Valentine’s Day backlash for the win

It’s PR conventional wisdom to tie your pitch to a holiday . . . but that often backfires.

Last week, I guarantee you there were so many Valentine’s Day pitches tied to relationships, candy or jewelry in journalists’ inboxes, yours barely had a chance.

Instead, come at holidays from a different angle than all those competing pitches.

The latest winning example of this principle comes via Emily McDonald at Zillow. She’s a member of my Inner Circle program, and last week she told us how she came up with her “Singles Tax” angle that went on to land CNBC, Business Insider, and a bunch of big-market local outlets.

Emily was living in New York City and needed to find her own place after her roommate moved in with her boyfriend. Emily faced sticker shock at the prospect of not being able to split the rent with anyone, while her former roommate still only had to pay half.

Since Emily supports Zillow’s rental business, she knew she had something relevant here.

She got the average rents in the 50 biggest markets, divided them in half, and multiplied them by 12 months. Presto! She christened this number the “singles tax” that a solo renter shells out annually in excess of what half of a couple pays.

Often, we think of big brands like Zillow having all these resources and having it easy. But this story used data that’s publicly available, and Emily did this analysis herself – using Google to find the spreadsheet formulas she needed. The reality is, anyone reading this email could have conceived and executed this pitch if they were creative and proactive enough.

At its core, this story succeeded because Emily found a contrarian angle to Valentine’s Day that journalists knew would resonate with their audiences. It’s nicknamed “Singles Awareness Day” for a reason.

Inner Circle members learned lots more insider tips about how Zillow dominates earned media. If you’d like to watch that training session, it will be sitting in our Training Vault the next time we accept new members.

Register for our Wait List to get more details and be alerted when we open up.

This article was originally published on February 21, 2024

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