Take a hint from the classic Five W’s that a reporter or blogger needs to put in a story
Not every B2B marketer has worked previously as a news reporter. Few news reporters have ever worked in a marketing consulting company.
Is it any wonder that sometimes the two don’t get along very well?
That’s only the half of it. Say you are an account assistant in your mid-20s, pitching ideas to the top-tier business publications with reporters who have been covering your client’s industry since you were in junior high school. Can you get them to take you seriously?
Of course you can.
One key is to pitch with authority rather than bravado. Take a hint from the classic Five W’s that a reporter or blogger needs to put in a story, then gather some information yourself.
Within the publications or blogs, who writes about your industry? Names are important, so get them right. I’ve known several co-workers who would save the most outrageous misspellings of their own names and tape them to their computer monitors. You can bet they remembered who sent the worst howlers.
Now you know who covers your industry. But what aspects does each person cover? Some may look only at the stocks of public companies in your industry. Others may look only at new products. In this age of layoffs, one person may have to do it all. Know before you pitch.
Even with the Internet available 24/7 to showcase their prose, writers and bloggers have deadlines. Find out what they are. They may have special reports of publications scheduled throughout the year. See if they’ve posted that editorial calendar online. If you are trying to get them to interview the CEO of your client company, first make sure the CEO will be there to pick up the phone or see any incoming email.
Some organizations cover the world, others cover only the United States, still others stick to a region. If you want to get a Boston company noticed, don’t waste the time of a writer who only covers Northern California -- unless the Boston company is opening a San Francisco office, or just landed venture capital from a firm in Silicon Valley.
Readers turn to business publications for a reason. Usually, they are looking for a way to make money. How is your pitch going to help the readers do that? Nail this one and you can get a writer’s attention fast. Remember, a story doesn’t have to be a profile of the client company. If the client CEO can speak as an industry expert about current trends, that’s gold.
Proceed with caution
Those are some Do’s. Here are a few Don’ts:
- Don’t rush things. Research takes time, but it’s a good investment. You may discover that you don’t have anything right now that’s likely to interest your target writers. It’s better to wait until you do, instead of annoying them with an idea that’s off the mark. Likewise, good relationships take time to build. The salty reporter has to learn to trust you. And you have to learn to trust Old Salty. It won’t happen on the first phone call or email.
- Don’t ask, “Will the story be positive?” For one thing, what’s positive to you might be negative to someone else. Suppose office space is getting cheaper to rent. That’s negative if you own a building, but positive if you are looking for space. A good reporter will write an honest story and let readers love or hate the facts as they wish. But even if a reporter knows what kind of reaction to expect, that might change during the reporting as new facts come to light. So don’t expect the writer to know how your client will be perceived.
- Don’t be a control freak. Guide, yes. Control, no. Let’s say the reporter asks you about something the company would rather keep quiet for right now. You might be tempted to say, “If you hold off, we’ll give you an exclusive.” The problem is, you can’t really control that. Think about it: The reporter already heard about it. So the story already is floating out there. How are you supposed to control whether somebody else gets wind of it? Reporters want to report news, not the CEO’s second-day reaction to a story that somebody else ran with while the first reporter was waiting for you to give the green light.
Now get out there and win one
Follow these simple tips ... and you still won’t bat a thousand. Nobody does. Even Old Salty strikes out sometimes when he’s pitching an idea to his editors.