VIDEO: We don’t do cookie cutter PR: Sugarfly’s tips for successful Public Relations

I’m very excited to see our placement today in The New York Times. This was a result of us reaching out with a solid story idea at the right time on behalf of our client Travelzoo Local Deals.

Check out this clip to hear my explanation of the tips below.

I want to take a moment to explain how PR works these days. Obviously the game has changed dramatically due to the internet and how people are consuming information. iPad and iPhone apps, social networks and blogs are now daily sources of information which can complement or replace traditional forms. PR agencies really need to understand how content is being created, delivered and consumed in addition to pitching traditional media.

Sugarfly is not a “PR agency”. We take a smarter, strategic approach. We focus on clever marketing strategy that can be delivered as PR, but keeping today’s technology and the power of social media in mind.

I have sat through dozens of agency pitches, worked first hand with several agencies, and handled PR myself in-house on the brand side. I can tell you that most agencies are using cookie cutter pitches, especially the big ones.  Most agencies will send out a few press releases, make a few calls and take a hefty retainer. Even if you are hiring them for their relationships, the media world has gone through a massive overhaul and buying relationships through a PR agency no longer applies. The turnover is so great in traditional media and most of what we see nowadays, with the exception of some major national papers and TV shows, are written or produced by freelancers. Freelancers can be hard to track down and you will not find them in media databases.

So, today, it is not so much about relationships (although this does help), as it is about your ability to tell a compelling story. If you deeply understand the landscape (in this case it was travel, and deals, which is right up our alley) and what the brand you are representing offers, then you will create a winning story and it has a far greater chance of being picked up by media. The key is in going to the right people, and telling them the right story, at the right time.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret now: This is Sugarfly’s approach to PR. I’d like to invite anyone in the media or PR to make comments.

1. It’s not about your brand

Reverse this and think about how your brand is an example of a bigger trend or movement and why it is newsworthy right now. You have to tell the story in your pitch as if you are the journalist writing the story.

2. Cookie cutter pitches are a waste of time

Every pitch should be different and customized to each reporter. You have to know their beat and who their audience is. Take the time to craft the story idea in one paragraph.

3. Be able to provide 1 spokesperson and 3 sources

Sources can be consumers that use the product or service and or businesses your client works with. You need to have these ready to go and say in the pitch that you can provide them. The most memorable articles or TV segments always go into detail about a personal situation and focus in on one thing. If you can make your brand a star by getting a real person to talk about it in a real life situation this is the best PR you can get. This also makes the journalist’s job easier – and the more likely they will be to pick up your story and future ones.

4. Have data points on hand ready to go

Media love data. Make sure you have data that backs up your story. Good PR people plan ahead so start thinking now of what data will back up your stories and go ahead and survey your customers or use a research company to gather it for you.

5. Exclusives

If a journalist asks for an exclusive give it to them. It is likely that the story will be worth it. This is a rare question and most often you’ll want to use the “exclusive” pitch to the number one target on your list first. Think smart about this. Exclusives can be great and really work. Use this approach for bigger stories.

6. Press releases are a waste of time if you want coverage

Press releases are actually a turn off to media and they will not generate coverage. Getting picked up on Google is not coverage – What you are looking for in PR is a third party endorsement from a highly respected publication and written up by a top journalist. Do not waste money on issuing press releases except: 1. If you are working on behalf of a publicly traded company and the news could impact the share price., 2. It is for SEO purposes and you need it to do it to drive traffic to your site. To do this you should consult an SEO expert to use the right keywords in the release.

7. Follow up

Too many stories are lost due to PR people not being on top of it. After your pitch, wait a few days or a week and follow up again. Journalists are busy and if you want to stay top of mind it is up to you to follow up.

8. Know the last 5 stories the reporter covered

Before calling or sending your pitch make sure you review the last 5 stories that reporter wrote. You want to be familiar with what they like to write about and what they have already covered. You should also know what their closest competitor has covered in the same kind of topic. So if you are pitching the NY Times, you should know what similar reporters at USA Today and the Wall Street Journal have written about.

9. Be helpful for future stories

Good PR people are an ally to media. It is a two way street. Reporters need story ideas. Provide sources and information for future stories even if it is not about a client or your brand specifically. Next time you pitch them they will be listening.

10. Prepare your spokespeople

Make sure your spokespeople understand the pitch angle, what questions the reporter may have, and draft some example answers with datapoints that back up the story. Don’t forget to prep them for the curveballs. The more comfortable they are, the better the interview will be and the more likely they will be quoted.  And, the more likely that reporter will want a quote from them again for another story. The best quotes always show the personality of the spokesperson but are smart and hit home what this is all about: Connecting a brand in meaningful ways with consumers that will buy the product or service.

I invite all my PR and media friends to weigh in on this topic by posting your comments below.

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One Comment on “VIDEO: We don’t do cookie cutter PR: Sugarfly’s tips for successful Public Relations”

  1. marlzipan February 22, 2011 at 11:21 pm #

    Yes! Agreed. Successful PR tactics are fitted to the brand, so every campaign should be different. Utilizing the brand’s natural effect on its audience facilitates real results. Nice post!

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