Julia Hood, chief content officer at Haymarket Business Media in New York, delivered an information-packed presentation on the art of pitching at The University of Alabama PRSSA Southeastern Regional Conference. Hood provided a compelling speech with guidelines for young public relations professionals.
At the start of her speech, Hood touched on the constantly changing world of media relations, as more and more media channels begin to develop. She emphasized that since audiences have so many choices, brands are becoming media companies, and newsrooms are shrinking as journalists make the transition toward brand content. Due to these changes, Hood said that public relations professionals are facing more competition in getting reporters’ attention.
She then began listing tips and tricks to conquer the world of media relations. With these tips, she placed strong emphasis on the importance of building and maintaining relationships with journalists.
1. Treat journalists like clients.
“They are the customer of your news and message,” she said.
Hood also advised students on ways to develop a liaison with reporters. She suggested helping them effectively do their jobs by giving them a leg up on the competition and making sure they obtain the assets they need.
2. Meet reporters halfway.
Hood also highlighted the importance of being mobile and going to your reporter rather than asking them to come to you.
“Face to face is vital,” Hood said. Bring the story and, if possible, your executives to them because reporters often do not leave their desks.
3. Educate, educate, educate.
She urged students to educate themselves and to break out of their comfort zone. It helps to build trust when you take the time to learn about the reporter’s other beats. Hood suggested helping by sourcing experts when you send your pitch. Also, work your angle.
4. Work like a reporter.
She advocated for developing multimedia and social packages to send to reporters rather than sending lengthy B roll. This approach will help your content gain traction.
5. Be professional, but fight to ensure proper journalistic standards.
Hood advised to always fight for fairness and the truth.
“Sometimes journalists cut corners—push back if you haven’t had time to assemble context,” Hood said. It is vital to maintain professionalism, but always fight for the truth to be reported, and never accept the bare minimum.
“If you can get a neutral story, you’ve won,” Hood said.
6. Learn and use the business side of media organizations.
Hood pointed out that being open to discussing commercial operations and paying attention to meaningful partnerships can open up more channels to deliver your message.
7. Play the long game.
“You’re not going to like every story,” Hood said. It isn’t worth it to cut ties with a media outlet due to one story that doesn’t portray your company in the most favorable view. As long as a story reports the truth, the journalist is doing their job. Media and truth are still important, regardless of your company’s image.
The guidelines that Julia Hood provided were incredibly useful and insightful for public relations practitioners of every sector. Pitching is not only about drafting the perfect email, but rather building give-and-take relationships with reporters. It is becoming increasingly more competitive to get your story out there; therefore, it is crucial to have strong relationships with the media in order to gain maximum exposure.
Kiara Mitchell is a public relations student at The University of Alabama and a marketing & promotions intern for the Crimson Tide Athletic Department. You can read her personal blog: Candidly Kiara or connect with her on LinkedIn.
Every public relations professional knows that strong relationships with journalists are a quick way to land coveted media coverage. Yet in a time where emails fill journalists’ inboxes by the hundreds each day, how can a professional build a relationship without a reply back? Getting your pitch to stand out is difficult because journalists hold the power over what they do and do not read. Two public relations professionals are trying to solve this problem by creating an innovative and unique way to get your pitch heard.
Meet UPitch, the very first speed-pitching app similar to a popular speed-dating app, Tinder. With UPitch, public relations professionals have 400 characters and up to five images to catch a journalist’s eye. Just like with Tinder, a journalist may “swipe right” to connect with anyone who creates a pitch that they find interesting.
The disadvantage of this method is the short form style. Four hundred characters are only a little more than what three tweets can contain. Squeezing all the important information for a pitch in 400 characters is a challenge. On the other hand, the advantage to this speed-pitching style is that smaller clients receive visibility while put on the same playing field as big corporations.
UPitch co-founder Allison Kugel said the goal of this app is to not eliminate the essential aspect of public relations and journalism, but to help public relations professionals evolve with the digital world.
“We aren’t changing the industry, but rather being the first to adapt to an industry that is already changing,” Kugel said in an article for the Huffington Post. “We’re helping people along the way while we’re at it. We also understand the value of the PR rep and journalist relationship and hope our app will foster more of those relationships. And at the end of the day, a journalist’s best relationship is with their next great story.”
-by Amanda Perrucci, PRSSA General Member
Creating innovative content is increasingly becoming more and more crucial in public relations. Alicia Thompson, APR, general manager of Edelman Atlanta, is someone who appreciates the challenge all too well. For over 20 years she has gained experience in creating and implementing marketing, as well as corporate, crisis and issues management communications strategies and programs.
As former vice president of corporate communications and PR for Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, Ms. Thompson certainly has a firsthand look at fast food public relations. While discussing with attendees of The University of Alabama Southeastern Regional Conference what her career at Edelman Atlanta entails, Ms. Thompson was confident in the fact that she and her team implemented one of the most successful campaigns to hit the market—The Vegetarian Support Hotline for Arby’s. With scientific research leading the way, the team based the campaign for the new brown sugar bacon on the fact that bacon was seemingly “scientifically irresistible”. According to Barclay (2011):
Our story was familiar to Johan Lundstrom. He's a scientist who runs a lab at the Monell Chemical Senses Center. He studies how the brain processes sensory information, like smell, for a living. He also told us he had an ex-girlfriend who became an ex-vegetarian once she tasted bacon. Because bacon is one- to two-thirds fat and also has lots of protein, it speaks to our evolutionary quest for calories, Lundstrom says. And since 90 percent of what we taste is really odor, bacon's aggressive smell delivers a powerful hit to our sense of how good it will taste.
It must be tough to be a vegetarian around Arby’s brown sugar bacon. The start of the chain’s humorous run at success originated from a video that Thompson’s team developed, entitled “Are You a Vegetarian?”. The video is only 30 seconds long, but it received 60 views on YouTube in the first hour and 76,000 views in the second hour. So far, the video has received over 22 million impressions.
While Ms. Thompson was discussing the numbers behind the success of the campaign, she had a slide within her slide deck dedicated to audio clips of the customers who called the “Vegetarian Help Hotline 1-855-MEAT-HLP.” While she was playing the audio, customers could be heard confessing they are no longer vegetarians and how “it’s the funniest damn commercial.”
The ability to think outside of the box was key in gaining such a significant amount of impressions and getting picked up by just about every major news affiliate. Due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback, Ms. Thompson and her team broke PR Week records for views. The success of this campaign is a reminder of how important innovation and creativity are in today’s world of public relations.
-by Ethan Flynn, PRSSA President, Georgia Southern University
I want to start this off with the disclaimer that I’m sort-of an Adele fanatic, if you will. I’ve chased pavements, set fire to the rain and am currently on my way to buy some more Kleenex after listening to “Hello” and the rest of her newest album “25” on repeat.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know Adele. You know her songs. You belt them out in the car. You sing them in the shower. You cry to them over a glass (or bottle) of wine while cursing your first love who broke your heart.
Regardless of whether you have or have not fallen victim to the “Adele spell,” we can all agree that Adele has a talent that drives fans all over the world to go out and actually pay for her music, which is a shocking fact in 2016’s days of music streaming. Here are three strategies that the public relations industry can learn from this British icon’s success and influence.
1. Stick to the Basics
Adele isn’t known for her songs’ sick beats or amazing light shows. She is known for her phenomenal voice that can bring you to tears and stadiums full of people to their feet. Because she doesn’t cover up her songs with a bunch of fluff, listeners can better hear and respect her talent. This same idea should go into the crafting of a message—keep it simple, relatable and understandable in order to be respected.
2. Smart Social Media
It might not be as well-known as other platforms, but MySpace is how Adele was discovered. Even though MySpace has come and gone with the times, Adele’s idea that success comes from shares, not cents, remains true, especially in the public relations world. Adele used audience engagement from her original posts and videos to inspire work that would later lead her to multiple Grammy Awards.
3. Be Authentic
Adele never tries to be someone she’s not (unless she’s pretending to be someone who is pretending to be her). Because she has not given in to the social pressures of changing her appearance, her speaking voice or even her music, she is just woman sharing her personal stories and unreal talent with the world. In a public relations sense, it is imperative to stick to your instincts because that authenticity and reliability are what will garner trust between you and your clients.
-by Morgan McKinney, PRSSA General Member
Former UA PRSSA members Jacquie McMahon and Rachel Uniatowski visited the Chapter on Monday, April 11, to speak to public relations students about their experiences while interning and working in New York’s Ketchum office. Jacquie is an assistant account executive in the corporate practice, while Rachel is an account coordinator working in the brand practice on Pernod Ricard and Gillette Global accounts. Their presentation, “The 10 Most Surprising Things You’ll Learn in Your First Job,” highlighted 10 practical tips for navigating the professional public relations world, which they described as vastly different from college.
10. Thank you goes a long way.
Everyone should value the art of the classic thank-you note. Writing personalized thank-you notes will get you farther than you would think in the public relations world. While thank-you notes after job interviews are important, both women emphasized the importance of always being thankful, even after you start working at a company.
“A lot of public relations is just manners and being polite,” McMahon said.
9. What are agency roles?
Before going into an interview or a new work environment, research what each department does and what the people do. Know where you want to be and who you will be working with. Sometimes agency roles overlap, but going into an interview with knowledge of what is going on will help you immensely.
8. Planning for PESO.
Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned—Knowing these important terms and what they mean will help you impress in an interview and gain a better understanding of the professional world quickly. For example, knowing that it is harder for brands to control their messages with earned media as opposed to paid media is a good way to impress your interviewers or co-workers.
7. Learn the real corporate culture.
When you enter the public relations workforce, you will soon realize that your team culture matters more than the agency’s culture. In interviews, ask specific questions regarding the team you will be working with and what they are like.
6. (Team) size doesn’t matter.
You will never know what size your team will be. Sometimes you may find yourself doing projects with dozens of people and others times you may work with one other person. Be prepared to make adjustments for any team size.
5. It’s a balancing act.
The term “work/life balance” is a buzzword for a reason. Everyone is trying to figure it out, and both McMahon and Uniatowski stated that they were still trying to understand it. According to McMahon, one way to ensure balance in your life is to look at it in a broader way. Instead of focusing on what your day looks like, focus on how hard you are working one week and try to go easier on yourself the next.
4. Vacation is all I ever wanted.
It may be hard to accept, but you can and should make use of all of your vacation days-- even at your entry -level job. According to McMahon, it is important to allow yourself time to “shut down, log out and put away distractions.” This will prevent you from getting burned out after your first year.
3. Think like a mathlete.
Even though you will be working in public relations, you will have to use math. This is bBecause everything in public relations comes down to a budget, meaning that you must be budget-minded in order to succeed.
2. Beyond the grade.
In college, you are accustomed to getting feedback in the form of grades. Feedback does exist in the real world, but you must ask good questions in order to get it. Seek feedback proactively in order to learn and to improve your work.
1. Think like a client.
The biggest tip McMahon and Uniatowski had for students was to think 10 steps ahead of your client. If you answer all of the client’s questions before he or she even asks, you can have more productive meetings and really grasp what the client wants from you.
-by Emily Hillhouse, PRSSA General Member
Emily Hillhouse is a public relations and English double major and an Italian minor at The University of Alabama. She is currently a member of UA PRSSA and a writer for The Crimson White. Connect with her on LinkedIn or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All blogs are written by general members of UAPRSSA and Capstone Agency.