Sometimes the who/what/where/why of PR pitching is obvious. Perhaps you have an exciting new community partnership to share, you’re opening a new location for your food pantry, or you have a renowned expert joining your staff who will revolutionize your patient care model. These pitches – where there is a defined and timely news angle that everyone will want and need to know – are the easy ones. But what about those months when your organization is “business as usual?”
It is a good idea to stay in contact with your targeted media folks and pitch relevant, worthy story ideas at least once per month. Don’t let them forget about you! So how do you come up with something fresh to share when you don’t have any real news? How do you find story angles to pitch so you or your business remains part of the greater conversation and you continue to share your area of expertise? How do you create those media opportunities where they seemingly don’t exist? Finding fresh content every month may seem daunting, but following a formulaic approach can help you come up with great pitches in those months when big announcements are in short supply.
Timely versus evergreen story angles
Let’s start with a quick little PR 101 before we get too in the weeds with advanced pitching strategy. When we talk about pitching topics, they generally fall into two categories – timely pitches and evergreen pitches.
Timely pitches are a means to share news about current information and events. These items are newsworthy because they have recently happened or are about to happen. In other words, it is “new” news. Timely events include new hires, new locations, release of original research, partnerships, annual giving numbers, anniversaries and milestones, major innovations, or aligning your organization with a current event in order to garner media attention, a.k.a “newsjacking.”
Evergreen pitches are not related to current events or new news. As the term “evergreen” implies, they can be shared at any point during the year. Evergreen pitches are great opportunities to share your perspective or opinion as it relates to your area of expertise (i.e. “thought leadership”), profile team members, or share stories on your specific area of impact.
Evergreen pitches hold tremendous potential and value, they can result in those dreamy long-form pieces with an extensive profile on your organization’s executive director and area of impact. But where they lack timeliness, they must have substance in order to yield coverage.
What are the elements of a successful evergreen pitch?
Because evergreen pitches lack the timely angle, they must be strong in other areas. Start by thinking about where these stories can and should be covered in the media. Evergreen pitches will get coverage when they contain one or more of the following elements.
1. The idea fills a gap. Start with a deep dive into publications that cover your business sector and area of expertise. What have they covered ad nauseam and what have they covered either very lightly or not at all? Can you create a pitch that conveys your key message and fills one of those coverage gaps?
2. You can share a unique point of view. Can you say something that no one else has said? Do you have a life experience that gives you a unique perspective? Have you come up with a new approach or new solution to an existing problem?
3. You can reach a new audience. If your industry publications and beat writers have covered your topic extensively, think about complementary audiences or publications that are outside of your normal pitch list. If you are an expert in women’s behavioral health, then you likely already target women-focused publications and health-focused publications, but what about men’s publications? Could you pitch Men’s Health with a
“how-to-guide on supporting a female partner when they are struggling”? Think outside the box and look for opportunities in new places.
4. You would read it. Be your own gatekeeper. With every evergreen pitch, ask yourself: if this was a headline, would I click on it? Is it compelling? Do audiences need to know the information I’m sharing in this pitch? Be able to answer the questions “who would want to read this story?” and “why should they read this story?”
If your evergreen pitch checks one or more of these boxes, you are on the right track in terms of content. But don’t just pitch for the sake of pitching, make sure your evergreen pitch also supports your business goals. Getting the long-form story about your organization into a national publication is wonderful, but if a national audience can’t actually support you, perhaps your time would have been better spent pitching elsewhere. Everyone loves seeing their name in top-tier publications but don’t minimize the value of local and audience or industry-focused media outlets.
Define your goals
Before you start media outreach, make sure the evergreen pitch, and the potential media hit, supports your business goals. Timely stories typically land in publications that reach your top target audiences and therefore are a great complement to your marketing efforts. Make sure your evergreen pitches are yielding some sort of positive business outcome as well. How will media hits support your overall business goals?
Here are a few key questions we like to pose to ensure our pitches are supporting business goals:
- Who are your audience targets from a business perspective? Where do they live, what do they read, what do they care about? Does your evergreen story provide meaningful information for these audiences?
- Who are the auxiliary audiences? Will targeting auxiliary audiences support awareness of your cause and/or growth of your organization?
- What would be a call to action for this evergreen story? How could a press hit support this call to action?
- What do you want to be known for? What are three to five key messages of your organization or personal brand that people should know? Will your evergreen story include these key messages?
Answering these questions will help drive your pitching strategy, both timely and evergreen. As we’ve said before, PR should be used as a tool to support business growth, not for the sake of ego or vanity. For every evergreen pitch, ask yourself what messages will help your organization succeed? What stories move the dial for you? Which new audiences can you reach? Develop your evergreen pitches with these key questions in mind.
Diana Crawford is a seasoned public relations consultant with more than 15 years of agency, consulting, and in-house experience. She joined Orapin in 2013 and manages account services and client communications strategy development. She has worked across a variety of sectors and has expertise with professional services, food/alcohol, health and wellness, lifestyle, sports, education, tech, and non-profit industries.