17 Publicists Share Their Tried-and-True Tips for Getting Buzzworthy Press

May 11, 2021
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Launching a business is one thing, but generating buzz around a business is another thing entirely. In fact, one of the most common questions we get from entrepreneurs, small business owners, and brand builders at both our digital and IRL events (and even on our social media channels!) is: How do I get buzzworthy press? So, to help answer that question, of course, we tapped our network of public relations pros.

Ahead, 17 publicists share their top tips for grabbing an editor’s attention. From writing a subject line that gets a response to securing an interview for their clients, the pros divulge their tried-and-true methods for crafting cold emails that stand out from the crowd, building relationships with media, and more. Scroll on for a masterclass in public relations (and grab a pen because, trust us, you’re going to want to take notes!).

Account Supervisor at Autumn Communications

Experience: 9 years

The Tip: Do your homework! I know it sounds so cliché, but knowing not only what editors cover but how can mean the difference between an immediate pass or a potential story for a client. Make sure to skim topical news each morning and take the extra time to connect the dots and show why and HOW it can ladder back to your client in a meaningful way that audiences will care about. As a gut check, I always ask myself, “If I were skimming the online headlines and news, would this story angle I’m pitching or client news I’m sharing get me to pause and click to read further as a consumer?”  

Why It Works: Too often it may seem enticing to take the quick and easy route as a publicist, but it’s easy to forget that media are receiving hundreds of pitches a day on top of meeting their writing deadlines and fulfilling project tasks. I also always remind junior staff that media are people too—there is (really!) a person behind the email address who has passions and interests. Build a rapport with editors and make the effort to establish a true human connection with someone you pitch and interact with frequently—it truly goes the extra mile. Some of my favorite and strongest media relationships have been with people I’ve worked with digitally for YEARS, but have admittedly only met a few times in real life.  

President and CEO of Modern Currency PR

Experience: 16 years

The Tip: Be authentic.

Why It Works: I always try and encourage my team to step into the journalist’s shoes and ask yourself what you are trying to convey, and why this is a compelling story?

Practice active listening and reading; be informed of what’s out there and take your time.

If you can work your way back from the end goal, and feel confident that you have a timely and compelling “hook,” the rest just flows naturally. You never really need to force a good pitch or idea, and being authentic, well researched and read, and taking your time and enjoying the process of being a storyteller and brand-builder on behalf of your clients is a joyous process. I’m the daughter of academics and English professors, and love getting lost in the art of good writing and storytelling, and to take one’s time in crafting an idea, all in service of advocating for your clients, most of whom have truly remarkable and noteworthy stories to tell. A true privilege to be entrusted with such a responsibility, day in and day out.

Also, another good rule of thumb, quality oftentimes trumps quantity. No longer are we living in a day and age where a press release distributed over a wire service is as compelling or lands your story more visibility. Your goal is to be heard above the noise in this overly saturated market of news and content.

Oftentimes, you work tirelessly for months with one journalist and media outlet on one single long-form story that so beautifully captures the spirit of the client and experience—it’s so well worth it, and something I truly treasure. And as always, keep the long game in mind.

Founder and CEO of Kamari Chelsea

Experience: 16 years

The Tip: I tell my clients who are looking to get noticed, “Do something radically good.” Millennials and Gen Z now make up billions in consumer spending, and they are most loyal to brands that are going beyond authenticity, and status quo charity. They’re falling in love with brands that are leaning in and radically adjusting their strategy to do the right thing. For example, if a brand is the first to start including more diverse people in their ads and ethos (think Barbie or Calvin Klein’s latest ads with Chika), or if a brand is treating its employees with fair pay, respect, equity, and inclusion (think Jose Andres paying his furloughed employees during the COVID pandemic), it is more likely to become buzzworthy than a brand that simply donates proceeds of a product one-time or occasionally does employee volunteer days. Think about how your brand can create a “blue ocean strategy” that sets them apart by doing something wildly impactful and good for their industry and society as a whole.

Why It Works: The number one reason this works is that Millennial and Gen Z buyers are the most socially conscious shoppers we’ve seen, and they want to hear more about brands that are doing the right thing. 93% of global consumers want to see more of the brands they use support worthy social and/or environmental issues. More and more, reporters look for opportunities to tell stories about brands that exemplify “radical good.”

Founder of Nude Nation

Experience: 11 years

The Tip: This might sound cliché, but the best tip for getting buzzworthy press is being discerning when it comes to who you represent and only taking on clients you are entirely aligned with and believe in. I’d also say that aside from having your finger on the pulse of what is relevant and understanding the mindset of the consumer, the second most important thing is really understanding the demographic of the outlet you are pitching and what type of content gets them the most traction. 

Why It Works: Only taking on clients you believe in wholeheartedly works because if you don’t, that lack of authenticity will translate in every pitch, you won’t be as creative and the editor will see right through ultimately resulting in lack of coverage. When it comes to deeply understanding the outlet and what does well for them this works because, at the end of the day, the outlet is looking for content that resonates with their community and is going to get them the most eyeballs. If your client can offer expertise, a product/service, a testimony or a story that will help the outlet achieve that, then it is more likely than not that they will be interested in running it.

Founder and CEO of The Bonita Project

Experience: 10 years

The Tip: My tip for getting buzzworthy press is a catchy email subject line and a short upfront, with bullet points that give the press some angle options on how to cover my client. Put your editorial shoes on and think what an editor would headline the story and what they’d want to cover—make their job easier.

Why It Works: I compete with so many other publicists to grasp an editor’s attention, and while sometimes my emails get ignored, the ones that don’t are because the subject line enticed them to open my email and I kept the upfront short. Sometimes we want to share too much but it can become an overwhelming read. Make it short, sweet, and use bullet points. It’s easier to read and gets the pitch straight to the point.

SVP of AZIONE PR

Experience: 13 years 

The Tip: Craft a compelling story, and remember that media covers the news. 

Why It Works: A lot of markets are crowded, and for most consumer goods, something similar usually already exists out there so you need to have a strong story and brand narrative that separates your brand from what’s on the market. When pitching a new product or idea, I always ensure the story I’m telling highlights the key points of differentiation; why is this brand/product better than anything else the editor has heard of? I like to remind clients that “media covers the news” and if we don’t have news to talk about, how can we creatively craft a story that positions a brand to culturally relevant news? For example, I like to think about how we can lean into specific narratives or trends that we’re seeing in the marketplace, and how our clients are driving those trends and tapping into the cultural zeitgeist.

Founder of FLIGHT PR and co-founder of Joint PR

Experience: 15 years

The Tip: Share your expertise! Establishing yourself as a thought leader is PR gold. And what’s great about this is you don’t have to do this with every media outlet—even becoming a go-to with just a few in your industry can do wonders for your business and your brand.

Why It Works: Think about what it’s like for writers and journalists today, especially in light of the pandemic when many have seen their colleagues and teams cut or furloughed. They are literally pitched hundreds of times a day, with 99% of people just vying for their attention. You stand out from the crowd if you make it less about what you can get and more about what you can give, both to the writer and also to their readers. Be willing to share your expertise, unique insights, and point of view. 

Founder and CEO of evna media

Experience: 9 years

The Tip: Know who you’re pitching editor-wise and have a solid understanding of the reader of the outlet you’re pitching. It’s not a one size fits all approach. There are different types of editors at every publication; features editors, deputy editors, associate editors, managing editors, directors, etc. Similarly, there are different demographics and lifestyle habits of readers at each outlet. While stories and angles can overlap sometimes, it’s important for publicists to keep grooming their research and be diligent about the pitch angle they’re sending to an editor and their respective outlet.

Why It Works: If you’re not already close with the editor, they will feel a sense of thoughtfulness from you knowing what their lane is. The worst thing is getting pitched something that doesn’t fall into their vertical or vein. The more you can relate your client, brand, or product to an editor and outlet’s reader the more it makes sense for them to be featured. This works for evna media pitching strategies a lot. You should be pitching smarter, not harder. It’s a two-way street though, editors need publicists just as much as publicists need editors. We run into responses like “kindly passing on this” too, but sometimes that offers an opportunity to brainstorm together where you can counter with a different angle or something that might make more sense for their editorial calendar for that moment. We are storytellers for our clients so there are always ideas pumping.

Founder of CC PR

Experience: 12 years 

The Tip: Timing is key when it comes to securing buzz-worthy press. 

Why It Works: It’s important to constantly pay attention to the news cycle and know what’s happening in the world so you can find new and creative ways to not only work your client/brand into the narrative but also make them stand out.

Experience: Publicist for 6 years and an agency owner for 1 year

The Tip: Get straight to the point.

Why It Works: Editors have incredibly stressful jobs. Between juggling meetings, interviews, reading, researching, writing, and the day-to-day stresses of work-life, they’re also being flooded with pitches nonstop. If you were in that position, would you want to sit down and read a six-paragraph pitch about why XYZ brand is so amazing? Heck no! That’s why you need to get straight to the point with your email pitch. Pinpoint exactly why your brand story or product is a good fit for that editor’s audience, then communicate that with a quick intro, concise bullet points, and links to your website/social channels. Don’t forget to include an image that best represents your brand and the story you are trying to communicate. Before you send that pitch, ask yourself: Would an editor be able to skim through this email and immediately understand what my brand is all about? If the answer is yes, then you’ll be one step closer to buzzworthy press.

Head of PR at Little Voice PR (a.k.a LVPR)

Experience: 12 years

The Tip: My #1 tip for getting “buzzworthy press” would be leveraging something that is of the “moment” and/or culturally relevant. 

Why It Works: We live in a world where news travels and breaks faster than ever before, so unless you’re pitching something disruptive, you need to be able to leverage the current news cycle and what’s trending. In order to stay on top of that, you have to have a voracious appetite for reading all types of media and coming up with a strong storyline. A great founder story is something we find very valuable as a way to connect a brand with consumers.

President of Image Elevators, Inc.

Experience: 20 years

The Tip: My number one tip for getting buzzworthy press is understanding the art of persuasion.  

Why It Works: Your heading, subject line, and the first sentence in your announcement must be attention-grabbing and alluring! Persuasive communication is key to catching the eye of a reporter and convincing them their audience is best to receive your news item. Any true PR professional understands that persuasive communication can get you everything you need—it’s all in how it’s presented and how it’s said!

Owner and Publicist of dallasprmaven 

Experience: Publicist for 10 years and agency owner for 2 years

The Tip: My “BVT” Checklist 

Why It Works: I work with a diverse range of creatives and entrepreneurs, and sometimes they can get ahead of themselves and think they’re ready to get coverage. However, in order to create buzzworthy press, all moving parts need to be aligned. I basically go through a quick checklist that I call BVT (branding, voice, and time) before even considering their story or announcement media-worthy. Each brand/entrepreneur has to have their branding updated and ready, ensure the person who will be connecting with the media is prepared and energized to answer any press inquiries, and also, from a time perspective, they are available to take on these interviews once confirmed. Nothing is worse than pitching, getting interest, and my client isn’t available. 

Founder and Managing Director of Dispatch

Experience: 8 years

The Tip: Create a story worth telling.

Why It Works: Put yourself in the editor’s shoes. Their jobs revolve around uncovering news and telling stories people want to hear. How can you make your story compelling and more newsworthy? Is it a timely hook, identifying a new trend, doing something that hasn’t been done before?

When brainstorming initiatives, new launches, activations, etc with teams—we’re always thinking, “Ok, but what’s the story.” Building the story into the execution itself is a big step in guaranteeing a buzzworthy launch.

We also focus heavily on creating excitement around a story opportunity. If we can’t get the editor excited about the initiatives ourselves, we look to the influences of that editor—i.e., who are they following on Instagram? How can we get those people talking about what we’re up to? That way the editor isn’t just being told by a PR they should be paying attention, they’re stumbling upon the story opportunity themselves. 

Experience: 14 years 

The Tip: Put thought into who you’re reaching out to and why and be a publicist people want to work with

Why It Works: It’s important to know your client/brand and what you’re specifically pitching and to whom. Make sure you’re doing your homework and finding editors or journalists that will find your pitch relevant. Be informative without overloading, no one wants to read a novel on a new product launch or a generic press release. Tailor your emails to be specific to the outlets and editors you’re reaching out to. Editors get so many emails every day so make sure you’re sending something that makes sense to them. 

Also, this may seem obvious but get back to people quickly. Even if you don’t have an update or an answer right away, let the editor know you’ve received their email/request and that you’re working on it. And then actually get it done quickly. This doesn’t go unnoticed and they’ll remember your sense of urgency, even if it wasn’t that urgent. Be the publicist they want to work with and continue going to for their stories, photoshoots, etc. 

Lastly, I don’t believe in being overly formal. There is a time and place for everything, but I represent mainly fashion brands and I’m talking about clothing most of the day, there should be some fun with it.  I recommend sending emails in a tone that doesn’t come across as impersonal or too formal. Seeing a stale subject line or a pitch about a product with no imagery is definitely off-putting. I’ve seen subject lines that look like an email blast, that is a quick way to have your email go unread. Emails to editors should be personalized, maybe you follow an editor on IG and saw they were on vacation recently, mention that. Or perhaps there was an article of theirs that you recently read and it resonated with you in some way, share that with them, especially if it has something to do with what you’re reaching out about.

Founder and CEO of LaRue PR

Experience: 23 years

The Tip: Share newsworthy, timely info. Info and insights that are relevant to what is happening in the world around you.

Why It Works: “New” is always compelling to the media as is “news.” Things that are definitively related to current events in the news, pop culture, business, are always compelling when pursuing press.

Experience: 9 years

The Tip: Get to the point, quickly! Once you have thoughtfully researched a reporter’s beat, lead with what makes you and your company unique—and always include a call to action. If you can share what sets you apart from competitors, you will stand out as an expert in your field, and somebody the reporter would benefit from connecting with. Since reporters receive upwards of 1,000 pitches each day and only have a few seconds to review your email, you need to pique their interest right off the bat. 

Why It Works: When you have only a few seconds of a reporter’s attention, succinctly share who you are, what you do that is novel, and why you have a valuable perspective to offer. Being respectful of their limited time is key for media relations. And remember, even if you don’t get an immediate reply, reporters keyword search through their inbox when they are sourcing for stories, so your pitch and call-to-action live on in their inbox and can rise to the top for future articles.

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