Success! Lesson that landed 70+ placements


I got a success story from one of your fellow readers this week that drives home some vital points.

It’s from Denis Wolcott, a veteran pro who runs his own practice in LA who has heard me speak at conferences and follows this newsletter. Next week I’ll be sharing more lessons like this at our industry largest gathering – the PRSA International Conference. It’s my 14th year speaking there (started when I was 15 ;).  Take it away, Denis:


I want to let you know that I took one of your lessons and applied it to a resulting national media win for a client.

Your lesson:  The case study of how bird researchers were taking breath samples of migratory birds. They had a drab-looking white paper to promote, but the creative thinking led to the press release/pitch to highlight “Breathalyzers” for birds.  The point was how PR pros need to search even the most mundane topic and use their creative-thinking skills to find the hook. This bird breathalyzer story is one that I’ve shared many times with may PR colleagues, and, now has been applied to one of my accounts.

My win?  I represent the Port of Long Beach (CA) for a massive new bridge being built at their port.  The bridge will include many seismic features, including the deployment/installation of 70+ “accelerographs” or devices that will measure the movement and energy released onto a bridge from a strong earthquake. A technical story on its face. And my news media audience will need to know how this “design” and quake-resistant features are different, and how this story is different from anything they’ve written or produced in recent years.   

My pitch/hook?  We’re building the “most wired” bridge in the country.  This simple phrase would, I hoped, catch the eye of a reporter and prompt them to explore the second-level hooks – information from this bridge will be shared with engineers around the world; even though other bridges in CA had these same sensors (retrofit), this was the first bridge to be designed to allow sensors be more strategically placed in key areas, etc.     

The win?  An Associated Press reporter from Los Angeles immediately got interested by this angle. 

[Denis related how he also took the following proactive steps before the pitch:

  • Reached out in advance to coordinate messaging with the PIO of the state agency that will collect the sensor data
  • Coordinated with the construction team to be able to media “up-close and up-high” access to the bridge
  • Coached the project director how to break out from engineer-ese and share the story in colorful, non-technical terms]

The result was an AP story that was picked up by 70-and-counting news orgs around the world.  Many news outlets, including the Washington Post, NY Times, etc. also displayed the photo library and video that were part of the AP package.  I have a very happy client.

Notch this as a win for you, too.  I’ve been doing media pitching for 20+ years, and will continue to read your columns and attend your sessions because (a) you can never stop learning and (b) you have structured your programs in a way that give us PR pros – newbies and veterans, alike – invaluable tips, inspiration and very useful lessons we can apply in our own practice.  Keep it up.

Thanks Denis! Hope to see you and many other subscribers Monday morning at my session in Austin.

Come up and say hi.

This article was originally published on Oct 04, 2018.