Journalists have been conditioned to expect that when they open an unsolicited email from a PR rep, it will have nothing to do with what they actually cover.

Here’s how bad things have gotten:

Last week I was on a conference call with journalists from Slate, the Washington Post, and Aviation Week. I’m moderating a panel with them at next week’s PR News Media Relations Conference in DC.

I intended to ask them how they want to be pitched, but I’ve done this enough times to know that I needed to make a disclaimer at the beginning.  I specified: “Okay, we all already know how important it is to ONLY send you information that’s directly relevant to your beats and your audiences. Aside from that…”

And then I asked each one a question specific to their unique situation.

And each one of them STILL answered by emphasizing how important it is to only send news that’s relevant to them!

You know how your friend needs to vent about a frustration, and you’ve validated that frustration back to her already, but she keeps repeating it? That’s what this phone call was like.

It’s not their fault, it’s our fault as an industry. Most journalists I talk to, rightly or wrongly, expect (but not accept) the fact that PR folk just write generic pitches and send them to every journalist they can find an email address for.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that all you have to do to stand out is not be that bad!

I’m only half-kidding here. Of course, you’re not guaranteed a placement just for sending something that’s actually relevant. But when you do it right, you show up different. And they appreciate it.

And sometimes they even thank you for it:

Increasingly, I get responses from journalists forwarded to me from members of my Inner Circle or users of my online course like these:

Boy, do you do your homework!

I liked your pitch email. It resonated with me as far as what I’m interested in, and what our readers want to know.

Nice pitch, best I’ve seen in a while.

In a way, the laziness or ignorance of others becomes an opportunity for you. And the simple fact that you subscribe to these posts and have read this far already shows you’ve got the drive and alignment to earn way more than your share of placements.

Journalists have been conditioned to expect that when they open an unsolicited email from a PR rep, it will have nothing to do with what they actually cover. Here’s why this is good news for you.

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Yesterday a coaching client opened up to me in front of her teammates:

I just got promoted. I’ve worked hard to develop good relationships with the local media, and now I want to do the same with the national media. But I’m scared they’re going to be like, ‘Who is this woman, and why is she bothering me?’

I know exactly how she feels. I remember when I got to the point where I pretty much maxed out all the local media coverage we could get. So the natural next step was to take our stories national. But guess what my solution was?

Shop around for a PR agency to do it for us 😀

Nothing wrong with outsourcing if you do it for the right reasons. But my sole reason was FEAR.

I was terrified of those reporters and producers at national outlets, even though I had never interacted with a single one. I remembered when I was a journalist, how my more experienced colleagues bad-mouthed the PR people they heard from. In my overactive imagination, national journalists would be even more mean and ornery. More on this in a minute.

Fortunately, I had a wise boss who wasn’t afraid to push me out of my comfort zone. She encouraged me to take on national pitching as a short-term project. I gulped and decided to trust her trust in me. It went well, and here’s why:

All journalists, whether local or national, are PEOPLE first. They have hopes and dreams, frustrations and inadequacies, career goals and cranky bosses, just like you and me.

Whether pitching local or national, your first priority is putting yourself in your contact’s cubicle and determining:

– What type of information would this person’s audience appreciate?

– How can I help this person win and progress in his/her career?

Now, the difference between national and local becomes obvious in the answers to those questions. Generally speaking, national reporters or producers need stories that impact people in Iowa and Idaho just the same as they impact people in the locale where the stories originate. And because they have so many more options to choose from, their standard of newsworthiness is justifiably high.

But those answers are not hiding in some mystical cloud only accessible to a few veteran PR pros. They are in plain sight, in each journalist’s track record of content. It takes skill to determine what will work at the national level and what won’t, but any skill is learnable.

The real secret to taking local stories national is overcoming what held me back at the beginning, the raw fear of the unknown. The first and most crucial step is changing your mindset about the real value you have to offer. Like Kristina did in this article I published earlier.

After you get clear on that, your path to top-tier placements crystallizes in front of you. Then it’s up to you to put in the work to acquire the skills and do the research to make it happen.

I remember when I got to the point where I pretty much maxed out all the local media coverage we could get. So the natural next step was to take our stories national. But guess what my solution was?

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14 years ago, I started on a journey that ultimately ended in the creation of a resource called the Media Relations Master’s Pitch Checklist.

It’s basically a 17-step blueprint for creating a pitch that works.

You can read it in about 90 seconds and then put it into action right away. It’s fast, it’s effective and it’s pretty simple.

Up until now, its existence has only been known to those inside the Inner Circle.

Enrollment for the Inner Circle is open now through Friday. And YOU GET THIS Checklist (along with the masterclass video explaining how to use it!) when you enroll in the Inner Circle by tomorrow.

It might be hard for someone on the OUTSIDE to believe that a single piece of paper like the Media Relations Master’s Pitch Checklist could land you coverage in national media, but it’s true.

Today I’ll give you just one piece of proof.

It has to do with Checklist Item #2.

Now I’m not going to reveal exactly what this mystery Item #2 is, but I am going to show you how powerful it can be.

Inner Circle Member Kate Whiteley, VP of Kirvin Doak Communications in Las Vegas, used it to land her client coverage in USAT.

In her situation, she used one of the strategies on the checklist to get her client coverage for a special exhibition of artifacts from the Titanic.

(In the masterclass video that comes with the checklist, I even walk through Kate’s pitch and point out what made it work so well.)

But that’s not all that’s happened to Kate since she joined the Inner Circle. Here are some other comments she sent me about her experience “on the inside.”

“Michael and his Inner Circle have been truly valuable for me. I could point to the tools, tips and access that come through the monthly webinars and training vault – they are most certainly worth the investment.

“But as a senior PR practitioner, with a team of young, up and coming PR pros working with me, what I value most is the ability to tap into a pool of trusted industry pros. Rarely are we able to bounce ideas off of someone, let alone a group of someones, who have deep experience in the industry and get thoughtful, unbiased feedback. 

“Sometimes you need some outside inspiration or someone to tell you when you’ve missed the obvious angle because you’re so deep into subject.  Sometimes you need a group of objective peers to weigh in without worrying that you’re betraying your “expert status” or opening yourself up to condescension.  I’ve found that in the Inner Circle. 

“It’s a group where practices are cultivated through sharing and vulnerability. It’s a place where we can learn from both our and others mistakes and it is a place where doors to the latest trends and tactics are regularly opened.  It is also what you put into it. You can be a casual member and just observe, tune in every now and then or you can jump into the deep end. I’m not the most active member, but leaning into the Inner Circle when I needed it and sharing when I felt I could help someone else has given me a better understanding of the business, made me a better leader and a better communicator.”

My question to you is this:

What could happen to YOUR results if you were able to “plug in” to a resource that allowed you to leverage the expertise, experience and success of others?

That’s the opportunity that’s in front of you through Friday. You can enroll here.

The doors are open now, but they close tomorrow. So this is pretty time sensitive…especially if you want the Pitch Checklist.

 

P.S. One more thing. One of the other resources available to you as a new Inner Circle Member is the masterclass I did with a producer from the Today Show. We had 15 pitches from Inner Circle members and she gave reactions to those pitches. (She even liked 5 enough to ask for more information!)

This was such a valuable presentation, I created a one-page “action sheet” summarizing the main takeaways of the Today Show producer.

If you pitch morning shows, this piece of paper is EASILY worth $1,000.

And you get it, along with the main Pitch Checklist, when you enroll in the Inner Circle before tomorrow night.

14 years ago, I started on a journey that ultimately ended in the creation of a resource called the Media Relations Master’s Pitch Checklist.

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The past 95 weeks in a row, I’ve sent out my weekly email on Thursday. But I’m posting here a day early for a reason.

Last night when I went to bed, anchors were saying “World financial markets are in turmoil; the Dow futures are down 800, and it’s getting worse.” It was tempting to lay awake worrying about how this could affect my business.

With all the information at our fingertips, it seems easy to want to analyze what’s going on and how it will affect us. Listen to the pundits on the TV while you check the political sites on your phone – then toggle over to social to see what your friends are saying, then back to the pundits.

It reminds me of earlier times of change and uncertainty, and how I would just sit and watch the world go by. Like the undecided presidential election of 2000 – I spent the months of Nov. and Dec. that year operating at about 50 percent capacity because I was engrossed in the recount and wondering how it would all affect my life. That felt safer than actually making decisions and taking action.

You know what I’ve learned since then after wasting all that time? To focus on what I can control.

Sure, it’s important to be informed and civically engaged. That’s why we voted. Now the election is over, and realistically speaking, staying informed takes, what, 15 minutes a day or so?

Turn off the TV, close the political sites, limit your time on social, and focus instead on the one reality I’m absolutely sure of in these uncertain times:

The way you’re going to grow – both personally and professionally – is to wake up every day and ask yourself, “What can I do today to provide more value to more people than I did yesterday?” Then go do that.

That’s what I did this morning. No matter what the stock market does, no matter what politicians do, I’m going to keep finding ways to add more value for YOU this week than I did last week.

When you choose to act this way, your circle of influence grows, and the value you send out finds its way back to you. But that’s not even the most important outcome – what really matters is how you change inside. There’s a serenity that comes from proving to yourself that external factors never dictate your life and your potential.

Of course, when the U.S. markets opened this morning, they were moving back to equilibrium. Doesn’t mean they’ll stay there, and by now you know that’s not the point. Nothing a news anchor reports has more power over your life than the choices you make every day.

When the outside world gets in our face with unexpected developments, it’s easier than ever to get caught up in analyzing how they’ll affect us and our careers. Don’t fall victim to that trap – do this instead.

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Two days ago I watched and listened as a Today producer reviewed 15 pitches out loud, one after the other, rapid-fire. It was the closest I’ll ever get to reading the mind of a top-tier influencer.

And I wasn’t the only one – my Inner Circle members witnessed it, too. She was generous enough to join me for our monthly Master Class so we could hear pitching tips straight from the source.

And the members delivered – she requested more information about five of the pitches! That’s an incredible ratio for such a hard-to-reach outlet.

After a month of arranging and preparing for the experience, here’s my primary takeaway:

Successful top-tier media pitching is all about developing deep empathy for the individual influencer you’re targeting.

Before the program, I sorted through the pitches the members had submitted for her consideration. In a way, I was acting as a proxy for her, seeking to identify the ones that had the best chance at success, and put them in the right order. I had interviewed her twice by phone and carefully watched a couple episodes of her show so that I would know what to look for.

Obviously, I have a lot of experience with media relations – I review members’ pitches every month during our pitch review sessions. But reading these pitches – as a stand-in for her – crystallized my thinking in a way that had never happened before. It was way easier to sift and sort the winners and to spot the elements that deserved emphasis and those that needed to be cut.

By the end of the live class, I felt like I was coming very close to being able to “impersonate a Today producer.” Not just to share her evaluation of newsworthiness – but to understand what it’s like to BE her. A real person, with an apartment in NYC, a looming election to cover, demanding bosses and a job that’s sometimes exhilarating and other times exhausting.

My lesson learned: Don’t merely customize your pitch. Empathize your pitch.

Think of the human being you’re sending it to. Pull up his/her photo on LinkedIn. Watch, listen, or read their content. Wonder what their day has been like. Consider the relationship they feel with their audience – and how protective they are of that. And only then start using your keyboard as a paintbrush to create a picture in their mind of the idea that will thrill their audiences and make their lives easier.

Or you can keep copying and pasting the same pitch to multiple people and getting nowhere :).

 

P.S. We’re accepting new Inner Circle members in two weeks – the recording of this session with the Today producer will be available for those who join. If you signed up for Preview Pass, you’ll get early notification and a head start to secure one of the limited number of slots. If you didn’t sign up, you’ll have a shorter window to secure any slots that remain, so watch your email closely.

No, I’m not providing details on how to change careers and become a prestigious Today show producer. But after working with one for my most recent Inner Circle webinar, I’ve got some new insights on how you can mentally become one to improve your pitches.

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The success loop

This week I spoke at the PRSA International Conference for the twelfth time (I started when I was 15 ;).

Apparently, I weirded out some of the regulars, who are used to me talking solely about tactical ways to get more pitches to land.

But I also talked about how to use those results to boost your career.

Getting the placements is just the beginning. And that’s certainly a skill to develop and refine over time. You can do better than most if that’s the only thing you ever master.

But you can take things to an entirely new level if you master the SECOND part of the success equation. That part is the quantification and the communication of the value your placements create.

I mentioned this a few weeks ago in relation to my Pitching Course I launched. But today, I want to zoom in on a very specific part of this. (If you’re completely ignoring this part of your PR universe, consider this a gentle reminder. It’s a BIG opportunity.)

Here’s the reality of the situation:

Most everyone you are surrounded by at your job or in your client work really has no concept of what it means to be a PR pro. They just don’t get it. To be blunt, they probably never will.

They don’t get what you do. They don’t get what goes into it. And they certainly haven’t thought through exactly what they get because of what you do.

So that leaves you with a choice:

You can either complain about this reality or you can turn it into an opportunity.

How?

By completing what I call the “success loop.”

The first part of the loop is getting the placement. The second part of the loop is making sure the true value of that placement is perceived by the people that matter.

When you get both parts right, it creates this “loop” where more and better results come more often, with less effort.

With all of the skills you need to become what I call a Media Relations Master, you have a choice about the speed at which you develop them.

The more quickly you do it, the more benefit you will reap.

This might sound obvious. But have you given this conscious and deliberate thought?

How successful do you want to be? How quickly do you want to achieve that success?

There’s no “right” answer, there’s only a right answer for you.

One more thing…

The next enrollment window for the Inner Circle opens in mid-November. If you’re not already on the Preview Pass, consider this your final reminder to get on it now, so you get the information you need before enrollment opens.

The Inner Circle is designed for PR pros who want bigger results, faster.

Imagine if you went to a PRSA conference every single month, PLUS even more…

That’s kind of what it’s like to be on the inside of the Inner Circle.

This is my 12th year speaking at the PRSA International conference, so people assume I’ll just be covering how to increase your media hits. But this year I threw the veterans for a loop when I went in a different direction.

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I’ve been traveling a fair amount this fall…and next week, I’ll be speaking in Indianapolis at the industry’s largest conference. (If you’re going to be there, come introduce yourself before one of my sessions!)

During my travels, I’m privileged to get to speak with PR pros of all kinds, in many different places, in a wide variety of situations. And while each one is unique, over time, I begin to notice trends that are extremely common.

Today, I want to highlight one of the things I see over and over again.

It’s what you might call a PR pro “mind virus.” A mind virus is a thought or idea that does damage to its victim by affecting the way you see the world.

What’s the mind virus I’m talking about?

It’s the idea that the success you have getting more media placements is in any way connected to the budget you have to work with.

The mind virus leads you to believe that’s true. And it makes for a very convenient excuse NOT to achieve at the level of your potential

But this mind virus is spreading a lie.

Real story angles that win are independent of budget.

Novel, creative angles are paid for in other ways. Generally, they are paid for with innovative, creative, strategic thinking.

You look at the resources you have, you look at the connections you have, you look at all the raw materials at your disposal and you combine them in a VALUABLE way that leads to a placement.

General Motors obviously has a ton of money. But when they landed their refreshed SUV on the Today show last summer, they didn’t need it. The story’s appeal came in the way they connected the vehicle to Today viewers via an engineer who worked on developing a new safety feature.

“Oh but that’s General Motors!” you say. And there’s ANOTHER mind virus. The idea that you can’t achieve top-level results from the exact position you find yourself in right now.

Don’t do that to yourself.

Your media placements aren’t limited by your budget. Sever that connection in your mind forever.

You basically have a choice: Do you allow this mind virus to control your future or do you see it for the lie it is and succeed anyway?

Think about it.

 

P.S. Before we go, I have a reminder for you about something important:

We’re coming up on an enrollment window for the Inner Circle. It’s set to happen in November.

When the enrollment window opens, the available spots can be filled fast. So I created the Preview Pass to get you the information you need about the Inner Circle IN ADVANCE. That way, you can be ready when enrollment opens.

If you’re not already on the Preview Pass, consider this a reminder to get on it now, so you have time to prepare. Otherwise, you run the risk of missing out.

During my many travels I’ve been privileged to speak with PR pros of all kinds. Over time I’ve noticed several common trends among professionals, one of which is a PR mind virus I’d like to address today.

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On the training I delivered Tuesday for my Inner Circle, I shared the experience of a junior DC agency staffer who suffered from the “I feel like a pest” mindset while following up with her media pitches.

She was bothered with the idea that she was “annoying” journalists and others she was reaching out to.

And then she got to watch a recent hire from the White House press team in action.

She eavesdropped on the vet’s media calls, and noticed that even though she was calling mostly new reporters who didn’t know where she’d worked previously, she spoke with confidence, like she had something she knew they would want and was letting them in on it.

The junior pro adopted that approach  even though it didn’t come naturally to her. And the dynamic of her media pitches and calls changed immediately.

She was pitching the same issues to the same media, and getting better results, all because she learned to accept that she had something that journalists wanted.

[Many thanks to Kristina Ray for allowing me to share her story.]

“Pest” is a word I hear often when PR pros confess their candid feelings.

“I feel like a salesperson regularly pestering journalists,” one told me.

If this is how you feel too, then THIS is the most important thing you can change starting NOW.

Because this pest affliction is a learned behavior. It has nothing to do with the truth.

What is the truth?

It’s that journalists have the platform to magnify a message, but YOU have the gold they use to create that message.

The challenge is to understand and believe this.

“Not that simple, Michael . . .,” you’re thinking. And I used to agree – I focused so hard on teaching you specific techniques that make boring information newsworthy that I ignored the real root of the “pest” problem.

Otherwise great PR pros still hold back in their media pitches and worry that they’re annoying their contacts, even when they acknowledge they have a great story. I’ve had countless training clients admit this, even when a top journalist has already responded with interest!

So the first step really is to change your mindset.

Maybe you’re still concerned that, despite your best attitude, you KNOW that this whacked-out thing people expect you to pitch isn’t what any journalist would want. Well, then you don’t have a pitching problem. You have a story development problem.

And your mindset adjustment fixes that, too.

Because now you have the resolve and initiative to set up a process to uncover better raw materials that make better stories. And you dig deeper into your creativity treasure chest to uncover new and better ways to frame what would be otherwise stale media pitches.

So let me ask you, “Are you a pest?”

As it turns out, the answer is completely under your control.

Learn what this DC junior agency staffer picked up from a previous member of the White House press team.

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Getting more media placements, more often, is pretty much the bread and butter of our discipline. But today I’m going to make an effort to expand your thinking about just how valuable what you do actually is.

Have you ever thought about what happens in the days, weeks, months and years following a successful media placement?

There’s a LOT that can happen, from increased search engine rankings, to an influx of product sales, to doors opening to new opportunities and more.

Connecting the dots between your inputs and those outputs, however, is easier said than done.

Most PR pros look for an industry standard for how to do this (there isn’t one!) and then just kind of give up with this and plow through to the next item on the to-do list. “Who’s got time to figure this stuff out, I’m busy!”

If you’re aiming for Media Relations Master status, I’d recommend you not ignore this issue.

Getting media placements is PR Success Step #1. That’s obvious. Accurately and effectively understanding and communicating the true value of those placements is an entirely different matter.

I’m confident to say that every placement you get is roughly four times MORE valuable than you think it is. That means most PR pros are really leaving about 75% of their value unrealized.

If can prove your value, you reap the rewards. If you can’t prove it, you lose it.

This is such an important issue that I focused an entire six-lesson module of my Crafting the Perfect Pitch online course on showing you how to do this.

Inside the course, I go through my entire approach to pitching. Plus, I give you the strategies, tactics and framework for communicating to your boss or client just how valuable what you do is.

First, YOU have to understand your value, then you have to get THEM to understand it.

PR pros don’t just “issue press releases.” That would be like saying the world’s best chef just “chops onions.” Yes, it’s one of the activities, but that’s not where the value is.

Your value does not come from what you do, it comes from what others get because of what you do.

PR pros help to build companies, they help to grow revenue, they spread powerful ideas, they change minds, they empower missions, they help to strengthen relationships between organizations and the customers and clients served by those organizations.

And that’s just the beginning…

The question is, can you prove that value to your boss or to your clients?

If you want to collect on that 75% of your value you’re leaving on the table, enroll in the Crafting the Perfect Pitch course and get to work.

You might be surprised at how quickly you see results from what you discover in there.

You probably track what you do at work, such as writing press releases, contacting journalists and the other daily tasks most PR pros are involved in. But that doesn’t help show your boss or client what VALUE you are actually adding to the organization.

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Last week, after taking a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (pic below), I spent a day with 29 PR pros who wanted to upgrade their pitching skills.

michael-bridge

Now most of us have been trained that if we “shine our light” too brightly and perform too well, that can cause some issues. People might think we’re not humble. We might annoy other people around us who aren’t getting the results we are. We might even create some conflict with others who would rather just have us be “average.”

At the seminar last week, I spoke with a PR pro who explained he had first heard me speak last June. Since that time, he’d used what he discovered to land coverage in NYT and Scientific American.

And he came to the workshop to learn even more.

So here we come to my opportunity to provide a “splash of cold water” on your face and offer you the TRUTH, as I see it, about your success in the PR industry.

If this resonates with you, use it. If it doesn’t, move on.

The truth is that you can either get on the path to constantly improve your results, or you can watch as you get passed by those who are willing to get on that path.

Average PR pros do “professional development” once a year and go on their merry way. While there’s nothing wrong with that, you’re reading this post because you want more.

Helping you achieve more is why I do this. And part of my responsibility is “telling it like it is” for the people who are willing to listen.

From where I sit, I know what it takes to achieve great results in PR. I know this because I see the PR pros that are achieving big things. And they’re not just doing it by attending a single conference every year.

It’s a daily decision they make to get better TODAY than they were yesterday.

To be frank, I do provide resources to help PR pros do this—the Inner Circle being the one I talk about most. And this is also why I created my new Crafting the Perfect Pitch course (you can save $200 on this through October 7 by the way), which is a greatly expanded version of the pitching seminar I presented in NYC.

But really, whether you use my resources or pursue other options isn’t the important part. The important part is that you invest in you.

Understand that “investing in you” doesn’t always take money. Sometimes, the investment is simply time. Sometimes, that investment is pushing through the fear that comes with trying a strategy to get placements that other PR pros have told you “won’t work.”

Either way, the decision is yours. Are you a PR pro who’s willing to invest in YOU or not?

That’s the question of the day. That’s the question of every day.

Right now, you have potential for achievement you have not yet realized. We all have this. Some will choose to fulfill that potential, some will not.

My recommendation to you is this:

Risk greatness. It’s worth it.

What is the question you should be asking yourself today and every day as a PR pro?

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