure you understand a journalist’s current coverage area. Ask yourself: “How does it fit into their world?” Make your announcement/story relevant to them and reposition your strategy and pitch angles when necessary to ensure you’re sharing the most relevant story possible for that outlet’s audience.

Spare the unnecessary details: We’ve all been guilty of oversharing at one point or another. In this specific scenario, remember the adage: “less is more.”

There are a few key components to keep in mind when putting together your pitch structure. For starters, a formal press release is an anchor for many pitches. Any additional information can be shared in the closing section of your release, otherwise: “Releases should state clear objectives so reporters actually understand how we can best leverage or support them.”

The “pitch” itself (ideally formatted as an email) should always be clear and concise. The results from the media were undoubtedly unanimous. Save the casualties for the time being: “We need to know the subject and location. (Stop) wasting prime real estate in the first line saying ‘For Immediate Release.’ Or, ‘I hope this finds you well.’ We need to see what it’s about without having to open it.”

Reach Out Using Preferred Methods

Use email to pitch journalists; unsurprisingly, many media reps are working remotely. No more are the days of a follow-up call to your local newsdesk. When asked, media reps provided their perspective, one of our favorite bits of feedback states “Emails are the least time-consuming option for us. (Brief emails, without elaborate, teaser introductory paragraphs.)”

Practice Strategic Timing

36% of journalists surveyed plan their stories daily or more frequently, while 42% plan a week to a month ahead. Keep these time frames in mind when you’re crafting pitches, especially if you’re planning to follow up (once is enough). Take this media rep’s word for it: “(Be) understanding if it takes days for journalists to get back, follow up if you don’t hear back in a few days – we get buried in emails! (But after the first follow up, a second probably isn’t needed.)”

Remember to also practice patience with your outreach plan. “Journalists are absolutely swamped, so it may take longer than usual to hear back from them,” (Cision, 2020). One surveyee notes: “I still prefer pitches via email; I’m more likely to open them over the weekend, when I’m not getting as many emails.”

Be A Resource

Efficiency is key: Provide all necessary materials for the story, including images and links. Assume that they’re not going to reply back to your email, but that they are going to write a story based on all of the information provided from your email.

Offer experts available for video interviews: This is a huge plus in a time when we’re all on video calls and watching more video on our devices at home. “Email remains key, but noting whether a guest/expert is available for a FaceTime/ Skype video interview is more helpful than ever.”

It is reported that nearly 30% of reporters consider an identified spokesperson as the most trustworthy source for media references to build any given story — comparatively, major wire distributions ranked second (at 21%), outsourced industry experts at third (nearly 20%) followed by a drastic decrease in credibility from 11% and lower across academic, consumer, other relevant outlets, government sources, former and current company staff, and even social media influencers who may have authoritative insight on the brand. As a friendly reminder: “Offer experts related to the news of the day. Don’t try to capitalize on the crisis by promoting clients in distasteful ways.”

View the Bigger Picture. Some media outlets have transitioned entire staff to cover COVID-19 and other types of stories have been put on hold. On average, 33% of reporters file 1-3 stories per week, 31% file over 10 stories a week and 24% file 4-6 per week. Comms professionals must continue researching outlets and journalists before pitching.

With a rapidly evolving news landscape it’s become ever more important to practice the proper (and rather unspoken) etiquette with media of every kind. You wouldn’t ask a love interest out for a date without practicing in the mirror more times than one would like to admit — so consider these tips to help you land that date (or in this case, media relationships and press coverage).

If you’re in the market for more info to strengthen your PR and marketing strategy, feel free to contact us.


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Long walk up steps

A Change Log: Tracking Success – A Monthly Status Report

We live in a fast-paced world. And with that comes change, both planned and unplanned. Tracking these changes is important to our business growth, but it's also important for us to remember what we've done right. This blog post will discuss how you can keep track of your success by utilizing a monthly status report or "changelog." Building a business from the ground up means you have to build your systems and processes from the ground up. As the organization matures and you begin iterating on existing processes, keeping track of the changes across an organization is virtually impossible. We have SOP's for just about everything in the company but we started to lose perspective on the changes in terms of the quantity, impact and timing. What I wanted was to get a snapshot of the changes in our organization. One afternoon I was reading a Change Log for a tool that we use trying to understand if an issue we'd been experiencing was fixed yet or had been changed. I thought this would be a simple and effective way to track high-level business changes. If software developers had used changelogs for decades to document their systems and platforms, why couldn't we do the same for a business? They're different but similar. I took the idea and started off in a core tool of ours, Notion. I set up an empty page and created a header with the Year-Month at the top. Underneath I created four more sub-headers, Team Changes, Client Changes, Operational Changes and Service Changes. That was it! Our first entry looked like this: 202109 -Team Changes: Dee joined our team as a storyteller, "XXXX" has started maternity leave. -Client Changes: No new clients. -Operational Changes: No operational changes. -Service Changes: Decided to pilot a shift in our subscription services in terms of project configuration, moving them to annual plans After some refinement (and copying over data from our leadership team report) we were able to backfill the first two months of our changelog. To be honest, I'd forgotten about some of the changes we've made over the last few months. It was nice to look back and realize the meaningful and purposeful change we've introduced over just the last 2 months. Moving forward, we will append snippets from our weekly team meetings to this changelog as we go. Since its really a changelog around how the company operates, we'll be sharing this with the full team and keeping it accessible to all within Notion.
Post-it note ideas

When Is It Time to Change Your Most Successful Plans

As a leader, I’ve learned that it is important to always be trying new things. If you are not constantly evolving and changing your approach, then someone else will come along and do it for you. However, this doesn’t mean that we should change everything at once. So how do you know when to change? It's typically easier to create new change but what about changing what was once "right"? In this blog post, I want to share a thought around revisiting your customer journey and KPI metrics and how leaders evaluate past decisions and know when they need to stop doing what has been successful for them and start looking into other ideas or approaches. The first element to focus on is your customer journey and how your customers are interacting with your products or services. Many aspects of your customer journey, defined or undefined, evolve over time for a variety of reasons. A primary driver of change would be technology, but who knows, maybe a pandemic will upend everything you've built. As external factors evolve consumer's lives, you must continually evaluate each stage of the customer journey (i.e.: Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Retention, Advocacy) is being experienced. Are the tools and tactics you're using inside of each stage still relevant to you AND your customer(s)? Take an hour out of your day and re-walked the customer journey and participated in the process yourself for a moment. Take a look back and 3-4 of your past leads/prospects and do some research around their experience with your organization as it relates to the customer journey. Once we've reviewed our customer journey and realigned it with the customer expectations, metrics are your next stop. We all have metrics and we're not going to cover in this post discerning between vanity and real metrics, but let's spend some time looking at the metrics as they relate to the customer journey. Each stage has metrics nowadays we can track everything from impressions on ads, to engagements within email newsletters, live chats on your website and thats just scratching the start of the customer journey. Now is the time to make sure your metrics are applicable and I'll give an example that we see happening a lot right now. For example, retail storefronts typically count "door-swings" as a KPI. This is a great measurement for the Consideration stage, but what happens when those numbers fall lower and lower but your sales are climbing up and up? Does it mean that you have a hot product? Or that you have targeted better customers? Or does it simply mean that the customers have done more evaluation (consideration) online (typically Awareness) and your customers are self-qualifying themselves? If you make an assumption that it's one of those three scenarios without analyzing the reality, you're making broad assumptions and doubling down on something that is unsubstantiated with data. If so, maybe you should consider adding live-chat functionality and pairing that with your door-swing KPI! So in closing, it is important to remember that you are always a student of your customer. If you're not constantly re-evaluating and learning more about how they interact with your business, then someone else will come along and change the game on you!
Key Result Areas

How to Create Accountability for Your Creative Team through Key Result Areas

What are Key Result Areas and why do they help create accountability for creative teams? Everyone on team OTM is constantly looking for ways to improve how we do things, from how we collaborate on big projects to how we communicate results to our clients, no one is excluded from the conversation about being 1% better every day.  However, with so many people contributing to and collaborating on projects, how does anyone know who is accountable for the outcomes of those projects?  In many companies, creative or not, accountability has become a bad word. It’s thrown around when things go wrong and it’s typically a finger-pointing game that can be detrimental to culture and team communication. No one wants to be blamed when things go wrong, but what about the benefits of accountability?  The leadership team at OTM believes that accountability can be a positive thing - when communicated clearly and celebrated often. As stated in the book, The OZ Principle: Getting Results Through Individual & Organizational Accountability, accountability is “a personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results—to See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It.”  So how do you set expectations when it comes to accountability for individual team members?  Introducing KRAs (Key Result Areas)  What is a KRA? KRAs are Key Result Areas (sometimes called competencies) that are used to define the outcomes that an individual team member is responsible for, providing clarity through a well-defined, measurable outcome that aligns what they do in their role with what the organization needs in order to be successful. KRA Quick Tips:  KRAs should be created for the role and not the individual A well defined KRA should show a team member how they can “win” in their role  A strong KRA should set clear expectations and a framework for feedback  How to Create a KRA  Creating a KRA can be tricky. KRAs should be broad, but clear - if they are too vague, they will cause confusion and ultimately allow for more ways to avoid accountability, but they should also not be so specific that you begin micromanaging how the team member does their job. 5 Steps to Creating a Clear KRA:  Observe all of the tasks that the role is completing or should complete Identify primary tasks that have the highest probability of return for the organization and then group these tasks into categories Take these groupings of tasks and assign outcomes to them (you may end up with 3-5 key outcomes for the role) Assign key metrics or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to the outcome, answer the question “what are the results that will happen when I achieve this outcome?” Evaluate the KRA outcomes by asking yourself the following questions: Do they make sense? Do they set clear expectations? Do they provide a clear feedback loop? Auditing KRAs and Roles  When you work in an industry that is constantly changing like ours, it’s important to re-evaluate your team’s KRAs regularly. Depending on how often the needs of your organization change, we recommend auditing KRAs and roles bi-annually by having a conversation with your team member that is separate from the review cycle where you can work together to adjust the KRA based on any new outcomes that are needed from the role for the success of the business.  Performance Reviews and KRAs KRAs, if done correctly, should make your performance reviews easier because you have an agreed upon set of outcomes that you can measure against.  How we perform Performance Reviews at OTM:  First, we have our employees rate themselves on a scale of one to four (so that there are no neutral answers) for each of their KRA outcomes, our agency core values, their individual growth plans and how they are contributing to the agency’s strategic goals. Then, we schedule a 15-minute meeting to discuss any discrepancies between our evaluation and their self-evaluation. Because the review is simply a review of the past quarter it should not take more than 15 minutes.  If a conversation needs more than 15 minutes, it is no longer part of the review and should be part of a performance coaching conversation.  Communicating KRAs Companywide  How does the team know what others are responsible for? We suggest having an accountability chart for your company that outlines who is responsible for what so there is no confusion.  At OTM, we follow EOS®, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, and we use the Ninety EOS® Software to integrate our vision to our team's roles, placing the KRA outcomes into each of the accountability chart boxes so everyone can clearly see who is responsible for what.  “A culture of accountability makes a good organization great and a great organization unstoppable.” - Henry Evans Do you have questions about how to improve your organization’s People, Product or Profit? Reach out to OTM to see if we’d be a good fit to help you solve your organization’s problems.
66 day habit cycle customer journey on a pad of paper next to a compass

How the 66 Day Habit Cycle Will Impact Your Marketing

We’re all in agreement that 2020 was “unprecedented”, “disruptive” and “once-in-a-lifetime”, and we are all looking at how to navigate the changes that came with it. One of the things we have been looking at with our clients is how new habits have formed in consumers since the beginning of 2020 and what that means for their marketing strategy. We are choosing to look at this from the perspective of James Clear who wrote one of our favorite books, Atomic Habits. Consumers Are Changing Their Habits As consumers, we typically purchase out of habit or regular tendency whether it's the grocery store we always go to or restaurants we frequent because of familiarity. We choose products and services that align with them, and we make decisions using our habits in a generally predictable manner. Once we entered into the pandemic, our routines changed and that affected the habits we created. For example, a large number of people who typically would shop for groceries in-store switched to shopping for groceries online. This is important for us now because it changed an existing habit and businesses are pivoting to accommodate that. Changes Happen In 66 Day Cycles James Clear references numerous studies in his book that highlight the 66-day average. One of these studies states that it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. We are approaching our fifth ‘66 day cycle’ since the pandemic began meaning we've been through multiple cycles to figure out how we prefer to buy groceries, change our meal and dining preferences, replace in-store experiences with online shopping, work from wherever and more. This has caused multiple people to change their minds, habits and routines. What This Means for Marketing It’s time to revisit the customer journey. Start looking at how your customers are purchasing goods and services in your market. For example, if you find that you have more online traffic than usual, it might be time for you to up your digital marketing efforts to accommodate your consumers. Some of you may have customers that only buy every 3 years for example. Remember that their journey includes approximately 2-4 months of pre-purchase research. Look into how your customers might be researching other purchases they make in the meantime. Chances are that they have shifted to an online research experience. This means your online presence needs to support the customer through their research process further and the customer will likely be visiting your location further along and closer to a purchase than before. Have you considered what this shift means for your business or your team? Are you prepared to accommodate or convert consumers in a different way that aligns with their newly formed habits? As the pandemic ends (whenever that may be), we believe that some of our habits will revert to the "old normal" and some may stick to the new habits. At the end of the day, a successful business has the responsibility to create the best experience for its customers, so it is time to reconsider how they are creating their journey no matter what changes have occurred. If you are interested in more information on this, feel free to reach out to our team. We are always happy to help you create meaningful and purposeful experiences.