Let me disrupt your day. When PR professionals are pitching a story shouting that their client is “disrupting” its industry what I hear is “desperation.” Oh, I get it. Sometimes it’s the client that’s in love with disruption. That’s generally because they’re also desperate—for something to say that’s newsworthy.
I’ll let you in on a non-secret. Reporters don’t fall for it. Disruption is a PR term, not a news term. Reporters are looking for news, not empty hyperbole. But this tactic is unfortunately indicative of ubiquitous practices that are not only a waste of reporters’ time but will ultimately lead to failure by the PR professional to land placements.
Here’s another non-secret. Incremental stories don’t sell.
They’re the kinds of stories reporters react to with some form of “eh.” An incremental story is one that involves a baby step toward a goal or resolution. Come back to me when your client has made a giant step that not only gets it to the finish line (or at least on its doorstep), but is a development not achieved by any of its competitors or will influence how a process or product will be accomplished in the future by an entire industry.
Then there’s the concept of an embargoed story.
Embargoes can be useful in giving reporters the opportunity to conduct interviews, research and take the time to write a complete and thoughtful piece in advance, rather than try to bang it out on deadline. They only work, however, if everyone abides by the embargo.
Where the use of embargoes is not effective is when a PR person employs it as a false come-on of a big story. An example is a recent pitch I received telling me the client is going to be “releasing some big news that’s embargoed until next Thursday. I can set you up with an interview today with the company’s CEO. If you agree to the embargo, I’ll send you the release.”
For some reason the PR person is under the impression telling me the news will be embargoed telegraphs an impending major headline. Offering an interview before I even know what the story is telegraphs to me this person doesn’t understand the news process.
From a reporter’s view, the way to my heart is to let me know the client will have an announcement related to X next Thursday. Now I have at least a hint as to the subject matter. Then you may go on to offer the release in advance to provide the details if the reporter agrees to the terms of the embargo. Finally, let the reporter know what interviews are available in advance of the embargo if the journalist decides to go ahead and cover the story after reading the release.
Finally, think bigger picture.
Use your brain’s zoom lens to pull out and take a wider view before formulating your pitch. A client involved in an esoteric process or product by itself may not be attractive to a general assignment reporter. But if you can frame the client within a broader theme related to current or emerging trends or ongoing stories, you have a greater chance of gaining consideration.
In other words, help the reporter see a bigger story where your client can play a role. The story may not be about your client, but it will include them – and that’s better than no coverage at all.
A bit of good news: I’m happy to report none of what’s written here is under embargo and is available right now if you find it useful. It’s some friendly insight that will hopefully disrupt your pitching desperation.