Updated: Apr 9
From the original creator of the Brainstorm Buddy App - Linda Formichelli
When I did the occasional PR for clients, one-third of my outreach landed my clients in the press.
I’d like to share with you the unusual way I was able to get media pitches picked up by journalists, bloggers, and media outlets.
Media Pros Want You to Make Their Jobs Easier
When I wrote for magazines, I ended up on tons of press lists. And let me tell you, I never, ever, ever pitched or wrote up an idea based on a press release in my 25 years of freelancing.
That’s because, well, most press releases stink. They’re boring and self-serving, and I could come up with better ideas on my own. I would have loved to get a press release I could actually base a story on, but it just never happened.
The people who can cover your brand want PR pitches to make their jobs easier. They usually can’t just run a press release as-is, unless they have a department in their publication devoted to, say, industry news bites or job changes. Slapping up a press release and calling it a day is bad journalism. And the more work they have to do to turn your release into a story their audience will care about, the less likely they are to use it.
Ideas are these people’s livelihoods. No ideas, no pay. And generating great content ideas is challenging for many people. If you can help them with that, you’re much more likely to score media mentions.
So how did I garner an impressive 33% success rate with my PR pitches? Part of my process was this:
Instead of sending a generic press release, I offered three or four compelling content ideas based on my client’s news.
(And I say “part” of my process because I also have tricks for succeeding with services like HARO and ProfNet that match journalists up with sources.)
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How to Develop Content Ideas Based on Your Brand
Here’s how to do it.
Develop a list of, say, 10 great content ideas related to your news or your brand—blog post ideas, article ideas, whatever makes sense for your brand and the outlets you’re pitching.
Then, write a quick intro paragraph and offer each media outlet a few of the ideas that seem the most relevant for them. You don’t need to have these ideas totally fleshed out—just a headline and a couple of sentences will do.
As an example, let’s use Patriot PAWS, an actual non-profit that trains and provides service dogs at no cost to disabled American veterans and others with mobile disabilities. We’ll pretend their big news is that they’ve just placed their 1,000th dog, and you want to get the word out to the general media to spur donations.
This is great news, and some enterprising outlets you send this news to may turn this into a story they can share with their audience, or ask to interview the nonprofit for a TV spot or video. But you can increase your chances more by offering the media outlets different ways to spin the story.
So instead, try sending something like this:
Patriot PAWS just placed its thousandth service dog with a deserving veteran! To celebrate, here are some ideas you can use for your upcoming content that are based on the expertise we’ve built by training 1,000 dogs; if you’re interested in developing any of these, please reach out for more details or an interview:
Top 5 Dog Training Mistakes—from the Org That’s Trained 1,000 Dogs
The Best New Dog Breeds for [Families, Wheelchair Users, etc.] (This you would switch out depending on the media outlet.)
Love Dogs? These Are The Top 8 Dog-Related Volunteer Opportunities
Bud Gets a New Buddy: Meet the Veteran Who Received Patriot Paws’ 1,000th Service Dog
After each of these titles, add a quick description that includes how the reader will benefit. Even idea #4 offers up a feel-good story that dog-lovers will enjoy—and if you want to amp up the usefulness, it could also include information on what to do if you are (or know) a disabled vet who might need a service dog.
Good Content Ideas Are Not About You
Notice that none of these are strictly about the fact the nonprofit has trained 1,000 dogs. Also notice that with the third idea, you’re sharing the spotlight with seven other nonprofits. What gives? Why pitch ideas that won’t benefit your brand?
Guess what? It’s not about you. These media outlets’ job is to provide value to their audiences, and with these ideas you help them do just that. This makes it more likely you’ll get the media mentions and interviews you want—and that’s the benefit your brand will get from this practice.
Coming up with content topics for the media may sound like a lot of work, but most of the heavy lifting is up-front when you develop the actual ideas and write up the intro. If you’ve defined your target audience, you should only need to make a few tweaks to each release to match the person you’re sending it to.
The practice of offering content topics to the press will become easier over time. Eventually, your brain will start working automatically on how to spin your brand’s news into new, useful (and publishable!) ideas.
Set Your Brand Apart By Doing the Work
I get that everyone is crunched for time, but this is to your advantage: You’ll be one of the very few people to do this kind of legwork for a pitch, so you’ll be more likely to get picked up than the brands that send dull press releases announcing their fourth-quarter profits.
If you’re too pressed for time to generate a list of content topics, at least write up a paragraph with a couple of suggestions on how the media outlet might use your news; for example, you could recommend they interview someone at the nonprofit for a post on local volunteer organizations, or run a piece on dog training with your top service dog trainer as a source.
And if you need more help developing ideas that work, check out the Brainstorm Buddy App—the tool that tells you how likely your ideas are to succeed, before you spend a lot of time and money pitching them.