“I own a candy store in the Tuttle Street Mall, and I’m trying to get a little publicity for it.”
Here’s an even more egregious sin:
“I own a candy store in the Tuttle Street Mall. All of the other candy store owners in this town have gotten free publicity from your newspaper, except me.”
I could have asked, “What’s special about your candy store?” or “Why would my readers be interested in your story?”
But because the caller broke the Golden Rule and uttered the dreaded word publicity, I’d grumble something into the phone like, “If you want to buy an ad, I can transfer you to the ad department.”
That’s what we did back in the 1980s and 90s when I worked at newspapers. But today, you wouldn’t be nearly as lucky. Today, reporters would be so busy that they’d write you off as a pest. Perhaps they would even blackball you.
Because most of them don’t even answer their phones, you’d have to pitch by email. And they could mark your email as spam, thus prohibiting you from ever getting through to them again.
You could face the same consequences if you use the “spray and pray” technique and pitch the same one-size-fits-all story idea to multiple media outlets, thus robbing your pitch of the customization needed to prompt the journalist to read it and think, “This is PERFECT for our audience!” I wrote more about “spray and pray” here.
Here’s a Better Pitch for the Candy Store
“Your story in last Sunday’s paper about how local retail sales have really dropped because of the slumping economy caught my eye because my candy store is experiencing just the opposite. Our sales have gone up each year, and I suspect it’s because in bad economic times, people turn to chocolate. That’s what I found when I thoroughly researched the chocolate industry five years ago before opening my store.
“If you’re planning a follow-up story on the mall, or you’d be interested in talking to other chocolatiers in town who I know are also experiencing the same sales trends I’m seeing, I can provide contact information. You also might be interested in a White Paper from the American Chocolate Association that gives a brief history of chocolate in bad economic times.”
“I can be reached at…”
Why That Pitch Works
If I were the reporter, I’d jump at that story. Here’s why the pitch worked:
- The store owner let the reporter know that she read last Sunday’s story on small businesses. She was smart enough to let the reporter know she reads the paper and she knows what the reporter covers.
- She used the word “follow up.” That’s newspaper lingo.
- The story highlights a trend. Even if your candy store sales aren’t up, you could mention something you’re doing to make that happen, like hosting children’s birthday parties and wedding showers within the store.
- The store owner offered two extras: contact information for other chocolate retailers, and the White Paper.
Delivering succinct pitches is one of the most difficult parts of the job for professional PR people. If you don’t have their background and experience, knowing what the media want and how to deliver it can be next impossible.
But it doesn’t have to be.