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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I’m just back from a recent trip to NYC presenting my (76th!!) pitching seminar.

In the audience were PR pros from Jakarta to Mexico City to Iowa. You can see a picture of them right here:

new-picture

In 2006, I began offering this daylong pitching seminar to PR pros. Even today, it is the ONLY pitching workshop for PR pros offered on the market.

To be blunt, that single seminar provides a foundation for your pitching that puts you well ahead of others.

In a moment, I’ll show you some of the feedback (and even same day results!) I’ve gotten over the years.

Chances are, due to the limited number of cities I’m able to travel to in any one year, you most likely have not been able to participate in one of the seminars.

But that changes, starting now!

Today, I’m making a much expanded and more detailed version of what I teach available to PR pros all over the world.

But instead of you having to incur the cost of travel, the time away from work and your family, you can upgrade your pitching skills right from your home or office.

I’ve just released my online pitching course called, Crafting the Perfect Pitch: a Playbook For Earning Positive Coverage.

This course is SYSTEMATIC, SEQUENTIAL and COMPREHENSIVE. You get my entire approach to pitching from beginning to end. So even if you’ve gotten bits and pieces of pitching advice from me, this will give you every little detail.

One more thing:

Please take a look at this sooner than later. I am offering an introductory enrollment fee that will save you a full $200, provided you register before the deadline on Oct. 7 at 5 pm ET.

Take a look…

I promised a big and exciting announcement from Michael Smart PR in last Thursday’s post and here it is. Sometimes good things do happen on Monday!

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So today we might get just a wee bit controversial. But it’s for a reason. Two reasons, actually.

The first reason is to make you think—to make you think differently than the average PR pro thinks.

The second reason is to help you see things (like opportunities) that others miss. So stick with me here as I walk through this with you.

Let’s start with a question:

Where are great pitches born?

In other words, where do the seeds of a great pitch actually get planted?

There are a lot of answers you’ll get from PR pros if you ask a question like that. Most of them will center around the info you get from a client or some internal source.

If “they” don’t give you good stuff, how can you be expected to craft a great pitch? Right?

Wrong.

This is the mindset of what I call a “PR pro victim.”

“They didn’t give me the information I needed to craft a great pitch. That’s the reason it didn’t work.”

If you’re committed to becoming a Media Relations Master, I’d recommend you leave PR victimhood to someone else. It’s not going to help you. In fact, it’s going to actually KEEP you from the big results that are well within your potential.

So where do the seeds of a great pitch get planted?

It starts with you. You are responsible for getting the information you need to craft a great pitch.

If you’re not getting good info, then the task at hand is to UPGRADE your ability to get good information. This is a skill that’s no less valuable than writing a great cold pitch email. It’s probably even MORE important.

And when you accept this responsibility as your own, that leads you to the next very powerful question:

How do I go about getting the information I need to craft a perfect pitch?

This is the right question to be asking. Now I have my answer for this. In fact, I have my own process for getting better raw materials from sources and for earning autonomy to use creative angles beyond the info I’m given.

I’ve created an entire online pitching course called, Crafting the Perfect Pitch: A Playbook For Earning Positive Coverage.

This course is SYSTEMATIC, SEQUENTIAL and COMPREHENSIVE. You get the whole story of how to craft great pitches from beginning to end. That means from the “getting of the information” for the pitch part, all the way through communicating the results of that placement in the WSJ, for example, so that it leads to raises, promotions and big career opportunities for you.

You can get all the details here – take a look now, because the steep introductory discount goes away on Oct. 7.

 

Most PR pros think they know where great pitches come from. Unfortunately, their answer is usually wrong. And I’m betting the real foundation to a great pitch will surprise many of you.

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Have you ever had the chance to look at the email back-and-forths between savvy PR pros and top-tier journalists?

This week I reviewed five such conversations. Some were REALLY long – like, six months long. All five resulted in placements: two in the Washington Post, one in the WSJ, one on NPR’s MarketPlace, and one in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It was fascinating to watch as each pitching pro kept the conversation alive with just the right amount of initiative. Persistent, but not overbearing.

And then, at a key point in the dialogue, each pro pressed a different “urgency button” that spurred the journalist to action.

That’s because most journalists don’t have the luxury of working sequentially. They have to keep their eyes squarely on their most pressing project. Whatever is most timely has almost all of their attention.

It’s YOUR job to help them out by determining what makes your idea pressing, and communicate that to them in a way that’s easy to understand. That’s what it means to figuratively press an “urgency button.”

I shared these conversations and the urgency buttons they contained with my Inner Circle members on Tuesday. Yesterday I got this email from member Chris Orris in San Francisco:

I pressed an urgency button with a reporter literally an hour after the webinar yesterday – been working on getting a CNN journalist to interview a client . . . Woke up this morning to her asking if 3:30 would work. 🙂

This is the type of work that Media Relations Masters do. They don’t stop with the common complaint: “This reporter will never get back to me!” They figure out a way to be valuable and timely enough that the reporter WANTS to respond.

These are the kinds of things we talk about in the Inner Circle. I put resources in front of them that aren’t otherwise available. But the members are the ones who have developed the mindset to see the open door at the end of the hallway when the rest of the PR pros see only closed doors. THEY are the ones who seek access to the best practices our fascinating field has to offer.

You can adopt the same mindset. Whether you choose to get access to my premium training or not, you CAN earn more than your share of media coverage. And with it, more than your share of compensation and independence.

It starts with knowing there’s an open door there somewhere. Then you put in the work to find it.

I had the chance this week to review five email conversations between savvy PR Pros and top-tier journalists this week. They all had three things in common: they were all covered by a top-tier outlet, took longer than average time to land the placement, and the third has to do with the “urgency button.”

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Two Muhammads

Add “securing bookshelves to the wall of a Somali day care” to experiences I never thought I’d have.

Like yours, my heart hurts when I see painful images of refugee families fleeing violence and tyranny around the world. Fortunately for me and my family, one of our neighbors decided to actually do something about it. She volunteers to help re-settle Somali refugees.

Thanks to her, we spent Labor Day fixing up a day-care that serves this community. Was pretty great for kids from our neighborhood to make new friends and see a glimpse of how they live.

somali-daycare

But this is way more than a day-care. For many of these families, the fathers are still in refugee camps in eastern Africa – the requirements for them to enter the U.S. are more stringent than for their wives and children. But the moms are required to hold jobs as part of their re-settlement requirements. And very few of them can drive. So how in the world would they be able to function when they have all these little kids at home?

That’s where this day-care comes in. The proprietors (both named Muhammad) get up at 5 a.m. and drive around town picking up the kids so their moms can get to work. Outside of work, they jump in and help with translation and problem-solving for these sometimes bewildered moms struggling to navigate a new world.

When I complimented one of the Muhammads, he replied humbly, “We’re doing all we can.”

That made me think. There’s a LOT of need, just with this one community. Multiply that by hundreds of millions around the world.

Times like that force me to question, “Does helping PR people earn more media placements justify the time and energy I spend on my career, when I could be working or volunteering for causes like this?”

And the answer is ABSOLUTELY.

Achieving your full potential at your job – whether you work at a cause-oriented organization, or Wal-Mart, or Wall Street – is the best and fastest way you can make a real difference in the world.

You earn more money that you can donate to the causes you believe in.

You earn more autonomy and flexibility that allow you to volunteer your time and energy.

In short, you gain the CONTROL of your life you deserve, and then you can do whatever you want. If that ends up being answering an inner call to serve or work for a cause you believe in, then you have that much more value ready to contribute.

Yes, I love hearing about people I’ve trained or coached via the Inner Circle getting promotions and raises. But my favorite emails to get are the ones that tell me “Now I spend more time with my kids” or “Now we can afford to go on a humanitarian trip.”

The two Muhammads have found a way to leverage their unique talents in their corner of the world to lift and serve. You and I have the obligation and opportunity to do the same in the PR world.

Like yours, my heart hurts when I see painful images of refugee families fleeing violence and tyranny around the world. Here are how a few people in my corner of the world are making a difference.

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