A Deep Dive into Public Relations: Part 2

We’re diving right into part two of public relations for small businesses. In this edition, we talk about how to craft a PR pitch and what NOT to do when pitching.

Joseph: Hey, listeners. Thanks for tuning into the B2U Podcast presented by cbrbiz.com. Our goal is to bring you business resources directly to you. I’m your host, Joseph and we’re back today with our two-part series about public relations with our very special guests, Caroline Hudson from Charlotte Business Journal. And Nepherterra Estrada Best, Co-founder of Mosaic Communications and Pride PR. Hey ladies, how are you doing today?

Nepherterra: Great.

Caroline: Great, thanks.

Joseph: Thanks for coming back in. Last time we talked, we talked about the basics of PR. Our listeners got a chance to find that out on our website, on our last episode at cbrbiz.com. Today, we’re gonna dig a little bit deeper into how business owners can and should use PR, as well get some, as well as get some much-needed pointers on how to pitch a story. Does that sound good?

Nepherterra: Sounds great.

Caroline: Sounds good.

Joseph: So, let’s start with how small businesses can use PR to grow their business. That would be the first step they can take to upping their PR game?

Nepherterra: Well, that’s a good question, Joe. And I think it’s something that a lot of small business owners struggle with, is, you know, how to use public relations. So, things that they can do to up their PR game are, first of all, you’d be surprised how many small businesses have never even sent out a press release to the media. So, I think that that’s a great first step. If you wanna be in the news and you wanna get press coverage, usually you have to start with writing a press release. So, that’s advice that I give to a lot of my small business owners and they say, “Well, I don’t have any news. What should I write a press release about?”

And I love talking to small business owners to help them realize that you do have a story and really figuring out what their story is and how to best tell that story so that they can get press coverage. I also think it’s important for small business owners to do some research. I hate to hear stories where folks have a tech company and they send it to the education reporter. So, do your research, know your local media market, know who covers what, and then once you have that press release ready, you can start to communicate and start to make those pitches possible.

Joseph: Well, that’s definitely some great advice. So, Caroline, I know CBJ has some great ways for entrepreneurs and companies to get recognized. Can you talk about what those opportunities look like?

Caroline: Sure. So, Joe, we have a variety of avenues that a business can go through to get some of that recognition. First of all, I wanna mention the several awards that we have ranging from 40 under 40, which Neph knows all about, well as Women in Business. We have Fast 50 awards for fast-growing companies. There are probably about 10 different things that you can actually nominate a business for and if they do make it onto one of our lists then that is essentially free recognition for them, just because the rest of the community sees what they’re doing.

And, if you’re looking for a more paid option we have a section called People on The Move. And that is essentially paid advertising that the company can let us know that someone’s moved into a new position, someone’s doing something great in the community, and they let us know and we come up with a paid advertising option for our print edition. Which is, it comes out once every week and also, we have online version of that as well. But if either of those aren’t really…you know, they seem daunting and that’s not really where you wanna go, again, there is always the option of reaching out to us directly and telling us a little bit about what your business does, something interesting that might catch our eye, and, of course, you can do that through a PR firm or if you are a smaller business just sending me an email for example. That would suffice as well. It’s really, it’s up to you.

Joseph: Those sound like some pretty easy PR lay-ups I would say. So, let’s get into some of the good stuff like when somebody actually wants to give a PR pitch or even maybe we should even level set to what actually is a PR pitch.

Nepherterra: Yes. And as we were talking earlier, when you hear pitching a lot of times you do think doing an entrepreneur pitch for money. And so, from a PR perspective, a pitch is basically a suggested story idea that a PR person or a small business owner submits to a reporter at a news outlet. So, it’s basically a story idea to determine if that news outlet or that reporter is interested in that story. So, that is what a pitch is and that’s what I was joking about stalking Caroline about earlier pitching our stories.

Obviously, every story is not gonna get covered, right? But you’ve got to be in it to win it. If you’re not pitching anything in the news,to the news, you’re probably not going to end up in the news. So, it’s part of being in PR. It comes with the territory.

Joseph: So, it doesn’t sound like you should just submit everything that you would put on your Facebook wall or anything like that.

Nepherterra: No.

Joseph: So, it sounds like there’s a lot of different parts. So, let’s start with how do you know if something is actually pitch-worthy?

Nepherterra: Well, and Caroline chime in too, because what I tell my clients is think about the stories and the headlines that you read in the news or that you pay attention to even on Facebook or on social media. What are the headlines and the stories that jump out to you and think about, why? So, when you talk about how to determine if something is news-worthy, I like to start there and have people just think about things that they read. Because ultimately, if it’s news-worthy that media outlet wants folks to watch it, they want people to read it, it needs to have that news hook. Caroline?

Caroline: That’s, those are definitely some great points. And to go along with that, I would say think about how something your company is doing, how that affects the larger community. I think it’s easy for some companies to maybe use PR for, as bad as it sounds, self-service almost, just to promote themselves. And as journalists, we are taught to vet those out and we can tell if you just want to see your name in print,  which is fair, but our overall goal is to find that news that has something to do with us locally. Especially, with the Charlotte Business Journal, what does that story have to do with business owners, business people, and the workforce in Charlotte?

That’s really what we’re looking for and if, you know, you can’t justify what it is your company’s doing, then it’s probably not gonna be pitch-worthy and it’s probably not gonna go very far, so…

Nepherterra: I agree. And so many times business owners or entrepreneurs say, “Neph, I started a business. Can you get me in the news?” It’s like, “Do you know how many people start businesses every day? Like, that’s definitely not the hook.” So, you have to peel back those layers of the onion and really get down to what is the story, what’s unique, what’s different, what sets you apart from the competition, and what’s gonna get Caroline or any other media person to actually look at that pitch and not just delete it?

Caroline: And I think it’s also important to remember that none of this is personal, necessarily.

Nepherterra: Right.

Caroline: You know, the business journal, we think it’s great that you started a business. That is always great for Charlotte. And we are happy for you, but again, you coined it, is it unique? That’s what you need really look at, because that’s what’s going to attract our readers and that’s what they wanna read. And so, it’s nothing on you if we don’t pick up your story pitch. It’s just how we’re taught to sift through those pitches and so if you do start a business, that’s great.

Nepherterra: This is true. And just one more thing too Caroline just made me think about it, what I tell clients too is if you wanna get something, you know, on FOX 46 or in the Charlotte Business Journal, make sure you’re watching that station, reading that newspaper, make sure you’re understanding what they cover and how they cover. Because you may determine that, “Hey, this isn’t a good fit.” You started a clothing boutique or, you know, a fashion business, maybe that’s not the best fit for the Charlotte Business Journal and maybe that’s….maybe you should go in a different direction.

So, I think making sure that you’re soaking all that in and actually reading the publications and watching those news outlets can help you really determine the best direction to go with your pitching.

Joseph: That makes a lot of sense. And so, now I finally have the perfect story, right? So, what do I have to do to actually get that there? Do I just call up the news? Is there a total process? Do I send Caroline a fruit basket with my story? Like…

Nepherterra: That might help.

Joseph: …how do I make this happen?

Caroline: Well, you can send me a fruit basket. However, I may be fired for bribery, but there is that. I would say again, from my perspective, you can definitely just find the reporter that covers your topic area and send out an e-mail. You can send out a press release with the help of a PR firm. The only thing I would not recommend is cold calling. That is something that irritates journalists across the board, because we are busy and there’s nothing like a random phone call to really just throw off your workflow.

Joseph: Like, “Hey, Caroline how is it going today?”

 

Caroline: Exactly.

 

Joseph: None of that. None of that. Okay.

Caroline: Exactly.

 

Neph: I’m fine.

Joseph: Neph, any pointers from that standpoint?

Nepherterra: No. I think that’s perfect.

Joseph: Cool. So, you finally get the story, what do you actually include in this story? Like, when you’re writing up the e-mail is it one of those, “I need to write the article for the journalist, what do I include, what do I not include?” How do you move forward from that point?

Caroline: I’ll let you start out from your end.

Nepherterra: Okay. Sure. If we’re talking about a pitch, then I like to say make it short and sweet and succinct. Again, as Caroline said, journalists don’t have a lot of time. So, they don’t wanna hear your life story, but I think that, you know, three short paragraphs max. And just really again, once you figure out what your story is, putting the most interesting part in the head, at the beginning, I think so that the journalist can really understand as much as possible what your, the story that you’re trying to tell is probably a good starting point for your very first media pitch, I would say.

Caroline: I definitely agree with you Neph on putting the important stuff toward the top, so that we don’t have to read through an entire page to figure out why you’re contacting us. But also, I think an important aspect is the localization of the story, because that’s something especially at the business journal that we really look for. We have various publications in more than 40 cities. So, really if you send us a national pitch, eh we’re really looking for, “Okay. Well, what does this have to do with my city? Um why would the readers right here care?”

So, I think it’s important to really get that up high and to lead with why people next door would want to read about this, because that’s important to us.

Nepherterra: I agree. And again, that comes back to research, research, research, right? Before you click send on that e-mail, make sure that you know that, that reporter or that producer or that editor actually covers that topic. I just think that’s so important. I mean, I think journalists also get annoyed when they receive things that have nothing to do with their beat, right? Nothing to do with what they cover and they just click delete.

So, and I say that because I used to be a print journalist years ago before I got into the PR side. So, I just want people to really understand, know what that person covers, they cover a specific thing and if that’s not your industry, then send it to the right person.

Joseph: That makes a lot of sense. So, we’ve covered what is a pitch, who do you send it to, what’s the next steps, and what should be in there and what should not be in there. So, working with the media and working in PR, I’m sure there are some hilarious funny anecdotes that go along with your, with your all lines of work.

Caroline: Of course.

Joseph: Can you share any funny stories with us, but still remain anonymous…

Nepherterra: Okay. I’m gonna let Caroline start…

Joseph: …and maybe our listeners can learn from some funny stories?

Nepherterra: …she’s seen all the pitches.

Caroline: There is definitely never a dull moment in my line of work. I would say I’ve been lucky relatively, because I haven’t received anything too outlandish. I have received a couple of holiday-themed pitches which are especially funny. I think one was something about Valentine’s Day’s coming up, and when it’s Valentine’s Day you like to call your significant other on their cell phone and then they launched into a cell phone pitch.

Nepherterra: Oh, my goodness.

Caroline: So…

Joseph: Just a little bit of a stretch.

Nepherterra: Delete.

Caroline: So, just things like that. We know what the holidays are, but that didn’t…that, that was definitely…they worked hard on that one, didn’t they? I have also had people call me by the wrong name. Recently, someone called me Charlotte, which was interesting. I said, “I live in Charlotte. However, that’s not my name.”

Joseph: Starts with a C, not the same though, right?

Caroline: And like Neph said, yes that was a quick delete. I didn’t…

Nepherterra: Oh gosh. Again, research, research, research. You should know her name. I  just, I have a story really quickly. Earlier in my PR career, I was working for a small festival and the executive director was adamant about me getting her media coverage and getting her in the news. And so, I started lining up morning show interviews for her. And so, for the first interview… in PR what we do when we book an interview is we send the client a confirmation memo that outlines the who, what, when, where, why, the address, where you’re supposed to be, what you’re talking about, and also some talking points.

And so, the producer called me that morning of the interview and said, “Where is your client?” I said, “She’s not there?” And no, she was not there. And keep in mind this was live television and so it just ended up being a complete disaster. She overslept, she didn’t go to the interview, we ended up not working together after that, and then I had to repair my relationship with that producer moving forward. Because I wanted other clients to get on the show, but after that experience that just kind of left a bad taste in their mouth. So, yeah, that’s my nightmare PR story.

Joseph: So, they have to show up? Like it…

Nepherterra: Yeah. You want media.

Joseph: …bare minimum, you have to show up…

 

Nepherterra: Right

Joseph: …and be prepared.

Nepherterra: That’s the thing, right? Yeah. That’s the thing.

Joseph: Well, that makes a lot of sense too. And ladies, it’s been such a great pleasure. Any other nuggets of advice that you would give our guests before we wrap up?

Caroline: Anything you can think of?

Nepherterra: No. I would just say be proactive. I think that’s something that a lot of folks forget to do. I mean, reach out to Caroline, reach out to the other media outlets in the market, follow our tips, do your research, but again, you have to be in it to win it. So, that will be my last bit of advice, be proactive.

Caroline: That’s good. And along with that, just…we’ve said it several times, but it’s so important, be aware of the audience that you’re trying to serve and the audience that the media outlet covers. That’s so important in helping those story pitches move down the line and helping us to really see why it’s important. And I think I said earlier it’s important to remember that we’re all just people here, just talk to journalists person to person like you would chat with a friend. There’s no need for formalities at all.

If you have a story, we wanna hear it. That’s what we do for a living. So, don’t be afraid to reach out and just be real about it.

Joseph: Great advice. Well, Caroline, Neph, thank you once again for joining us. It’s been great talking to you all and thanks again for all the great advice. Listeners, this has been the second episode of our two-part series about PR and how you can help grow your business. The first episode is available on our website at cbrbiz.com. As always, if you have any questions about today’s podcast, feel free to Tweet us @CBRbiz. Once again, I’m your host Joseph and thanks for tuning into this episode of B2U Podcast presented by cbrbiz.com. Until next time, we mean business.

Do you have a topic you’d like to hear us cover on our #B2UPodcast? Tweet us @CBRBiz!

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