My feet are finally touching down after a whirlwind two days attending Janet Murray’s Soulful PR live, and what an eye opener it was!
Anything I thought I knew about PR, pitching stories and getting featured was tossed out the window to be replaced with a much more informed and realistic view.
Not only did I get to spend the entirety of day 1 absorbing tons of PR related knowledge, I was lucky enough to have twenty minutes at the end of the day to pitch my ideas to Journalists from Good Morning Britain, Marie Claire and The Guardian (To name just a few.)
When the time came my brain was absolutely buzzing. Because of this I felt unsure, nervous, daunted and as a result completely fluffed it up.
In the world of rap battles I believe they call it ’choking!’
It wasn’t until the following day that the thoughts crystalised and it was clear what I should have said when I had the opportunity. Part of me kicked myself for not capitalising on it more. But now I see it was all part of the experience. I received some fantastic advice, the learning has really embedded and I am now even more tenacious about doing something with it.
I’m going to share these crucial lessons (AKA 5 mistakes to avoid) if you want to pitch to world-class journalists and not fluff it up like me!
After breathily bumbling through my intro and ideas it was obvious that I was being really vague. This was confirmed first of all by a big pause, but also because the word vague was used more than once! Where I thought I had a good angle or story, in reality it was non-specific and too generalist. Lynn Enright, Features Editor for high profile publication The Pool gave some fantastic (and very kind) advice in response to my vagueness.
Action – Know the publication, know what they are looking for, and be specific in pinpointing your story, angle and whom it is for. I’m now doubling down on the core messages for my pitches, and pin pointing what makes them relevant to the specific audience of the publication.
The other rude awakening was that my approach was really quite bland. I was trying to be too broad in my description rather than having the courage to share the nitty gritty of my story. Andrea Thompson Features Director at Marie Claire quite rightly advised me that it is these experiences that people want to hear. The face palm moment was that my business is all about helping women to use their stories to stand out.
I should have known better!
Action – Don’t be afraid to really go into the key experiences you have faced and the opinions you have, no matter how strong or polarising. Feistiness and conflict of opinion is good; it will really make you stand out.
If you think you have an original story chances are a journalist will have heard something similar before. They are inundated with hundreds of pitches every single day and are on the hunt for fresh, new and interesting ideas.
I thought my experience as a Mum who lost her confidence and found it again (which led to me doing a TED talk) was original because of my unique experience. Wrong! To the journalists it still sounded well trodden. Catherine Carr, the wonderfully talented broadcaster for BBC Woman’s Hour told me how to shake up my story to make it fresh and interesting. She along with Lynn Enright, Adrian Butler and Maya Wolf Robinson also gave me new angles and stories based on my experience.
It was great because the lesson I took from this is that your stories are still important, they just need to be told in a different way.
Action – Take your story, shake it up and look at it from different angles and viewpoints. Relate it to other key stories that are happening right now. I’ve now got some fresh and exciting new angles thanks to that golden feedback.
A really clear insight from my time with the press was that if you want to be known for your opinion, you have to express it regularly and in public. Visibility on social media is absolutely crucial if you want to have any authority or credibility to what you do, but also so that journalists can find you.
One of my big takeaways was that Twitter is KING! It is THE place to be to get direct access to and build relationships with journalists. It is also the first place they will look when checking people like you out for articles and features.
It made me realize that my dibble dabbling thus far was nowhere near the mark.
Action – Prioritise time on Twitter building relationships, creating lists and expressing your opinions in the key areas of your thought leadership. Get visible so that you are easier to find when the journalists come looking. I’m now upping my Twitter game big time!
Staying in the dark
Before attending SPRLive I thought I had really done my homework. But I was wrong! A big mistake people make is pitching when they don’t know the publication or even the editor they are pitching to. Knowing what types of things are interesting to them, the topics that are important to their readers and the types of news and stories that they want to hear are absolutely crucial if you want your email even opened. Staying in the dark about the place you want to get featured will keep you in the dark.
It makes sense but it’s surprising how many people make this boo boo.
Action – Get to know the place you want to be featured really well before pitching. That means understanding the types of stories and features they cover, the opinions that are being expressed, the tone, the volume and the regularity. This goes for on and offline publications. If you have big goals to stand out and get featured, it will require you to put in some respectful legwork. I’m really looking forward to immersing myself in my favourite publications from the day, getting under the skin and pitching the right stories.
The irony of these lessons is this: I say this to my audience every day, it may be in a different context but it is still the same message.
Be bold, be brave, have an opinion, get visible and do your homework. It’s the best way for you to get noticed as a leader in you field, and it’s the best way for you to get noticed by world-class journalists.
I have already seen fantastic results. Two days after Soulful PR live I pitched a story to BBC radio Sussex and went live on air to share my view. So, it really does pay dividends to learn and take action.
What are your experiences in this area? Comment below, I’d love to hear.