Little Things Mean a Lot

February 16th 2015

Everyone—at one time or another—is hoping for a big break. It could be getting a new job or the next client.

In PR, the big break is still, despite all the wonders of social media, the big, splashy, high-profile hit, preferably a laudatory corporate profile. Be it Good Morning America or the cover of Wall Street Journal’s new Business & Tech. section, I share that goal with clients. Nothing beats that level of recognition. Plus what appears in venues such as these often reappears on social media. Paradoxically, getting that big media-relations break often requires thinking small. The passing detail is going to be more interesting to an inundated reporter than a kitchen-sink pitch combining the backstory, corporate goals, the entire product line-up, agenda of the corporate retreat and the CEO’s impressive resume.

Could it be that too much of a good thing is indigestible? When you consider how many pitches a journalist receives on any given day, maybe it’s better to think small to stand out. A blog on the content-marketing site, BuzzSumo, asked a handful of top tech journalists how many PR approaches they fielded a day:

  • A Fast Company reporter said she was inundated with 100 daily emails, most of them pitches.
  • Tech Crunch, Mashable and The Next Web came in with figures ranging from 25 to 80.

In a bid to have an email opened and appreciated, not only must its subject line be laser-focused to the reporter’s exact area of interest, it has to be easy to digest. A morsel of information and not the whole meal. Same goes for the body content, a few more morsels, a hint of more to come, then you’re out. Once the appetite is encouraged, only then does the whole story have a chance to unfold.

That’s my theory, anyway.

I like to think it has been backed up by one page of profiles in the Wall Street Journal. Two reporters, writing for its Billion Dollar Startup Club feature, lead their corporate profiles not with billion-dollar-sized leads but the absolute smallest (if not forbidden-to-discuss by clients) of details.

  • One on the Israeli software company IronSource pointed out how the founders continued to work out of coffee shops even while making $10 million in annual revenues. That’s charming, human and just like most of us.
  • Another, on game-maker Kabam, contrasted recent success with how much the company looked like “a dud” early on.

These are not the kind of details that spring from most client/agency kick-off meetings, but they are EXACTLY the kinds of things that make a relatable lead-in that will hopefully appeal to journalists and their readers alike.

So think small. In this day of Instagram captions, Twitter-sized thoughts and overflowing inboxes, it’s the best way to pitch.

By Elaine Underwood, Media Consultant with Mfa
About Elaine:
With an extensive communications career spanning business journalism, corporate branding and public relations, Elaine has been providing strategic counsel and delivering feature stories for Mfa’s vast array of clients for nearly two decades. Most recently, Elaine’s focus has been with Mfa’s social good division, MFAction, consulting on campaigns and media strategy with Care2, KaBOOM! and No Kid Hungry. After getting her start as a reporter with Adweek, Elaine went on to advise investment banks, consumer product powerhouses and some of New York’s top branding firms, in addition to developing social and digital media programs for travel and tourism brands.

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