Inside the Mind of a Millennial Reporter: The Art of Pitching

the Art of pitching

Inside the Mind of a Millennial Reporter: The Art of Pitching

An Interview with Inc. Columnist Jeff Barrett

By Heather Harder

We all know the stat: For every five PR people, there is one journalist. With the fast pace of news development, pitching has become both easier and harder in different ways. Contributors have become even more essential to help news rooms fill content.

I spoke with Jeff Barrett, an Inc. columnist, PR and digital consultant and Shorty Award winner to learn more about how he became a successful top-tier contributor, as well as his advice for PR pros who want to pitch contributors.

How did you become a top-tier contributor?

This wasn’t something I stumbled into. Inc. approached me because I’d written for Mashable many times over the course of six years. I never thought of myself as a journalist.

When I first started as a PR professional, it was really difficult to make a phone call, send an email and try to make someone cover something in the business. I needed to be able to create a name for myself and have an opportunity to get myself covered more. So I made a bigger social platform, and places started becoming pretty interested in my writing.

I kind of used the column as an opportunity to build up a name to where I’ve taken a different path to being able to help get coverage for my clients.

How does being a contributor make it easier for you to get your clients coverage?

I don’t write about clients. It’s about credibility and visibility, getting a leg up and a having a talking point when pitching reporters. And it goes both ways – doing an interview for Inc., for example, I understand what the PR person needs and wants.

What are some things to keep in mind when pitching a contributor vs. a full-time staffer?

A full-time staffer is going to be a little more rushed. I would say a contributor is more PR friendly. They’re going to be looking for all kinds of things to talk about.

Ask yourself how you can create reciprocal value. How are you providing value to a staffer? Do you have clients who are good sources? In both cases, it’s more about developing a relationship than it is about developing your pitch. You want to be able to say, “Here are the people I work with and the things I hope to get covered.” Then hope they’ll think of a way to create something. The time spent trying to cultivate the perfect pitch is not as advantageous as trying to create the perfect relationship. It’s the same with full-time staffers.

What are key things millennials like/don’t like when it comes to receiving pitches?

It has certainly become less and less formal. There is greater need to tap into social influencers. It really does just come down to building that relationship.

Pull away as far as you can from press releases. A press release is the owner’s manual. If you bought furniture from Ikea, you kind of need the manual to put things together, but you wouldn’t sell someone the owner’s manual. My process is to build the relationship and have a quick discussion. That discussion might end up being via text, Facebook message or Snapchat until we get to a point where something makes sense. It’s finding people in the channels that make the most sense to them.

You just start to adapt your message and speak in quicker soundbites. If you send someone a novel, it might be a little intimidating and they might just not know what to do with it. You almost start speaking in 140-220 characters. Plus with that approach, that’s less work on your end, then you can build out the release.

The worst thing to do is take three hours writing a release and crafting the perfect pitch. Every client is going to think that all their stuff deserves all the attention in the world. You have to believe in your clients.

When first making contact, do you think it’s better to be overly professional or to show your true personality?

A bit depends on how the relationship started. If it started on Twitter, it can be more goofy and casual. Over LinkedIn emails, you have to be professional. Go with your gut. Generally speaking, I try to get to casual as soon as I can. It’s way more beneficial.

How are changes in storytelling affecting how we need to package our stories?

Everything has a shorter shelf life now. It used to be that you could run things down. I received about 50 pitches with people wanting to talk about United a day or two after the big incident 2017. It was too late. Yes, it takes time to come up with the pitch and the angle. But if you have a relationship, tell the reporter you can talk about United now. You have to be able to capitalize on the first 24 hours. If you see something emerging, make sure you have three to four people in your back pocket to help you out. It’s really like a speed game – it’s like day trading versus investing in stock. Pitching is faster now.

Heather Harder is a communications specialist at RSE Ventures, a New York-based investment and incubation firm. She was formerly PRSSA National President and PRSA New Professionals Board Member. Follow her on Twitter @HeathHarder.

Managing Up: What Does That Even Mean?

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Stat: 85% of millennial managers worldwide have moved into management in the past five years (Ernst & Young).

Coming from a new professional classified as a millennial, and who recently moved into a management position last year, this is a terrifying daunting statistic.

Making the transition from an early-staged new professional to a mid-level new professional can happen before you even realize. Nonetheless, you still must be prepared as you make this transition to set yourself up for success (and ensure minimal stress-induced sugar binges).

What could this new transition include . . .

Overseeing staff? Say what?

Giving hard feedback instead of only receiving it? You’ve crossed the line, Greg!

Managing up? What does that even mean?

These are all questions we have to face as we produce solid work and move up the professional ladder, whether we’re ready or not. Let’s focus on the last of those three facets of mid-level new professionalism: managing up.

I was fortunate enough to deliver a presentation at 2017’s PRSA International Conference with two of my fellow colleagues (“colleagues” is what you say when you’ve transitioned into mid-level new professionalism, by the way) from the PRSA New Professionals Executive Committee. The topic in which we delivered captivating content to our session attendees? You guessed itmanaging up.

I’ll let you look over the presentation on your own time HERE (there are some pretty interesting stats and tips in there), but I want to pull out two main points:

  1. Managing up, the act of managing upwards to your superiors, is not something that’s often taught outside of real-world experience (and even that’s if you’re lucky).
  2. When done well, managing up takes foresight, strong two-way communication and a grounded perspective.

“But Greg, you say it’s only taught in the real world? I’m in dire need of this skill; where can I learn more?!”

Well, I just happen to know of the perfect event to recommend and it’s coming up next Wed., Jan. 24 from 3 – 4 p.m. EST in the form of a virtual teleseminar!

This session, PRSA New Pros’ first of the year and entitled Maximize Your Career Potential by Learning to Manage Up, will be presented by Scott W. Thornburg, APR.

This session is a crash course on managing up and you’ll end being armed with tangible takeaways! I met Scott last October and I’m so excited to hear what advice he’ll be offering attendees. Needless to say, I’ll be showing up with my Do Not Disturb active on my phone and the door shut to my office (no distractions, you know, as a mid-level new professional you’re now being pulled in 200 different directions both upward and downward).

>> REGISTER FOR THE TELESEMINAR HERE <<

So register, buckle up and get ready for a worthwhile learning experience to rock your mid-week next Wednesday.

With that kind of hype, how could you not register?

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Greg works full-time as the Marketing Manager for the Michigan Association of School Boards, as well as a freelance creative services consultant. With several years of strategic communications experience, he specializes in digital and creative marketing and public relations. His experience spans agency, corporate and nonprofit arenas. He serves as the social media co-chair for both the New Professional and Association/Nonprofit PRSA sections. When he’s procrastinating not working he enjoys pretending he’s Twitter famous @GregRokisky and checking off items on his never-ending Goodreads shelves.

Math for PR pros – What metrics you should keep your eye on?

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Raise your hand if you took up a career in PR because you believed math was irrelevant to public relations?

Oh good – we’re all in the same boat.

Initially, I thought a career in public relations would mean I’d spend my time writing, planning events, connecting with audiences and stakeholders and sharing information far and wide. How silly of me to think that numbers wouldn’t play a part in any of that work!

Of course numbers and a bit of math are important to PR. How would you know what efforts were working, where to focus your time and attention when there’s a limited amount of it and where your budget is best spent without consulting the numbers?

If flying by the seat of your pants is your preferred method of answering those questions, think about how you’d answer them if your boss – or the CEO of your organization – asked them. Would anecdotes and generic statements be enough of an answer? Or would data be a better representation of the work that you do?

That’s really what it comes down to – what’s the best way to show that the work you’re doing each day has value for your organization? Numbers and data. Since the world of analytics is a vast and, frankly, frightening one, here are a few key metrics to get you started off on the right foot.

Email Engagement Metrics

Just about every communications program has an email component to it. Whether it’s to sell, to inform, to connect or a mixture of all three, email is one of the best ways to quickly and inexpensively connect with your audience. For that reason, looking at your email’s engagement metrics is important.

So what do you want to look at? There are a few things that are pretty easy to look at right off the bat. If you’re looking at your entire list (which should be broken down into segments, too!), you should be looking at the average cumulative open rate and who are your most engaged subscribers. Are people sharing your emails? Are other people signing up because of that? Who’s interested in what you’re saying? Are your email pitches getting being opened, engaged with and responded to? These are things you’ll want to know.

Once you have a good handle on these things, take a look at your individual email campaigns. What subject lines, formats and topics are performing well? Are your messages reaching the right people in your list? Is there a particular time of day that gets better engagement? Evaluate all of these things and, if you haven’t already, give segmentation and A/B testing a spin. Break down your subscriber list into segments based on demographics, engagement, location, interests – whatever information you feel is important to group your audience by – and begin testing different campaign elements. Test different subject lines, content, delivery times and more to find the ideal combinations for your messages. Be careful to only change one variable at a time and to keep track of what you test and how it performs each time.

Mentions

I’d bet the first thing that came to most minds were Twitter mentions. Social media mentions are a great thing to keep an eye on, but they’re not the only mentions you should be aware of. Which media outlets are talking about you? Who in the public is talking about you? Is it positive or negative? Who’s talking about your competition and your industry? Setting a handful of searches and alerts is the best way to keep your finger of the pulse of what’s being discussed.

Free options include setting up Google Alerts for your organization, key public-facing individuals in the organization, your competitors, your products, your industry, etc., running regular Twitter and Facebook searches using advanced options to fine-tune your searches. Paid services like Cision and Meltwater can aggregate and automate these searches for you into a central place, while identifying trends and streamlining your media outreach as well.

Website acquisition

Your website is the hub that connects your organization or brand with the rest of the world, right? It would make sense that you’d want to know how people find you and end up at your website. Using Google Analytics, you can set up detailed reports or use Google’s templates to analyze user acquisition and activity. These reports can show you where people come to your site from, what pages they’re interested in, how long they visit and more.

You can further drill this information down using Google’s URL Campaign Builder to build unique, descriptive links with campaign and origin information to help you keep track of where people are coming from. You  can track these in Google Analytics, along with goals and flow to see if users are completing the actions you’d like them to and what information they’re interested in.

Audience growth

Knowing what your audience is doing is important, but it’s also important to make sure that your base is growing in a healthy way. Tracking your subscriber growth, your social media audience growth and your website user growth is a good way to make sure that your brand and the content you’re sharing is still relevant and engaging. Check out how your subscribers subscribe to your email list. Take a look at your new social media followers and see what, if anything, they have in common. Same with your site viewers. If you can identify similar trends and commonalities, you may start to see other ways to engage your audience and new content marketing and PR avenues you can pursue to keep your organization growing.

Want to know more about PR metrics and measurement, including ways to use them to grow your own career? Join us on Wednesday, June 21 at 8 p.m. for a Twitter chat with Shonali Burke, independent PR pro and host of the monthly #measurePR chat, to learn more!

robyn-rudish-laningRobyn serves as PRSA’s New Professionals Section’s programming co-chair and is a communications and PR pro currently living and working in Columbia, S.C. In addition to volunteering with PRSA’s New Professionals Section, she also serves as the 2017 VP of Communications for the South Carolina PRSA Chapter and brought together the chapter’s first New Professionals group in 2016. She’s a native of southern New Jersey and currently resides in Columbia, S.C., by way of Pittsburgh, and currently works as the communications coordinator a statewide non-profit organization. In her spare time, Robyn likes to cook, read, spend time with her tail-less cat Izzy and write for her own blog – and almost always with a cup of tea in hand. Find her on Twitter & talk to her!

From Post-Grad to Professional: How to Jump into the PR World in 2017

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Just do it. And no, this isn’t a blog post sponsored by Nike. Just do it. Dive head-first into the pool of opportunity that is the public relations world. Its waters are deep; you will want a life jacket. And as you have already concluded, there is no lifeguard on duty. Have no fear! You will not sink… as long as you abide by these two policies this year:

Maintain enthusiasm. Seek opportunity.

Structure. It is defined as the process between components of something complex. As students, we developed a habit to systematize our lives around class schedules and the daily routines which coincided with college life. Before you knew it, it was over. What now? Uncertainty is intimidating. The structure you unknowingly relied on is no longer defined by your next class assignment, mid-term paper or upcoming PRSSA meeting. Where to next?

Consider this reality check:

You are the navigator. This is huge. What a wonderful place to be – at the starting line of the real world. There is potential at every corner. Apart from the support of your family and friends, the defining factor of what will push (sometimes pull) you along will be your enthusiasm. This is essential not only for how you conduct your professional life, but also your inner persona.

“Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Success does not happen overnight, but becoming self-aware about your attitude can. If you are feeling discouraged, know that some of the strongest leaders were not knock-out superstars on day one. It was through the lessons learned by making countless mistakes that, over time, sculpted the greatest trailblazers in our industry. How did they make it? They were passionate about their work, they thought creatively and most importantly, they were enthusiastic about the “lessons” they learned from failing. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

Next, Opportunity

Whether you’re interning at a branding agency, working part-time within a company’s marketing department, taking on freelance work, or still trying to figure out your next steps – know that being fresh out of the graduation cap and gown leaves a door open for the unimaginable. You have the time to invest in yourself outside of what you have done to earn your degree.

This year, make an effort to:

  • Become involved with your local PRSA New Professional section and surround yourself with a community of individuals who also want to invest in themselves. It is an empowering experience.
  • Seek mentorship through the PRSA Mentor Match. There are few words I can use to explain how important it is to find a mentor that can give you valuable guidance during your first steps into the industry. In one word: necessary. Anticipate an awe-inspiring moment when you see exactly what you want to do in your career. Your mentors will open your eyes to this.
  • Conquer the available PRSA training courses online through the PRSA website. These are essential skills and strategies that will prove themselves handy in times of demand.
  • Find inspiration by reading the best sellers in public relations and marketing and by watching webinars. Gain an insight on how industry leaders think. These are unparalleled resources for devising successful campaign strategies and sparking remarkable ideas.
  • If you want to do work in social media, work on earning native social media platform certifications through Facebook Blueprint and Twitter Flight School. Become Google certified in Google Analytics and Google AdWords if you are interested in online advertising. The more you know, the more you grow. Having these certifications under your belt can give you a level up on your resume.

Taking advantage of your resources is the greatest graduation gift you can give yourself this year. Remember, enthusiasm sparks curiosity which introduces opportunity. How did you jump head-first into the public relations world? I would love to hear your story!

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Anne Deady is a social media specialist at MMI Agency in Houston, TX and a member of the PRSA Houston Chapter. Her professional interests include influencer marketing and social media strategy. In her spare time, Anne’s favorite activities include attempting every BuzzFeed Tasty recipe and teaching her German Shepherd tricks. She graduated from the University of Houston with a corporate communication major and business minor. You can follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

Three Tips to Take the Jitters Out of Networking

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People who work in PR are known for being social butterflies who can drum up a lively conversation with just about anyone. But I’ll be the first to admit that, yes, I work in PR, and yes, I still get a little anxious right before I walk into a networking event. It can be intimidating to attend a luncheon or conference by yourself. There’s that first long minute filled with nervous energy while you look for a friendly face, and then everything melts away after you start your first conversation. And by the end, you’re glad you went. This quote from Kristin Newman’s memoir perfectly sums it up:

“I was a shy little girl and an only child, so on vacations I was usually playing alone, too afraid to go up to the happy groups of kids and introduce myself. Finally, on one vacation, my mom asked me which I’d rather have: a vacation with no friends, or one scary moment. So I gathered up all of my courage, and swam over to the kids, and there was one scary moment… and then I had friends for the first time on vacation. After that, one scary moment became something I was always willing to have in exchange for the possible payoff. I became a girl who knew how to take a deep breath, suck it up, and walk into any room by herself.”

One scary moment is almost always worth the trade-off. Here are three tips to get you through that one scary moment and become an expert networker.

1. Geek out together

The good thing about attending PRSA networking events is that you automatically have at least one thing in common with everyone else there: you work in PR (or aspire to work in PR). So bring up industry news that your regular social circle doesn’t get nearly as excited about, like Snapchat’s new glasses or the latest brand in crisis. In addition to industry news, it’s helpful to be up on the latest global and national happenings, always, but especially before a networking event. My go-to resource is theSkimm, which presents the news in a quick, easily digestible format. It’s ripe with conversation starters.

2. Go beyond small talk

Based on the idea that we’re not defined by our job titles (although I would argue a career in PR results in a serious work/life blend), I recently stumbled upon this great list of questions to ask people instead of “What do you do?” from Fast Company. Some of my favorite questions are:

  • Do you have any side hustles or passion projects?
  • Are you working on any exciting projects right now?
  • What’s your favorite emoji?
  • What was the highlight of your week/weekend?
  • What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned recently?

These are guaranteed to spark conversations that won’t fizzle out after the first minute.

3. Volunteer

If you’re new to an organization or city, the fastest way to make connections is to raise your hand and volunteer. For example, in PRSA you can join a number of committees, from new professionals to membership to communications. Choose a volunteer opportunity based on your strengths, whether that’s planning events, running the check-in table, or helping with promotion on social media. When you get involved, it allows you to build deeper relationships with members. Plus, you’ll know a few friendly faces when you go to the next event.

What are your tips for becoming an expert networker?

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Caitlin Rebecca Ryan is a PR writer for Eric Mower + Associates in Charlotte, NC, with a passion for live music, snail mail, and novels. Connect with her on Twitter, Instagram, and her blog.