As a PR agency focused heavily on start-ups and emerging businesses, we’re always looking for ways to get clients into the business section of top-tier outlets like Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. So when the opportunity arose to attend a Publicity Club of Chicago (PCC) Luncheon featuring editors from these very publication, we seized it. Motion PR team members Nicole Pitaro and Erin McGraw received firsthand advice at the latest PCC Luncheon “Strictly Business: Behind the Headlines with Chicago’s Leading Business Editors” yesterday from panelists including Chicago Grid Editor Brandon Copple, Crain’s Chicago Business Editor Steve Reiss and Chicago Tribune Associate Managing Business Editor Micheal Lev.
In an expected fashion, the editors got right down to business and shared a few small pieces of advice that may just make a big difference in our pitching approach moving forward. Following are our top takeaways:
- Use beat reporters. Rather than pitching the main editor, try to pitch the beat reporters as often as you can. They are experts at their beat, and often are able to see story potential far better than a general business editor who has a limited grasp on the subject matter you are pitching. The editors trust and rely heavily on their beat reporters, and believe they are your best shot at getting a pitch to turn into a placement.
- Subject line is everything. Don‘t waste any space in the subject line, especially considering in today’s tech-centric work environment, many pitch emails are read on an iPhone where half of the subject line is cut off. Get to the point as quickly as possible and highlight the most enticing points. Use key, attention-grabbing words. It probably isn’t necessary to say “Crain’s Story Idea: …..” as it wastes precious space.
- The wires/breaking news are key. Any opportunity to weave a client into a story, especially in the first hour after the story breaks, can be your best chance at getting your client a possible placement. This means not only reading through the day’s headlines, but also keeping a constant watch on breaking news alerts on Twitter.
- Offer your client as source rather than a story. If there is no obvious or timely story to tell, it is better to pitch the beat reporter for an introduction to your client rather than using a weak, stretched angle to attempt to make the client relevant. Snag an opportunity to grab coffee, let the reporter pick the client’s brain about their expertise, and develop a relationship where the reporter can later reach out to the client to be featured as an “expert” on a current event/topic. They emphasized that it is a common misconception that all reporters want to be spoon-fed a story idea already half-written in a PR pitch. More often than not, beat reporters are looking to build their network of sources that they can later utilize for adding an expert’s take on a breaking news story. Though sometimes, when a client is pushing hard for a hit, it makes more sense to pitch a specific timely story angle. If you have the time to wait for the right opportunity to come along, it can be more beneficial to shoot the reporter a pitch saying, “I want you to meet XX, here is why you should want to meet them, this is what you can pick their brain about, this is what they are an expert about, this is why they would be a valuable resource for you.”
In short, stay concise, keep it simple, make introductions and let the media placements follow suit.