That Ol’ PR Magic…Real Examples from Amendola Clients

The question I hear most often from new clients and prospects is, “How do we know if PR program is working and how can we measure our success?”

It’s not an easy question!

To begin with, the goal of PR is to increase brand awareness…and that’s not an easily quantifiable objective. It almost always comes from multiple touch points, plus calls for insight into different media outlets’ true audience numbers. That’s something my team works hard to get, as we’re not content to just take as a given the numbers these outlets report.

But here’s where the questions about PR success get scary for some in our profession. What customers and prospects really want to know is, how many leads will a PR program generate?

Honestly, this is only quantifiable if you put the work into web analytics and lead scoring, and tightly align your PR and marketing teams. We love our clients that go these extra lengths! Even better if you can align with a service such as Meltwater to measure and track placements and sentiment.

But that said, I have to tell you…we hear from clients regularly that lead gen is a happy byproduct of PR, even when they aren’t taking those extra steps!

Here are just a few real examples of this PR magic:

  • After securing a case study commitment from a hospital that used our client’s predictive analytics, we were able to place this customer success story in a healthcare publication that hospital CIOs regularly read. Sure enough, our client’s phone was soon ringing from a CIO who had read the story and said, “This is the tool we ought to be using.” Shortly after, this hospital launched a pilot of our client’s solution, and from there, became a full-fledged and highly quotable customer.
  • We landed one of our clients a coveted spot on a leading publication’s symposium on the opioid crisis. After the panel discussion, a prospect approached our client, who shared with us, “We basically closed a $1 million deal right then and there.”
  • One of our telehealth clients has raced up the Google rankings thanks to the many PR placements we’ve secured. This has been particularly meaningful for our client’s marketing department, which typically expends significant resources on keeping these rankings high. According to our client, PR has organically done what paid SEO never did: garner the top ranking in the client’s respective space. “And made our competition a distant spec in search ranking!” said our client.
  • 10 minutes after a story we pitched to a trade publication ran the client received a qualified lead.
  • Industry conference publications are a hard outlet to crack unless paying for a spot, but this past year, we managed to secure a number of write ups for Amendola clients, at no cost, in one of the most widely read publications in the lead up to HIMSS18. This resulted in prospects reaching out to our clients, including to one client whose CEO subsequently sent out a memo stating, “This is what PR and marketing does for us.”

Check out more examples of Amendola’s PR magic at our collection of customer success stories here. As you’ll see, PR does work…in many ways, to achieve many different business goals.

Interesting in making some magic with us? Shoot me an email at jamendola@acmarketingpr.com. I’d love to hear from you!

5 Confessions of a Former Healthcare Trade Publication Editor

Prior to joining Amendola Communications, I was a senior editor at Medical Economics, the largest monthly business management journal for primary care practices. Before that, I was a senior editor at a couple monthly city business publications as well as a daily newspaper reporter.

The journalistic experience has proven invaluable as a public relations writer because it gives me a deeper understanding of how to create the articles that editors want in their publications. As an editor, I would receive pitches daily from PR professionals. I admit that not every pitch received the time and attention that were clearly put into them, for various reasons which I will describe later.

My last day as a publication editor was in May 2011. Judging from my experience since then as an independent and agency PR writer, however, not much has changed, other than the growing importance of social media, which you can read more about from one of our experts here. In that light, here are five confessions from my time as an editor reviewing countless pitches from PR and marketing professionals that might help your company score an interview or article placement.

  1. If it wasn’t relevant to us, it was deleted. Explain clearly in the pitch how the potential article’s information would be relevant to readers. The editor may not agree, but at least it demonstrates that you took the time to learn about the publication instead of just sending out a mass email with the editor’s name at the top.
  2. Data/outcomes were always interesting. Quantifiable results jumped out in a pitch, especially when there was a “$” before those numbers. Business management publications, even in healthcare, love to publish articles about dollars earned or saved. Numbers were even more powerful if my publication was offered the first chance to share them with readers, which brings us to another attention grabber.
  3. Exclusivity was exciting and appreciated. Offering just one publication the first opportunity on a story can be difficult for a company because it limits or delays spreading the story to a wider audience. Exclusivity, however, is alluring to many publication editors, especially web or breaking news publications where being first is mission critical.
  4. Sharing research builds trust. This tip is somewhat unique to healthcare, but as a trade editor, I always appreciated when a company representative presented medical journal literature that supported the claims in the pitch. Medical journals, unlike marketing content, are objective and critical, which are two qualities journalists prize. Presenting literature in the pitch showed me that the company was trying to be as transparent as possible, which built trust and fostered a stronger relationship with the company representative.
  5. Offering a real customer was almost a sure thing. Interviewing or publishing an article by a senior executive didn’t intrigue me as an editor as much as speaking with a physician or other customer of the company’s solution. This rule especially held fast if the company was relatively new. Readers want to learn from other readers like them, which is part of the reason today why blogs and YouTube channels from ordinary people are so popular. Sharing the perspective of an actual customer also builds credibility, and again, earns trust with the editor and readers.

There are plenty more tips I could share to grab an editor’s attention, but another quality I appreciated in pitches was conciseness, so I’ll stop there. Fortunately for Amendola Communications, we have lots of former print and web journalists working here, and many others with extensive media-relations expertise. Give us a call—or email—and we can discuss how we can help spread the word about your company across all types of business and consumer print and digital media.

I promise that we will respond.

 

Embrace the Paywall Future – Because it’s Coming

For several years now we all have lived in luxury, enjoying free content on the Internet that’s paid for through ads and data mining, with no paywall to contend with. But, as many prominent media outlets have noted, things are beginning to change.

Back in the early days of the Internet (and in the print media era of old), we as consumers paid for the content we wanted to read and watch. With the advent of Adblock Plus – not to mention a reduction in advertising budgets – many news websites and online magazines are going back to subscription business models, unable to maintain profits with optional “premium” services and banner ads alone.

What does this mean for those of us in media relations? It means we’re going to have to set expectations for our clients, educating them on the state of the media. Because like it or not, it does seem more paywalls are popping up, which means public relations and marketing plans have no choice but to adapt.

On its face, things may appear dire – it’s hard to share content on social media and on a personal blog when a link appears behind a paywall. But, there are some positive takeaways to the coming “subscription era” of Internet journalism that could mean more meaningful placements, better quality leads, and superior content than what we’re getting now in the “free and open” era of Internet publication.

Subscribers Read – and Readers are Your Target Audience

I’m a bit of a hipster. So, I still subscribe to a few print magazines. Since I don’t like my money to go to waste, I actually read those magazines, sometimes even cover-to-cover. I also subscribe to a couple newspapers online, and I check them every day, reading the content that’s relevant to me and subscribing directly to the RSS feeds of columns and writers I like the most.

The takeaway here is this: Those who pay for content are more likely to actually read it. Studies have shown most people don’t read the content on their social media feed, often sharing links without even clicking on them. I’ll argue that this is a product of the free content era, wherein the overabundance of choice has rendered us all lost in a sea of noise. While it may be nice to get a social media share or a link click, ultimately what does that really mean in terms of educating the public on your business, thought leaders, and relevant news?

If you ask me, the answer might be “not much.” Too often our metrics for success are superficial, measured in total number of social media shares, clicks, and engagements, even if those engagements are largely the result of bots and humans users who act like bots. But, if someone subscribes to a publication, they are more likely to actually do some reading, because they have a financial stake in supporting that content. That means more meaningful social media shares and readers who actually do – you guessed it – some reading. This translates to real discussion and genuine interest, not just some generic comment and a quick share that’s aimed at strictly producing numbers.

If someone subscribes to an online (or print) magazine, that means they are genuinely interested in the topic. Ideally, when it comes to a media interview or byline that you want read, your target audience is interested. The subscription era means more quality readers, even if the quantity of superficial shares and clicks is reduced.

Building Meaningful Relationships

It’s an unspoken truth of media relations – backs need to be scratched, and sometimes your thoughtful expert source means less than the source from a company who bought an ad. It’s not fair and, quite frankly, it reduces the quality of the content journalists produce, but that’s the reality of for-profit media. Ads are how publications stay in business, at least for now.

As advertising budgets begin to dry up across the board, the “pay-for-play” approach to journalism is harder to navigate for companies looking to get coverage, particularly for smaller startups who are still working to expand and turn a profit.

A positive outcome to a subscription business model means ads will no longer determine who gets an interview, since the primary source of revenue would ideally be subscriptions. Further, “sponsored content” will no longer be a path to regular byline publication. Like in the days of old, sources will be judged based more on merits, and journalists will begin, once again, to seek the stories that are most interesting to them and their readers.

Much as how the subscription model means an increase in quality readers, the same holds true for the content journalists produce. For those in media relations, that means we can build meaningful relationships with journalists for the mutual benefit of providing sources, who in turn get their name and message into stories that are far more genuine than those produced under the guise of advertising.

While free content will likely persist long into the future, the trend seems to be that the best publications are going to put themselves behind a paywall before too long. This will bring challenges, particularly when it comes to sharing content on company blogs and in social media feeds. In time, content producers and social media users will undoubtedly adapt to these changes and find workarounds, since sharing is the key to more exposure. I think this problem will ultimately solve itself, though admittedly things won’t be as straightforward as they are presently.

Sure, it may seem strange now to imagine an Internet where all content isn’t free, but it’s coming. And there are positive aspects to this transformation that could benefit everyone involved in the media placement chain, from thought leaders to journalists and those of us in between.  One thing is for certain, it’s best to embrace this future instead of combatting it – because those who are prepared will be best equipped to navigate the changing landscape and find success. One thing is for certain: Subscription models do not signal the end of journalism, which means media relations will continue to play an important role in earning placements.

The Anatomy of a Successful Pitch

The Anatomy of a Successful Pitch

Nothing fills me with existential dread like sitting down to write a media pitch.

Give me the sweet relief of an 800-word byline ghostwritten under a soul-crushing deadline. Bury me under the gigabyte of bone-dry peer-reviewed research I need to complete an immensely complex white paper. Let me spend eight hours hacking through a labyrinthine approval process just to get sign off on 400-word “new hire” press release.

Anything I do in the PR world is easier than convincing a stressed out and overworked journalist with a trigger finger on the junk file that my story is worth telling—and doing it in under 100 very concise and very compelling words.

Below are what I believe to be the essentials of a good pitch, broken out by its main components. Following this advice is not going to guarantee a media hit for your client, but it will dramatically increase your chances.

The Subject Line. It’s true that many—maybe even most—pitches live or die based on the subject line, but that doesn’t mean you should panic and resort to dumb gimmicks in a bid to win a journalist’s attention. Expending way too many precious words to support a style of writing—funny, hyperbolic or scare-quotes clever—you can’t pull off wastes everyone’s time.

Think of it this way: The subject line is your pitch reduced to its simplest form. For that reason, I prefer to write my subject lines last. Good pitch writing usually leaves a lot of tasty leftovers that just couldn’t be fit into the final revision; an interesting turn of phrase and a good word choice or two that didn’t make the cut can usually be repurposed into an effective Subject Line. If you feel you are really rusty, cut-and-paste your entire pitch, then slowly whittle it to its most essential elements.

The Opening Sentence. When I was a journalist, I was often surprised at the amount of “throat-clearing” in the pitches I received. I’m not a captive audience, dude! Into the trash you go!

If you have done your due diligence—carefully researching the outlets and reporters that would be a good fit for your story—you can avoid kicking off your story roughly 30 seconds after the newly formed Earth cooled.

Strategies will vary based on the story you are trying to tell, but I have had the most luck just telling the reporter what I want and why they should care: “Hey, [JOURNALIST], I’ve read your coverage on [TOPIC.] This [STORY] for [THESE REASONS] would be useful to your readers.”

If it sounds prosaic, that’s because it is. But by eliminating the throat-clearing, you can simply and honestly convey a.) your knowledge of the reporter; b.) your familiarity with how they have covered their beat; and c.) why your story is relevant to that coverage.

The Body. Most posts filed in the “pitching advice” genre emphasize the importance of brevity. And they’re right! Unfortunately, this can be taken to an extreme. A good pitch will offer a solid framework that the reporter can use to build the rest of the story. Use you pitch to cover the journalistic bases—who, what, when, where, why and how. Add relevant links to your pitch—to your sources’ LinkedIn profiles, evidence supporting your pitch idea and/or interesting industry trends, for example. Statistics relevant to a pitch help to ground it in reality. If you’re speaking about an end-user, be sure to provide specific numbers on the improvements they saw from using a solution. The more specifics, the better.

The Closer. A pitch should contain a clear call to action near the end, asking a reporter to specifically consider an interview or byline. A reporter may not be ready for this story right now, but politely ask them to keep you in mind for the future. Second, don’t be afraid to briefly offer to help a reporter with their coverage—now and into the future. Many opportunities arise from relationship-building that starts with a single pitch. Lastly, always thank a reporter for their time.

Final Advice

Almost as important as knowing how to write a good pitch is to know when you don’t have anything to pitch. Not everything a client does is a story or warrants legitimate coverage.

This is where client management comes into play. Capturing inbound interview requests—the sweet, sweet nectar of media relations—is a long and painstaking process of developing a trusted relationship mostly over electronic devices.

Pitching writing is both an art and science—which is part of the reason why creating them can be frustrating. Bad pitches are the kudzu of the public relations world, choking out good stories beneath an oppressive monoculture of bad faith and even worse writing. The problem is so pervasive that entire websites and Twitter feeds are dedicated to terrible pitches. However, devoting your energies to the right components of a pitch will ensure a greater level of success.