How To Pitch PR Effectively

You’ve got it all down pat: The picture-perfect face, the Polident smile, the knock-’em-dead wardrobe, the suave personality, the witty repartee. Heck, you’ve even mastered the wink and the gun ! But the dismal reality is this: Although you may be the next box-office bigwig or silver-screen sensation, you are, alas, a faceless, nameless actor. A nobody.

Uncanny resemblance with an online start-up?

The problem in both cases is that actors and online startups are a dime a dozen. There are masses of them out there. With such an onslaught of potential, Hollywood execs and online journalists often choose to ignore the unknown and embrace the familiar.

And so, as a savvy actor or online start-up, you decide to bombard Hollywood magnates or the media with as much hoopla as you can muster: Audition after audition, press release upon press release.

Still can’t get noticed, huh?

You see, the problem is not that your gig does not have potential. It’s your delivery and your audience.

You cannot simply write a standard press release trumpeting a product launch and wait for journalists to flock to you like bees to honey. Journalists from both traditional and online media are besieged by hum-drum press releases every day. If a news item doesn’t grab their attention within a second or two, the press release gets trashed – literally.

So how does an online start-up go from no-name to big-name with the help of PR?

  • Find a new act. Case in point: A hot news item recently was that AOL CEO Steve Case appointed Internet visionary Marc Andreessen as CTO. This is big news because the players are big and they are known.

So I’ll be blunt: Unless you are AOL, journalists don’t care about your management team or other mundane events at your company. It’ll come off as Ms. No-Name appointing Mr. Geek-Across-the-Street. You must strategically select exactly what your company is going to announce. Wow journalists with something that relates to the beats they cover. Give them meat they can use to attract and build their audiences.

  • Package your news item in something other than a brown-paper wrapper. Brainstorm on innovative ways to write about your news item. Use vibrant verbage. Eliminate corporate babble. Get to the point. In a nutshell, get your press-release writers to do whatever it takes to make journalists want to keep on reading.

Don’t let your announcement become the proverbial needle in a haystack. Package your information in such a way that it will jump out at journalists, among the heaps of news-item clones.

Here’s what I mean: Women.com sent out a press release last December entitled Jane “On the Go” Doe’s Diary : Jane Discovers Women.com’s Gift Center Is the Smart Way for Women to Shop Online. The press release was written in the form of a diary – a day in the life of a typical ’90s woman praising Women.com’s shopping convenience and holiday-saving services. It was different. It had flair. It hit home.

  • Play your gig in front of the right people. The Internet’s information overload has incited netizens to stake out niche publications that cater to their distinct tastes. Journalists themselves are becoming more and more specialized in particular beats and subjects.

Gone are the days where you can blindly drown journalists that generally cover, say, technology, and hope that somebody – anybody! – talks about you. If your company develops accounting software, your best bet is to aim your PR pitch at key journalists who report on accounting and financial news – and not necessarily on general software.

Sound obvious? Think again. We have all been guilty at one time or another of shooting quasi-aimlessly in the dark, and not getting so much as a peep out of our media confreres.

We all know that whether it be Brad Pitt or Amazon.com, they both sprouted from humble beginnings. Brad certainly did his share of burger-flipping. And without a doubt, the Amazon.com of yesteryear did not cause the fanfare of today’s heralded online heavyweight. But both managed to find the right routine, at the right time, and for the right people.

The question is: When is your curtain call?

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