Kara Udziela knows how to pique reporters’ interest in a company. Her specialty, as the founder of public relations agency Vibrance PR, is launching fast-paced companies and their products by telling compelling stories and developing relationships with reporters. If a particular pitch isn’t working, she’ll contact a reporter to find out why – and offer an alternative story idea.
Udziela also is co-organizer of the Orange County, Calif., chapter of PR Over Coffee, started in Austin, Texas, by PR pro Dave Manzer. The Orange County group (full disclosure: I’m the co-chair) is designed to help small business obtain media coverage from local and national media outlets.
During a recent PR Over Coffee session, Udziela offered her tips on creating a pitch letter that will move reporters to action.
- Everyone is egocentric. It’s not about you, your event, your business – or your utter coolness. It’s about the reporter, and his or her needs – trends, local happenings and stories that will interest his or her readers. So your pitch is about how you can help a harried reporter build her readership.
- The 90 percent rule. Here’s the good news: According to Udziela, 90 percent of what you read in a newspaper was pitched. However, 90 percent of those pitches — well, they get pitched into the reporter’s trash can. Preparation is – you guessed it – 90 percent of success. (8 percent is execution; 2 percent is luck.)
- Email first, then follow up with a phone call 24 to 48 hours later. Many reporters won’t pick up the phone. Try a couple of times before you leave a succinct voicemail. If you do reach the reporter, beware. Don’t ask: “Did you see my email?” Recap the salient parts of your email briefly. Also, before you launch into your pitch, ask whether the reporter is on deadline, or if this is a good time to talk. You can occasionally pitch a reporter on Twitter or facebook – but be judicious. And whatever you do – avoid presenting a marketing pitch. If you do, the reporter will suggest you take out an ad.
- Make it newsworthy. Ask yourself why the reporter should care. Is the story timely? Is it a trend? Has the reporter already written about this subject – and, if so, do you have information compelling enough to make a second story worthwhile?
- When you do write the pitch, here are several things to keep in mind:
- Subject line. Make it compelling, so the reporter will want to open the email. Remember that you have about 2 seconds to catch an editor’s attention.
- Establish a connection to his beat. For example: “Since you often discuss tablet publishing, I wanted to let you know that Gregg Hano has just left Bonnier to head up Mag+.” Make sure you include a link to your company. You want to make it as easy for the reporter as possible.
- The next couple of lines should include a call to action, along with a reason for urgency, author credibility, or points that support the timely nature of your pitch.
- Lines 5-7: Supporting data, brief anecdotes and a final call to action.
- Keep your pitch short – no more than a maximum of 100 words.
Follow these rules, and there’s a good chance you can get the news coverage you’re craving.