In PR we do two things on a routine basis – read the news and pitch reporters/editors.
Recently, I merged both elements together in a rather serendipitous moment, resulting in a fantastic newspaper hit for my sister, Samantha.
The first thing I normally do when I enter the office is scan several newspapers online to see what’s making headlines and where a client can potentially fit into the news cycle. This includes the New York Daily News. One recent Wednesday, while scrolling down the paper’s online main page, I noticed a story about a Queens-based music teacher inspiring students. Since my sister is a music teacher in the Bronx, I kept on reading. That’s when I saw he had been nominated for a paper-sponsored “Hometown Heroes in Education” initiative, which honors New York educators going above and beyond the call of duty to create memorable classroom experiences for their students.
The light bulb went off and I went looking for the rules on how to enter. After all, submitting client applications for awards is an ongoing part of our respective PR jobs. The process involved me pitching the paper on my sister’s qualities and qualifications – again, something PR folks are no stranger to doing day in and day out for their clients.
Armed with Sam’s resume, I emailed a pitch that laid it all on the line, thinking I’d receive one of the archetypal “thanks very much, we’ll keep this information handy for future stories” responses back in acknowledgment of my email. Imagine my surprise when the Daily News emailed me back that same day with the following: “It would be great to feature Samantha … Is she interested?”
The answer was obvious.
After telling Sam to stay tuned, my mind went into instant countdown mode: how quickly could we set up a photo and interview given I’m spearheading this from Watertown, not New York City? Sam’s photo was taken the following Monday. The interview was completed the next day. The story came out that Thursday, June 16, both online and in a half-page spread. Given the recent tragedies in Orlando, I was frankly surprised the story wasn’t held off longer given that it wasn’t breaking news.
The result is two-fold – a terrific media hit for me, and a major accomplishment destined for Sam’s resume. Despite this being a family affair, all the essential PR tools came out in full force, including:
Being descriptive in pitch writing: If nominating someone – be they relative or client – for an award, be specific in your reasons why the media outlet you’re pitching should pay attention to them. A reporter/editor can better gauge your own enthusiasm from the words you use and the tone you take.
Don’t harass but don’t sit back either: If media shows interest in your client, let them know your availability in helping them with questions/needs they might have. If a day passes with no word from the reporter/editor, don’t panic, but don’t be shy about “checking in” to see how everything is going.
Prep your subject: Share the dos and don’ts of interviewing with your client and give them tips on how to respond to certain questions or address potentially controversial topics. Send along prior coverage from the reporter/editor so they can see exactly what’s been previously written about the subject.
Be courteous: Once the story runs, contact the reporter/editor you worked with and say thank you. This business thrives on relationship building.
Altogether, it took seven days and endless texts/phone calls between Sam and myself to take this from initial pitch to published article. Along the way – as her honorary publicist – I’m sure I was repetitive, annoying and, at times, a pain in the butt.
But it was all worth it. The public now knows how great a person she is.