Make Your Message Matter: How to Create a Value-Add Pitch in 3 Steps
[This post was written by 3Points summer intern and rising Vanderbilt senior Nick O’Brien — we told you our interns were talented!]
Reporters get a lot of emails. Will they read yours? The answer depends on your approach.
The media landscape seems to be changing faster than public relations has adapted. According to recent surveys [Cision 2019 State of the Media Report and Muck Rack 2019 Journalist Survey], 75% of journalists say fewer than a quarter of the pitches they receive are relevant or useful and 47% of journalists agree that the way most companies share their information with the media is outdated. It’s becoming such a problem that Muck Rack publishes a popular series entitled, “This Month in Bad PR Pitches.” All of this has led us to a point where only 7% of journalists view their relationship with PR professionals as a true partnership.
The current disconnect between journalists and PR pros is worsened by the fact that 65% of journalists would rather receive customized press releases than one standard mass-audience release, and a majority of journalists no longer rely on press releases for story ideas (thanks, Twitter!). When so many emails have similar structures, use the same language, and are based on an informational format that “needs to evolve or die,” it’s easy for your message to get drowned out by the noise. To maximize your odds of being heard, you need to clearly explain your value-add. Now more than ever, it’s vital to differentiate your messaging from the standard pitch template.
A value-add pitch creates an explicit two-way channel for value exchange — a symbiotic relationship between reporter and PR pro. Instead of directly asking a reporter for time and attention, you offer insight or perspective that they can use in their work and leave the door open for future conversation. Value-add pitches are unique, specific, and targeted efforts, rather than a blast of the same old press release pitch to dozens of reporters.
At 3Points, we go through three steps to create a value-add pitch: sourcing, framing, and targeting.
Step One: Sourcing
What value are you offering?
Story. Is your company built around a remarkable story that has yet to be shared? What’s your founder’s background and what makes them extraordinary? Has your product changed someone’s life? If you have a meaningful story, people want to hear it, and reporters want to cover it. Do share.
Expertise. Are you experts in something that few others are? Can you provide a unique perspective on newsworthy topics? Do you have ideas you feel compelled to share? There’s almost always a shortage of experts — if you have a well-developed point of view, it’s worth sharing. According to Muck Rack’s survey, 89% of journalists believe academic subject experts are a top credible source for their reporting. (You don’t have to be a professor to be an academic expert.)
Data. Does your company have any unique quantitative insights to share? Company metrics are fine, but proprietary market research is better; sharing valuable information is a powerful way to build media relationships. Data-based headlines play well online, and the right trend or statistic can serve as the backbone of an entire article.
Step Two: Framing
How are you packaging your message?
Visual. People like visual displays. 62% of journalists say that an infographic or video component makes them pay more attention to press releases. Is there a chart or infographic that will get your point across? A short video? The more visual your message is, the better. Your image might even be used in a story, so make sure it’s branded.
Content. Is there a blog post, contributor piece, or podcast by your company (or featuring a team member) that you can reference in your message? Sharing existing content will enhance your credibility and reinforce the value of your message.
Quote. Have you been referenced or quoted in any major publications? Is there a quote from one of your executives that is relevant to your message? This is like sharing content, but more focused. Quotes provide authenticity and will strengthen your message.
And remember: format matters. Most journalists prefer to be pitched through personalized emails, no more than 2–3 paragraphs in length, between 9–11am. Only 6% of journalists would like to receive pitches greater than 3 paragraphs in length, according to Muck Rack.
Step Three: Targeting
Who will value your message and how will you reach them?
Reporters. Different media actors require different approaches. Reporters are notoriously difficult to pitch; they are overwhelmed by volume and tend to become desensitized to standard email formats because they read so many every day. It’s easier than ever to blast an email out to a huge segment of reporters, so much of what they see is barely relevant, if at all. Maximize your odds of being heard by carefully curating a list of 5–10 people you would like to have a conversation with, and get to the meat of the message right away using the strategies outlined above: share data, a story, or expertise in the form of a visual, content, or a quote. Tip: if they don’t publicly share their email, don’t expect them to be friendly if you manage to find your way into their inbox.
Influencers. If you’re playing the numbers game, influencers are more likely than reporters to hear you out, as their inboxes are less public than journalists and they have more niche audiences. In some cases this is perfect, as you may be targeting the same group — in others, not so much. If there’s a particular niche audience you’re trying to reach, such as millennial car enthusiasts, there’s probably an influencer out there for you. Keep in mind: whereas reporters transact in information, influencers transact in material goods, money, or access.
Blogs. Independent writers can be another great way to get your message out. Sometimes it might be as easy as offering to sponsor an edition of their newsletter — just make sure that you are targeting an audience that will care about your message so that you’re still adding value to the writer and their network.
In today’s PR climate, being thoughtful and strategic about sourcing, packaging, and targeting your message is table stakes for getting a reporter’s attention. It’s important to keep in mind that you are one of a hundred others in someone’s inbox on a given day. With so many options before them, they can afford to be highly selective. So, don’t just pitch — do everything you can to create value and leave the door open for a meaningful conversation.