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UnPitching: How Not to Suck at Pitching the Media – Vocus Webinar with Scott Stratten.

Yesterday’s Vocus webinar was titled “UnPitching: How Not to Suck at Pitching the Media” by Scott Stratten from UnMarketing. Stratten is the President of Un-Marketing. He is an expert in Viral, Social, and Authentic Marketing which he calls Un-Marketing. He is an author, blogger and was named a top influencer by Forbes.

Stratten quickly got to the point about public relations and marketing and what it’s all about. People react, people respond, people reach out. It’s about relationships. It always has been and always will be.

Stratten is an industry influencer with his blog Un-Marketing. As a result, he has been added to media lists and has witnessed firsthand what it’s like on the other side. He has received nightmare pitches of email blasts to a large BCC list, generic emails in ALL CAPS (unless you are giving birth, don’t use all caps in an email subject line!) among others.

The danger with media lists (and I fully agree) is that some people send an email blast without further qualifying the list and getting to know the journalists and if they indeed are a good fit for your client or company.

A few years ago, it was all about getting the media’s attention and now it is about reaching media as well as influencers.

He discussed a case study about a product launch of a new single cup coffee machine. An agency pitched the client that they wanted help the client gain more share of conversation. They were currently mentioned 0.04% in Canada when people talked about coffee. The agency proposed that they would increase the numbers by reaching bloggers and influencers and canceling the TV budget. (Stratten warns that in order to pitch executives about social media, you need to match the metric with the mind.)

The client eventually agreed and the agency ran a social campaign. They contacted 100 influencers and wrote individual letters. They got to know these people, offered to send a free coffee machine and then followed up two weeks later with a “What did you think?” No pressure to write about it or anything. Stratten was one of the recipients. He loved the machine. Then the agency had him pick 10 friends on Twitter and then sent those people a coffee machine. That is how buzz starts. (“I got to be Oprah!”) Eventually the campaign resulted in 12.6% mentions in Canada when people talked about coffee.

He went on to tell a few more stories about companies doing awesome things, and ones doing not so awesome things, including an unhappy customer at a pizza place that posted an image on Twitter that went viral.

Some other sound bites from the webinar:

  • Your brand can’t have a great person on Twitter and a sucky customer representative – you have to linear!
  • Pitching should be like a first date: get to know someone before you ask them out.
  • Social hasn’t diminished PR; it’s just shifted it. PR is no longer a megaphone. It’s a telephone & it’s on speaker. It’s about engagement.
  • Start the relationship before you need the relationship. (true in PR and also in personal networking)
  • Face-to-face isn’t dead. It’s more important than ever.
  • Don’t just pitch me. Be sincere. Get to know someone first.
  • There are two types of people you don’t want to upset. Geeks and Moms. If you anger a geek mom, good luck.
  • Outrage does not take the weekend off!! If you’re gonna play in Social Media, it’s 24/7
  • what you tweet is a billboard. you are always an employee – what you tweet can/will impact your employer.
  • You are not PR, you are the PR expert. Everyone in your company who represents your brand is PR.
  • Internally, PR pros should be social media training everyone, not just media training your CFO.
  • You have to match the metric with the mind! It’s not about Likes or Tweets. It’s about the conversation and sentiment.
  • You can’t stop the “geekalanche” – don’t censor your customers.
  • If you are in PR, spam is not okay. Do your homework. Make sure the people you pitch have expertise that aligns with your pitch.
  • Unless you are giving birth, don’t use all caps in an email subject line!
  • If you put your employer in your Twitter bio, every tweet represents your business.
  • Companies aren’t awesome, people are.
  • When you write to a company in anger, sometimes all you want is to be acknowledged.
  • Don’t put influencers on the spot on Twitter for help. If you wouldn’t do it in a crowded room, don’t do it on Twitter.
  • We are a forgiving society if we are “Immediate. Authentic. Appropriate” when something goes wrong in Social Media.

He shares these insights from his second book The Book of Business Awesome / The Book of Business UnAwesome. It is surely a great read and one to go on the bookshelves for marketers and public relations professionals alike.

Vocus offers a free webinar series for PR professionals. I recommend it to anyone involved in marketing, PR and social media.

Five Low-Cost Small Business PR Tips

Getting the word out about your latest company news whether it is a new product announcement or customer win is tough. If you don’t have a marketing or public relations department in-house, use a freelancer or outside agency, the task can be daunting. Where do you begin?

First, make sure what you are going to announce is newsworthy. Write your press release with all of the key components of who, what, when, where, how and why included in the first paragraph. This way if it is edited, all of your important news is included.

Once you have a release that is ready to go out, set up an account on Pitch Engine. It is free and you can create and distribute compelling social media press releases online. It even appears on Google News when it is posted.

What is a social media release? It is simply your press release with relevant links to graphics, video, web site links, etc. It offers a wealth of information for those interested in finding out more about your company.

You should also have a targeted media list of relevant contacts in your industry and for local, regional and business news, if relevant. Building your list is an ongoing project and if you don’t have a subscription to a database like Vocus or Bacon’s, you can still build it from going to media web sites and finding the journalist that covers your particular industry. Be sure to read a few articles to make sure they are the right person to contact.

Once you have this list, also send a short pitch with bullet points and a link to your Pitch Engine press release. Include your contact information as well and don’t include attachments. When writing your pitch, think from the perspective of the journalist and ideally, their readers – “What’s in it for me? Why should I care about this?” To learn more about pitching, check out the Good Pitch BlogBad Pitch Blog and see an example of a great pitch on Peter Shankman’s Help A Reporter web site.

You can also post your press release on a blog, include keywords as tags and then go to Technorati and claim your blog. This helps when people search your industry keywords. WordPress offers free blogs and a neat dashboard feature to track web traffic.

Set up a free Twitter account and find and follow people in your industry. Listen and engage in conversation – not to sell but to be part of the community. Offer expert advice and links to relevant industry news. LinkedIn also has a question and answer section where you can help people with relevant questions in your industry.

If you want to take it a step further and try to pitch journalists looking for story sources, subscribe to Help A Reporter (HARO) a free PR newsletter, and look for relevant queries. There are strict rules and if someone pitches off topic, you will be removed from the list.

And that is a great start into the world of public relations. Small steps. It is also a doorway into social media – the best way to learn it is to try it. One step at a time. You might like it!

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