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Four Ways to Stay Visible During Noisy News Cycles
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The holy grail of pitching is getting media sources to actually respond. But when everyone is engrossed in the latest big event or crisis, keeping your client and their product or service relevant, much less irresistibly newsworthy, can feel like an impossible task.

Studies show that everything from the lifespan of news stories to a shorter collective attention span fueled by information overload are already conspiring against our efforts. And that’s before a noisy (or event-driven) news cycle hits. The question is, how do you cut through?

In 2020, a global pandemic, economic upheaval and wrenching social discussions tested both our adaptability and understanding of what’s important – personally and professionally. While I’ve spent a lot of time since I started in this industry thinking about how to develop first-rate pitches, the events of the past year offered invaluable insight.

1. Keeping it real – and knowing your moment.
Those in healthcare will be experts on public health campaigns and seasonal flu, just as accountants should be the first to speak up during tax season. And pretty much anyone could discuss how the pandemic forced holistic operational changes on their business, and how they thrived through it.

Still, we can all think of a few examples of major brands that tried too hard to force their way into an issue. While not a pitch, per se, Pepsi’s “Live for Now” ad in 2017 was a prime example – attention-grabbing in all the wrong ways. The public may have been divided about the issues Pepsi tried and failed to leverage, but they were largely united in rejecting the ad for being a misfire.

By all means, follow the news. But don’t be totally reactive to trends. If you have to strain to think of ideas to break in, it’s fine to sit certain events out, while continuing to execute your long-term communication plan.

2. Share, don’t sell.
The Golden Rule should apply to dealing with the media, treating them the way you would want to be treated.

That goes beyond not sending essay-sized pitches. In noisy news cycles, we need to pitch more than just time to talk to them. Your CIO might have several great ideas about the greater shift toward artificial intelligence in customer service, for example, but why does the reporter you’re targeting need to hear about it now?

3. Let graphics (and data) do the talking.
Infographics are a great way to honor a reporter’s limited and valuable time. Done properly, including them is an easy way to keep things under the commonly accepted three-paragraph limit for a pitch. Without getting too unconventional, think outside the box for ways to package your story, using relevant images and compelling data points.

Setting up, and then drawing attention to, an online newsroom is another possibility, with 79% of journalists in one survey saying they visited the newsrooms of both large and small companies.

4. Embrace self-publishing.
I am a huge advocate of blogs, but Medium and LinkedIn Pulse are other great alternatives. These allow maximum flexibility in putting out content, and paired with high social media visibility, they can draw reporters and media sources to you, rather than the other way around. Your subject matter expert is not only presenting themselves as an authority, but they are also showing and proving that through quality thought leadership.

Let’s face it: We live in what social scientist Herbert A. Simon once dubbed the “attention economy.” As PR professionals, we work in its beating heart, or maybe better said in the eye of its hurricane.

Adapting our pitches is about refining a company’s value proposition when our target audience – reporters – don’t feel like pitches are a commodity in short supply. It’s a tough task, but not impossible.

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