Author Archives

Sending the Pitch

by | May 25, 2012

This is Part 4 in a five-part series titled The Art of the Pitch.

Part 1, Four Factors That Make for an Ideal Pitch, can be found here.

Part 2, Doing Your Pitch Homework, can be found here.

Part 3, Crafting the Pitch, can be found here.

Once your story pitch is teed up and ready to go, all you’ve got to do is send it, right? Well, sort of. While it’s easy enough to send off your story suggestion to the journalists on your list, it’s worth considering a few things before doing so.

One at a Time

We discussed the need to “keep it custom” in Part 3, but it’s worth reiterating here. Emails that begin with “Hello”, “Dear Sir”, or another generic introduction tell the recipient that your pitch was sent to multiple targets at once, making it less likely to be considered. Journalists favor exclusivity. Something as simple as addressing them by name, with a pitch that clearly indicates it’s been written for their needs, has a better shot at success.

That’s not to say that using a system to send multiple pitches at once is always a bad idea, but it’s helpful to weigh the benefits (speed, convenience) against the potential drawbacks.

Try to Avoid Fridays

Generally, Fridays are when companies and politicians release unfavorable news. There are reasons for this – generally media consumption is lighter on Saturdays, and by Monday there will (hopefully) be other, more recent news to cover. For media pitches, there is another reason to wait until Monday: if the email goes unread on Friday, it will be buried deep within the inbox by Monday morning.

Exceptions include breaking news on a Friday that you’ll want your source to be a part of, or publications that have midweek deadlines. In those cases, Friday isn’t such a bad option – but the earlier in the day, the better.

Careful With the Follow-Ups

Routinely and without fail, one of the biggest pet peeves cited by the media about PR people is receiving an immediate phone call after an email was received, in which the PR person says, “Just confirming that you received our press release.” Chances are they saw it, and they’ll write about it if it’s compelling. Calling immediately to follow up will probably land you in the reporter’s dog house and might do more harm than good.

There’s no official rule for when to follow-up, but I generally try to allow for a buffer period of at least 24 hours – possibly several days depending upon what type of medium I’m pitching and the urgency of the story. And when I do get a journalist on the line, I’m quick to ask if it’s a good time to speak before launching into the reason for my call. A little courtesy goes a long way.

Part 5 of The Art of the Pitch will be posted next week, in which we’ll discuss “Preparing the Expert Source”.

Crafting the Pitch

by | May 18, 2012

This is Part 3 in a five-part series titled The Art of the Pitch. Part 1, Four Factors That Make for an Ideal Pitch, can be found here. Part 2, Doing Your Pitch Homework, can be found here.

Once you’ve got a compelling story idea, an expert source at the ready, and a particular journalist in mind, it’s time to write that pitch. How well this is done can be the difference between an interview and an express route to the trash bin.  Consider following these simple steps for maximum likelihood of success.

Keep it Short

The journalist you’re contacting is likely under a current deadline. Chances are also excellent that they constantly receive unprompted story suggestions, some of which are only marginally relevant to their beat. They don’t have time to read a novel, so you’d better get to the point quickly.

Don’t beat around the bush. Use the subject line to quickly summarize why you’re writing. Tell them what the story is, your source’s credentials, and what they can offer. A general rule of thumb to follow is three paragraphs maximum – and by paragraphs, I mean 2-4 sentences per paragraph.

Keep it Interesting

This is a no-brainer that can also be difficult to get right. I generally try not to get too cute when pitching journalists, but I don’t want to be overly vanilla either. Strive for punchy, concise copy that tells the reporter exactly how you envision the story, and your source’s compelling role within that story.

Keep it Custom

Whenever possible, tailor the pitch for the journalist that’s receiving it. Mention the publication. Talk about an upcoming issue for which this story would be a perfect fit. Make sure they know that you wrote this pitch with them specifically in mind.

And whatever you do, don’t use the salutations “Dear Sir or Madam”, “Hello”, or another generic greeting that basically screams “You’re on a mass media list and every one of them got this exact pitch.”

Part 4 of The Art of the Pitch will be posted next week, in which we’ll discuss “Sending the Pitch”.

Doing Your Pitch Homework

by | May 11, 2012

This is Part 2 in a five-part series titled The Art of the Pitch. Part 1, Four Factors That Make for an Ideal Pitch, can be found here.

Know the Subject

In order to create an effective media pitch, a PR practitioner should know the industry well enough to know why this particular pitch is relevant.

“This could have a major impact on the industry” by itself is probably the biggest cop-out you can have in a media pitch. It suggests that the PR person hasn’t done enough research to know what impact, if any, there might actually be. Show, don’t tell, is a common theme used by journalists, and it should apply just as well for PR practitioners. Does the story you’re suggesting change legal precedent? Make us safer? Provide a new or better service to society? Improve upon an existing product in a meaningful way? General platitudes about “impact,” “shakeup”, and “trends”, without explanation or elaboration, will get you nowhere.

Know the Media

It’s not enough to know the industry – you’ve got to know the media that covers that industry. What outlets have covered this subject before? Which ones have done the best job? Is there a specific beat reporter, or should you go through an assignment editor?

Some publications allow contributed articles; some do not. Some have daily deadlines; others plan stories for weeks or more. Has the story you’re pitching been covered to death already? These are highly relevant details that should help shape your outreach.

Know the Journalist

Part of the PR professional’s job is to put him or herself in the shoes of the journalist. Make sure you’ve got the right contact before firing off that email. Try to avoid the “shotgun” approach in which you simply replace the name at the top and blast out a pitch to 100 people. Have they covered this issue or service before?

Customize. Empathize. Humanize. This approach may take longer, but it will likely yield better results.

Part 3 of The Art of the Pitch will be posted next week, in which we’ll discuss “Crafting the Pitch”.

This is part one in a five-part series titled The Art of the Pitch. Join us each Friday from May 4 through June 1 as we discuss successful media outreach strategies. 

Just as advertisers try to “pitch” consumers a message they hope will resonate, public relations professionals pitch journalists with suggestions for stories, on behalf of their clients. But not all pitches are created equal, and it helps to understand what circumstances create the most favorable conditions for eventual media exposure.

For our purposes, let’s assume you’ve got a fully-prepared spokesperson ready and available to do an interview . All you need to do is secure and arrange the opportunity.

#1 – Business Relevance

The most vital step in any media relations program is to consider what kinds of coverage make the most sense from a business perspective. Coverage in the Baltimore Sun likely won’t do much good for a business that operates solely in Seattle, for example, nor will coverage in a consumer interest publication for a B-to-B manufacturer. If you want to sell more widgets, focus on the media whose audience may be interested in those widgets.

#2 – Current Events

News, by definition, is the reporting of a recent event.  Journalists need sources to comment on these events, so the more you can match the needs of your source to the needs of the journalist, the better it is for everyone.

General, how-to stories work well enough, but the most successful pitches address a current event and provide a source for commentary.

#3 – Source Expertise

This one may seem obvious, but it’s worth considering for a moment whether the topic you’re pitching aligns with the expertise of your spokesperson. Sometimes PR people get a little trigger-happy with the media relations before doing due diligence with the source, and that’s a mistake. For example, with our law firm clients we are careful to check that a certain case or court ruling is something they’ve been following, and could speak about with authority.

The last thing you want is to secure an interview with a journalist, only to have the source decline because they’re not familiar with the subject.

#4 – Timeliness

The world of public relations revolves rapidly. What’s hot today is old news by tomorrow. Media deadlines are short, so timely outreach is vital. PR departments (and their agencies) need to pay close attention to what’s making news (or better yet, what’s likely to be making news in the near future). Make sure that your spokespeople are available and not, say, taking a cross-country flight in the next few hours after pitching an interview. Journalists won’t wait.

This is a bird’s-eye view of four critical elements that make for an ideal media pitch. Part 2 of The Art of the Pitch will be posted next week, in which we’ll discuss “Doing Your Pitch Homework”.

Timing is everything. We hear this every day and it pretty much applies to every facet of life. The same can be said for luck – lucky in love, lucky at work, etc.

Timing and luck can also be perceived as key factors in building visibility with the media.  While I certainly subscribe to the notions of luck and timing, I also know that expertise, coupled with some finesse and cleverness, can also result in positive outcomes.

In our business, timing and luck are often married to each other – especially when it comes to working with the media. If you think you have a compelling story angle or perspective and you catch the right reporter, in the right mood, and with open ears, you might wind up with an interview and ultimately an article. However, without the creativity that is born from a little finesse and cleverness, the odds of grabbing a reporter’s attention might be slim.

These days, reporters are more overwhelmed than ever as newsrooms grow smaller while social media continues to explode. Most reporters sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of emails per week – and that is just the ones with captivating subject lines.  How you say something is just as important as what you say. Combine this with some luck and the right timing and you may have found a formula for media relations success.

Law firm public relations is a tricky and competitive business. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the United States has about 759,000 lawyers. When a national news story of legal importance breaks, many of them would love to be a quoted source of expertise within that story. Unfortunately, the math suggests that most will be disappointed if they simply email the Wall Street Journal, offering to contribute. So what is an enterprising, media-friendly attorney to do?

Find your niche. And no, your practice area doesn’t count. It is a starting point. For example, for every attorney that focuses on United States patent law, there are thousands with the same qualifications. By narrowing the scope of your media relations efforts, you winnow the field, qualify your story prospects and better your chances of responding in a timely and helpful fashion to specific media opportunities. Go beyond “patent law” and find areas that match your background on which to focus. The human genome. Business method patents. Semiconductors. Major litigation. Something, anything, that creates a more specific public relations agenda will do wonders for your efforts.

Snow Communications is seeking to hire an Account Executive with solid (2-5 years) experience in a PR agency. If you have excellent writing, editing and media relations skills, experience in strategic and tactical planning of client campaigns, familiarity with social media marketing channels, and a team-player attitude, then this job is for you. Being detail oriented is a must. We focus on client needs with intensity and creativity and measure our success by how well they succeed. Competitive salary and benefits package.
Send your resume with writing samples to

One of the most consistent complaints we come across when meeting prospective clients, and the reason why many seek new PR help, is that their previous agency didn’t listen. How much business is lost over this seemingly obvious action…or lack thereof? I can’t think of one industry that is immune and yet the challenge continues. How do we solve this? More importantly, can it be solved or is it simply in our nature to believe we are so smart that we can provide the answer to a question that we have not even heard? Or that we can recommend a solution without fully understanding the other person’s challenges and issues?

I will admit I have very little patience when it comes to lack of listening. It’s kind of a “thing” with me. Like everyone else, though, I see this problem across every facet of my life and on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, I love to wax poetically about my favorite things as much as the next person, but when it comes to investing time and money into something of importance, I see very little return on my investment if I know I am not being heard.

Not to sound cheesy (or as if I just watched Oprah), but we are constantly being reminded to live in the moment, for it is the most important time we have. If we aren’t thinking about tomorrow, or reliving yesterday, perhaps we can better focus on the present, the here and now. If we try to make this effort a bigger priority, maybe we will find it easier to open our ears and our minds to really envelop what the person sitting across from us is trying to communicate. How hard can it be?

After months of careful planning and preparation, a company launches its new product. The news media picks up the story. A prominent publication features an article online, and the reviews are glowing. Congratulations on the great PR coverage!

But wait, what’s this? Dozens of comments attached to this very article? Well, how flattering. Let’s just click these and see what the kind readers have to say…

Uh-oh. You’ve just entered the Danger Zone of online media – the comments section. These anonymous, thinly-moderated forums attached to most articles can be mocking, misinformed, off-topic and downright nasty. Do you respond? Complain to the editor? Ignore them? Tell your PR firm to begin an Astroturf campaign to drown out the nay-sayers? (I am kidding about this last one.)

Here are a few suggestions for dealing with the comments section.  Keep in mind that each situation is unique and appropriate responses may vary.

Keep an eye on the comments, but don’t overreact. People will make disparaging remarks. Welcome to the Internet. The vocal minority has the megaphone, and they are not afraid to use it. Don’t mistake a few negative responses for general public opinion.  Except for extreme situations, plan on letting much of this stuff slide.

If some comments offer legitimate, specific points of criticism, respond using your full name and title, and remain emotionally neutral. This can be a powerful rejoinder, serving to diffuse hostility and bring some light to the situation. People, even anonymous ones, appreciate companies that are willing to engage at a personal level. In this situation it also helps to have social media channels at the ready. If you’ve felt the need to respond via comments, chances are you should also make a statement via Twitter, Facebook and the company blog.

Notify the journalist or website moderator. Sometimes online discussions can turn downright hateful. Some media police for this sort of thing, but it’s not unreasonable to pick up the phone to alert them of something that’s attached to your story that needs removal. Hate speech, racism and profanity would fall into this category. But be careful to only use this option when necessary; calling to complain about all the negative comments in your story, frustrating as they may be, will probably get you nowhere while also irritating the journalist that wrote the story. Choose your battles carefully.

Comment sections are the Wild West of online media. By proactively monitoring and responding to each case as appropriate, companies can keep tabs on what is being said, offer direct responses when appropriate, and help keep the worst offenders at bay.


Free Bikes 4 Kidz, a local non-profit organization that provides bikes to needy kids and adults in the Twin Cities (and pro bono client of Snow Communications), is preparing for its fourth-annual bicycle giveaway season! Thanks in part to a bike donation drive led by sponsor Allina Hospitals and Clinics, the group recently received 5,000 bikes in less than two weeks, its largest total ever.

This incredible generosity has created the need for volunteers to help prepare these bikes to give away, an event which will happen on December 10 at 21 locations around the metro area.  No technical skills are necessary to volunteer, so if you want to be part of a great organization that brings joy to local Twin Cities families this holiday season, please visit and click on ‘Volunteer!’

Here’s a fun anecdote to this story: Art Engstrom, the retired owner and founder of one of the first and largest Schwinn dealerships in America, has donated his warehouse space to Free Bikes 4 Kidz to use for repairing bikes this year. This is the same location where his bike shop was functioning 30 years ago. Last Saturday Art came to the site to volunteer to work on bikes, only to find that there were several bikes in the pile that had stickers proving they were purchased at his store, that very location, 30 years earlier. So Art was now repairing a bike that he sold 30 years prior, and preparing that bike to have a second life – given away to a child in need – from the same premises. What goes around, comes around!

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »