I often chat with sharp, talented, and passionate entrepreneurs who have enough moxie and street-smarts to take over the world, but they lack one serious skill – the art of telling a story, a story worth telling. I’ve been pitching media for many years and have partnered with a handful of savvy entrepreneurs. When it comes time to launch a new product or share an announcement, they all seem to make the same mistake when pitching media.
Let’s take a step back – if you own your own business or you’re on a small startup team, you have the hefty challenge of wearing dozens of hats, sometimes simultaneously, to make your business successful. One morning you could be making sales calls, coding your own website, and attending a mid-morning trade show – all back to back. You’re constantly immersed within the nitty gritty of your business.
When it comes time to launch your product or service to the public, the logical next step is to share the news with the media to help share the good news with the world. This is where most entrepreneurs make the most common and biggest mistake when pitching media.
Because entrepreneurs live and breathe their brand mission and promise, they approach media with an internal-external approach as opposed to an external-internal approach. They say, “Hey Huffington Post, this is my product and this is why you should like it.” Sounds harmless enough, but I guarantee you, 9 times out of 10; media will read your pitch and immediately trash it. Before you even reach out to the press, I encourage you to take a step back (maybe five) and throw all of your hats into the closet and ask yourself, “Why is my story worth telling?” To know the answer to this question, you’ve got to understand the four key ingredients that make a story successful.
- Know Your Audience
- Present Compelling Conflict & Intrigue
- Provide a Clear Solution
- Never Leave Home Without An Arsenal of Assets
Here’s my favorite example of a brand telling a damn good story:
Background Deets: Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year in America. In 2015, the National Retail Federation noted that consumers spent more than $600 billion dollars on this day. While it’s a huge opportunity to generate an enormous amount of revenue, it’s the most overwhelming, cluttered, and product driven holiday of the year. All brands want you to buy their products and they’re all communicating the same story to media, “Tell your readers about our Black Friday deals! They’re the best!” It’s near impossible to stand out.
Brand: REI sells outdoor recreational equipment and gear decided to launch their #OptOutside campaign. It encourages people NOT to shop on the biggest shopping day of the year, but instead “opt out” and enjoy the outdoors. They stand behind this mission so much that they close their own doors and pay their employees to go outside and enjoy.
Audience: Active people who love to be outside. Their target audience has the financial means to purchase their products. They use social media. They’re new junkies and like to stay informed – so they’re watching the news every morning and occasionally reading the newspaper.
Conflict & Intrigue: Black Friday is about MASS CONSUMERISM, it is the biggest shopping day of the year, it’s about who got the best deal. REI, a retail company, is encouraging people to do the opposite – not shop.
Solution: In order to participate in their challenge, they wanted people to go outside – to invest in the outdoors and enjoy nature. They offered Thanksgiving Day leftover lunch boxes for people to take on their hikes. They challenged people to share their experience through the #OptOutside hashtag.
Assets: REI had the story, now they needed the storytelling assets to bring it to life. They designed engaging video content and created a hashtag that generated even MORE third-party consumer content that brought the community together. REI’s CEO was available for interviews and they invited journalists on outdoor trips and excursions to “opt outside with them.”
There are five PR people to every one journalist. It’s up to each of us to serve up a story to media that’s not about us, but about a greater cause. You should offer them worthy news that people – their readers will want to know about – something that will resonate with them and that they can get behind! So before you pitch the next journalist, ask yourself, “Am I sharing a story worth telling?”