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.

The Ever-changing Landscape of Press Trips

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It is crucial public relations professionals understand how to balance working with editors, bloggers and social media influencers in today’s digital world. News is abundant, and everyone is consumed with information overload so staying updated on current trends and who is controlling it is key.

Mixing Traditional and Modern Media
Hotels and resorts need money and resources and with the constant changes, public relations professionals need to ensure the resorts are getting their return on investment. It can’t be ambiguous. Unlike editors, freelancers and influencers don’t always have a confirmed assignment with a major publication, but there needs to be substantial information to properly vet clients.

“I can write something using your blurb, but to actually see with my own eyes and to use all of my senses to experience a place produces a quality piece full of descriptive language and palpable passion,” says Michelle Winner LuxeGetaways Lifestyle Editor and freelancer. “The result of a good press trip is exactly what writers are taught to do in their work: don’t tell me, show me. In the end the writer’s job is to compel the reader to visit, taste, see and do, too.”

You can learn more about press trips from Michelle Winner, Jill Robinson and Tamra Bolton at the PRSA Travel & Tourism Conference in New Orleans for their session, Press Trips: The Evolving Necessity.

It’s much easier to vet a New York Times travel editor versus a travel blogger. It’s easier for clients to understand the value of a national newspaper than a personal blog. However, these days people want to hear about other’s experiences because it’s raw and word-of-mouth is still one of the leading ways to create buzz.

We work with travel bloggers, but the vetting process is usually much more in depth than an editor with a confirmed assignment. We start by reviewing their work, checking statistics, social media presence, and if their niche audience works for the client. We need to have solid information to back up our recommendation. For example, a family focused travel blogger would be more appropriate than a fashion blogger at a family-friendly resort.

Newsrooms are Nearly Nonexistent
Newsrooms have cut budgets and many travel writers were the first to go. With the rise of social media, many influencers have been successful in their efforts while others abuse it. Many influencer requests show a loyal following, but lack of interest in a mutually beneficial relationship.

According to PR Moment, up-and-coming influencers think that numbers are what matters and not engaged audiences. Many requests, such as videographers who film models and night clubs requesting a complimentary stay at a five-star family-friendly luxury resort are, solely focused on themselves and not showcasing the destination and resort.

How are you adapting to this ever-changing landscape?

View More: http://fremontphotography.pass.us/ericarawErica Hammett is a PRSA member and the Public Relations Account Executive at MP&A Digital & Advertising in Virginia. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech. She’s also a member of the PRSA New Professionals and Travel and Tourism interest sections. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

 

Member Spotlight: Cait Crenshaw

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Name: Cait Crenshaw
Position/Company: Communications Manager at Signature HealthCARE
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Education: M.A. Communication from University of Louisville
Social Media Handle: @Cait_Crenshaw

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
I changed my mind about my career twice, without ever changing my major. Changing from high school English teacher, I discovered a real love for journalism and storytelling in college. I was hooked. I spent entire weekends in the basement office of our university newspaper. After a few years, I realized it is the storytelling, editing, details, and strategic planning that I love and switched to corporate communications.

How did you find internships/jobs?
My professors were my best resource for internships. I checked our university career center’s listings and department’s listings, too. Actually, one of my professors recommended me for an internship, and that internship led to my current job. I found my full-time job when someone I had previously worked with during an internship emailed me the application. It was a fit!

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced in my career so far has been when someone, who had power and pull at the organization I worked for at the time, said, “Oh, she can’t do it. That’s not what she does.” I felt deflated for a moment, but the experience taught me an important lesson.

The experience taught me to create growing opportunities for myself. Instead of waiting for an invitation to sit at the table, I flipped my thinking and directly asked for a seat at the table.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
Working hard is important but working smarter and strategically is even better. School only required me to do the work but starting my career has challenged me to work smarter. I start every week with a list. The things that I can automate in Outlook I do.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
At the end of my very first internship, my boss gave me an honest evaluation, and I am incredibly thankful for her. I don’t remember any of her compliments or praises, but I do remember her telling me, almost commanding me, “Take more risks.”

Also, it’s not really advice, but here is a favorite of mine, especially when I think about the future of my career. A wise professor in my master’s program at the University of Louisville said, “People work for daily meaning, as well as daily bread.”

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?
Be a sponge and learn. Ever have a meeting where afterwards you google the acronyms they were using? Oh, just me, okay. The point is there are limitless resources to learn at our fingertips. We just have to grab one, learn, and apply it.

Also, your greatest asset is the ability to adapt and communicate at different levels of an organization and with different types of people.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
In the New Pros section, I like that I am connected to people who have or are going through the same professional growing pains. There isn’t a time when I login to PRSA and do not learn something new. In an industry that changes so quickly, learning from other pros is a big resource.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?
I wish I would have had a better sense of the things no one wants to talk about, such as salary negotiation and time off. My tendency is to work, work, and work, so the idea of work life balance is very much still in-progress for me.

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself.
My first job was working as a soccer referee at the age of 13.

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If you are interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.

 

Association/Nonprofit PR

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Glamorizations of public relations usually show a chic woman in a big city, working one-on-one with clients. She attends swanky parties and always gets her clients the right attention without much more effort than snapping her fingers.

That’s what I thought would be in store for me with a career in PR when I first started studying. I daydreamed about working at an agency, managing client accounts and pitching new ideas in meetings and stories to media, mainly because that was the only real path that was discussed at length. PR people work for agencies, serving clients, right?

Wrong. There are so many other paths, so many other adventures you can go on. A quick look at PRSA’s website shows 14 different professional interest sections, representing just a handful of specialization options out there for pros to find the best fit for their skills and interests. As it turns out, nonprofit/association communications was the best fit for me.

Working for a nonprofit or association is a great way to get experience in a lot of different areas. Most nonprofits operate with limited resources, meaning an organization’s communications department may literally be a one- or two-man shop. It can be a little frightening to step in and be responsible for so many moving parts – social media, media relations, content development, creation, management and marketing, event planning, stakeholder relations, fundraising…the list could go on and on – but its equally as exciting.

Including internships, I’m currently at my fourth nonprofit/association and no two days have been identical yet. Since nonprofits and associations are typically topic- or issue-oriented, there’s a diverse array of organizations to choose from.

Here are five things I’ve found exciting about working at a nonprofit and three lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Five things I love about nonprofit/association communications:

  1. Room to take on new responsibilities
    Since most nonprofits and associations have smaller staffs with limited resources, there’s often an opportunity to take on more responsibilities than initially assigned – and you should! Communications roles in particular tend to have pretty general position descriptions focusing on the day-to-day and tactical. And while everyone does have to pitch in on the administrative work, there’s no reason you can’t set your sights higher and on something to boost your own career. Want to get more experience with the media? Suggest pitching in with the pitching. Is your organization lacking a clear communications strategy? Take the lead and volunteer to lead a couple brainstorming sessions before taking the first crack at a comprehensive strategy to define SMART goals and deliver results. When you find an opportunity to enhance your skills in a way that will ultimately benefit your organization, speak up about how you think you can help.
  2. Room for innovation
    With limited resources and budgets, there’s a lot of room for trying new things. There’s no monopoly on who can come up with great ideas, so flex your muscles and make sure you’re making time to brainstorm and keeping track of your ideas for when they might be useful. Those ideas are great to pull out of your back pocket when issues arise – true no matter the industry you’re in, but the smaller the organization, the more open they tend to be to trying new, sometimes exciting, ideas.
  3. No two organizations are the same
    While many nonprofits or associations share similarities – small in size, low operating budgets, limited resources – no two are identical. Some are issue-based, some are industry-specific and others are more general. Working in the nonprofit space doesn’t mean that your organization’s issue has to be your most passionate cause, but it’s important to care about the work you’re doing. Going in with an open mind and an interest in what you’ll be focusing on will go a long way, but understand that your experience may differ from organization to organization.
  4. You can learn a little about everything
    In my experience, there are plenty of opportunities to help with other organization functions outside of communications. No matter the organization or industry, communications touches all other departments in some way, shape or form. Whether you’re working together on projects or crossing disciplines entirely, there’s plenty of room to learn a little about everything your organization does – from operations all the way down.
  5. Flexibility
    Since there’s usually not much wiggle room as far as salary goes, there’s sometimes a bit of room to negotiate on other things. Remote work, comp time and professional development opportunities are just a few of the things you may be able to more easily ask for. In a past job, my responsibilities often included work outside of the normal 8-to-4, meaning I was working and not getting paid for it. As a way to accommodate the need to work at odd hours sometimes, I was able to negotiate flexible hours that allowed me to leave earlier in the afternoon and work later in the evening, when things would often come up.

Three lessons I’ve learned

  1. Learning how to prioritize and balance everything
    Nonprofits often have a lot going on and sometimes it can feel like you’re expected to be a jack-of-all-trades – or a court jester with all the things you’re juggling. Learning how to prioritize can be tough. Sometimes it’s difficult because there are just not enough hours in the day. Sometimes it’s because everything becomes an emergency when there wasn’t enough time or energy put into planning. Or maybe you’ve just been too busy putting out fires that something just fell to the wayside. Whatever the reason, learning to keep track of where everything that you’re responsible for stands and a method for prioritizing responsibilities in a way that works for you can go a long way in easing the stress.
  2. Making sure professional development is still a focus
    Building right of of learning to prioritize and manage your responsibilities, it’s just as important to make sure that you’re continuing to grow and learn. This can be difficult at a nonprofit, or any smaller organization really, because time and money are often both limited. Not all employers will pay for memberships in professional organizations like PRSA or for professional development opportunities like courses and conferences. If continuing to grow professionally is important to you – and it should be – you may have to take it into your own hands and make time for it outside of or around work. This isn’t always an easy thing to do and it can be frustrating to feel like your organization doesn’t support you (which it may feel like sometimes), but the connections you make at events and the opportunities that may be open to you with every new skill you learn or fine-tune will be worth the time and energy.
  3. Professional growth and knowing when it’s time to go
    If you’re continuing to grow professionally, there may come a time when your organization is no longer the best fit for you. It can often be difficult to grow within a small organization because there are a limited number of positions to fill and the only role to aspire to may be your boss’s. If you’re ready to take on more responsibilities, it’s worth having a conversation with your organization’s leadership about what you’d like to be doing and why you think you’re ready for it. There may be room to adjust, maybe a new position can be created for you and an intern or new employee can be hired to pick up some of the slack. If that’s not the case, and you feel like there isn’t room for you to continue to grow, it may be time to look for new opportunities. This shouldn’t be something done sneakily if you’ve had these conversations about being ready for more. There are plenty of tactful ways to leave for a new opportunity without feeling like you’re abandoning ship.

 

Image uploaded from iOSIn her third year on PRSA’s New Professionals Section’s executive committee, Robyn serves as 2018 chair-elect. She’s a native of southern New Jersey and currently resides in Washington, D.C., by way of Pittsburgh and South Carolina. Robyn currently works for Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA), a trade association representing North America’s airports, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and a master’s degree in media arts and technology, with a focus on creative media practices, both from Duquesne University. She likes to spend her spare time cooking, reading, exploring, crocheting and spending time with her tail-less cat, Izzy. Learn more about her on her website or find her on Twitter & talk to her!

Member Spotlight: Robyn Rudish-Laning

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Name: Robyn Rudish-Laning
Position/Company: Senior Manager, Marketing for Airports Council International – North America (ACI-NA)
Location: Washington, DC
Education: B.A. in Public Relations, Duquesne University
M.S. in Media Arts & Technology, focus in Creative Media Practices, Duquesne University
Social Media Handle: @robyn_rl

How and when did you first become interested in PR and communications?
When I was in high school. My first job was waitressing at a small restaurant in my hometown and towards the end of my junior year of high school, I started coming up with ideas to reach more people in the community and engage with customers through community events, promoting specials, using social media, connecting with the local newspaper and helping our happy customers to spread the word. Since we were a small staff, I took on the responsibility of planning & executing these ideas too. When it came time to look for colleges and think about what I was interested in the following year, I already had a pretty good idea & looked for schools specifically for their PR programs, not just general communications. Everything I learned while pursuing my degrees and on the job has only made me more curious.

How did you find internships/jobs?
I came up with a list of places I wanted to intern and hit the ground running applying and figuring out if I knew anyone who could help me get in the door. That method worked and I landed my first internship with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Pittsburgh. Everything after that I’ve found by just being open to opportunities and making sure my network knew that I was interested in new things, even if I was enjoying what I was doing at the time. I found my last two jobs by making connections through PRSA, particularly local chapters, and being honest that I was new in the area and looking for a new opportunity.

What was the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
Learning how to be the one making the plan and communicating the importance of a comprehensive communications strategy to guide the communications, PR and marketing efforts. Taking things from tactical and responsive to strategic and proactive is tough, especially when you’re not exactly in a decision-making role. The experience I had gained through volunteering for my PRSA chapter was incredibly helpful in knowing what needed to be done and the importance of a forward-thinking strategy. I’m also grateful for the guidance of more experienced PRSA members who often offered to be a sounding board for ideas and mentors.

What has been the most valuable thing you have learned through classes or experience?
I think learning to speak up and how to be a leader have been the most valuable things I’ve learned. It’s easy to say “I don’t have enough experience” or “what do I know, this person probably knows better than I,” but that’s not always the case. There’s no such thing as too little experience when it comes to leading or coming up with new ideas. The most dangerous trap anyone can fall into is believing that just because something has always been done one way, that you shouldn’t shake it up once in a while.

What has been the best piece of advice you have received?
“Give yourself some time and give yourself some hope.” – PRSA’s 2017 National Chair Jane Dvorak while speaking to a mixed group of SCPRSA and PRSSA members at the University of South Carolina.

Do you have any advice for future PR pros?
Practice, practice, practice. You can never learn too much. Volunteer, take on some pro bono work, take on new roles and responsibilities in internships and jobs – whether the job is in the profession or not, everything uses communications in some way. Get into a habit of learning whenever you can and being inquisitive. The more time and energy you invest in yourself and your career, the better the returns will be and the more likely an employer is to invest in you and helping you develop your skills.

What do you think is the best benefit of PRSA and the New Pros section?
Definitely the opportunities to network, get involved and lead. It’s incredibly easy to turn down opportunities to get involved and lead by thinking that lack of experience is a barrier, but being a part of the New Pros section has shown me otherwise. We’re a group of pros with five years of experience or less, so it’s a pretty level playing field and there’s plenty of room for everyone to get involved in some way. Leading the section has given me the opportunity to gain experience and has boosted my confidence in my own abilities, making me more sure of myself and my work and leading me to take seize leadership opportunities in my chapter and my workplace.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before starting your career?
I wish I had understood the importance of practical experience and application of the theories and ideas discussed in the classroom. While it’s all important, it can be overwhelming when you’re first starting out to translate that knowledge into practice.

Tell us a little-known thing about yourself.
I once competed in a local-level preliminary Miss America pageant. My issue platform was literacy across America & I competed to prove to myself that I could & to push myself to step outside of where I was comfortable.

If you are interested in being featured, or interested in nominating someone to be featured as a part of our #MemberSpotlight, please complete the following form.

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