How to eliminate jargon when addressing the media

Overheard while walking the halls of large technology company – “The new feature is built around ephemerality, and we are in-roading programmatic integration”

If that sentence made you slightly queasy, you are not alone. Technology rushes forward and language can sometimes barely keep up. To compensate, many of us resort to linguistic shorthand – acronyms, technical jargon, or even brand new invented words.

That’s all well and good when discussing internally – but eventually we need to shout about our products from the hills. And screaming – “IT’S AN INTEGRATED HOLISTIC PLATFORM THAT ENABLES THE AUTOMATION AND DIGITISATION OF INFORMATION THROUGH SELF-LEARNING ALGORITHMS!” – is not an inspiring war cry.

So here are a few tips when we need to talk about new things.

Articulate the value you’re giving to customers

My favourite quality in a spokesperson is passion and pure excitement about innovation. They are usually experts in their fields, and sometimes the brains behind breakthroughs. But sometimes, they get too excited about the process, they forget to talk about the results. In building a narrative, start with the customer. What problems are they facing or why would they like your product? Instead of talking about nuts and bolts of self-learning algorithms, talk about what that could mean in terms of cost-savings and efficiencies.

Use Analogies, but avoid cliches

One of the most elegant ways that Open Source coding was explained to me through this analogy.

“Imagine buying Car A – you can drive it, but no one is allowed to look under the hood. If anything goes wrong, you’d only be able to take it back to the manufacturer’s garage. The manufacturer’s mechanics would be the only people to work on the engine. That’s Closed Source coding. Now imagine buying Car B – you can drive it, and anyone can look under the hood this time. Any licensed mechanic would also be able to look at the engine – and in fact compare your engine to other newer engines and make modifications. That’s Open Source coding.”

While one could nit-pick the technicality of the analogy, this is still a good primer for a non-technical person to understand something new. With the consumerisation of technology and more IT decisions being made by non-IT professionals, the ability to convert technical concepts to plain speak is becoming more essential.

Graphics are worth a thousand words

While analogies are great, sometimes words hit a barrier when it comes to explaining things – especially for very abstract concepts. You could always try multiple analogies, or pouring more words in, but sometimes a much more effective solution is the deployment of visuals to clarify things.

I highly recommend this YouTube channel – Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. It’s a great example of how effective visuals can help explain difficult concepts, like Universal Incomes or the science behind GMO foods. And of course, statics graphics can work just as well.

Ultimately, the trick is to start with your customers. What do they know and understand? What touchpoint would they relate to? Once you meet them on their side of the bridge with something they understand, that’s when you can guide them along your narrative journey.

Need help with your PR strategy? Drop us a message at hello@mutant.com.sg

How to master the art of following up with journalists  

As a rule of thumb: if a journalist is interested in your story, he or she will likely respond immediately. So, if you haven’t heard back it’s probably because your pitch note didn’t make the cut.

Having said that, it’s also important to remember that reporters are a notoriously busy lot and often don’t have the time to read every email they receive. So, how do you catch their attention?

Following up after sending a press release or pitch note can feel a little awkward, but it’s a necessary part of the job – and if done right can help to make your placement happen. Here are some tips to do it in a tactful and non-intrusive manner:

Say something original

A journalist may have inadvertently deleted your email or simply chosen to ignore it – either way it is important that your follow up focus on conveying information that wasn’t in the original pitch. Read the reporter’s last few articles to see what he or she is currently tracking and then relate the information in the press release to relevant and related trends.

Know your client

Pitching is one thing, but answering questions from journalists as they decide whether or not your client is worth covering is another. You’ve got to know your client inside-out. The details that matter may vary depending on the publication you’re speaking to, but keeping tabs on your client’s business model, revenue (if that’s public), growth and leadership team will help you and your pitch stand out.

Personalise your pitch

Lack of personalisation is one the biggest reasons pitches get declined. For one, it shows you haven’t done your homework, but more importantly it’s downright rude. Journalists receive dozens of emails a day – so make their lives easier by sharing stories that are relevant to their sectors. Take the time to get to know journalists, the beats they cover, and the stories they track.

Don’t make multiple calls

While twiddling your thumbs waiting for a response, resist the urge to make multiple phone calls, spam reporters’ inboxes, or worse, reach them on social media. Instead, let some time pass (ideally 2-3 days) – and then call them on the phone to present your case and determine their interest in the opportunity.

Pick a good time

Research shows that journalists prefer to be pitched to between 9 am and 11 am because that’s the best time for them to figure out what they’re going to write that day and present it at editor meetings, which typically happen after 11 am.  And remember, you’re not the only one under pressure to deliver a story!

Looking for some inspiration for your next pitch? Drop a message to hello@mutant.com.sg 

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Pitching perfect: 6 tips PR pros should know before picking up the phone

Media pitching takes tact and research. It’s a means to much of what the public sees today, whether it’s a published news story, a successful media event or the general hype surrounding a brand or product.

Securing a media placement can be the best feeling in the world, but here’s what happens along the way that no one will tell you about:

Journalists want to know how you can help them

Not the other way around. When pitching a story make sure you tell the journalist how your product or service can benefit their readers. With multiple editorial deadlines looming above their heads, journalists are no-nonsense individuals.

To make things easier for both of you, avoid engaging in too much small talk when you’re on the phone. Cut to the chase on what you have to offer.

Don’t pitch between 9 and 11am

You’ve got a piece of news you’re so excited about and you just want to pitch it over the phone first thing in the morning. But guess what? The newsrooms are the busiest in the morning, as editors and journalists come together and work hard to gather all the news to be published or broadcasted.

This also means that no one’s going to be available to pick up your call – for a couple of hours at least.

The trick to get around this is to drop a pitch email early enough in the morning, so journalists can pick the story up and bring it into the newsroom. Who knows this could even mean your story gets picked up without much pitching or following up!

Skip the pitch on a Friday

Like you and I, journalists wrap up for their week on Fridays, getting themselves ready to wind down for the weekend. Even if it’s just a pitch email, a seasoned PR pro will know to stay clear of Fridays.

Unless it’s breaking news, the probability of journalists looking into your pitch is almost non-existent. By Monday, your pitch would have been drowned out by hundreds of other fresh pitches for the week.

Pitch at your own risk!

A friend on the inside helps

Cultivating a healthy friendship with a member of the media can help with achieving far greater results in a shorter amount of time – think picking up the phone and sharing a story with a friend.

When you’ve established that relationship, your media friend will be more open about sharing with you the reasons your pitch wasn’t picked up, or even what they’re looking for to supplement their stories.

Do however be mindful that not every journalist is comfortable or open to becoming your best buddy. Respect their boundaries when the time comes and remain professional.

Tailor your pitches like an Armani suit

Before picking up the phone, write down the name of the journalist, their title, their beat, the publication, and your angle.

The secret formula to landing a news story is to never get started without any prior research about whom you’re calling. By research, I mean reading up about the journalist you’re pitching to, learning more about what they write about, and what they’ve just written about.

Grow thicker skin

Rejection can be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s nothing personal. There are a number of reasons why you got turned down: The angle doesn’t fit with the editorial brand or audience, it had already been covered, or there is just no sellable angle.

At the end of the day, this will all mould you into the toughest PR pro who can remain unfazed in face of rejection. Don’t be dejected, pick up the phone and keep dialing.

Need advice on pitching your next big story? CTA desingns (1)-01

Get in touch with us at hello@mutant.com.sg for help with your next pitch!

Pitching Etiquette – how to approach media

Ah, Public Relations.

It has its perks. Scoring a cool client, brainstorming equally cool  and creative ideas for pitching and marketing angles, meeting colourful personalities (some of them becoming friends), the satisfaction of successful event launches, and ultimately, seeing everything you’ve worked towards slowly forming into tangible results.

But there is a dark side, one that many journalists will attest to – the act of pitching a story for coverage. The frustration is understandable. The incessant hounding, incoherently written press releases, and overfamiliarity, can be off-putting, especially if you’re on a tight deadline.

Let us understand a typical day of a journalist’s job – having to sieve through mountains of emails and pitches for a headline-grabbing story, research, fact checking, interviewing multiple sources, transcribing those interviews, and having to complete at least five to six stories at the end of the week (or day, in some cases).

How do they find their stories if not through contacts, and long, in-depth investigations and breaking news events? Often, it’s because a PR person passed it to them, helped them find the right people to talk to, and ensured they had the right images and interesting angles. Despite what we might say about one another, journalists do use press releases for content, the relationship between media and PR is symbiotic – we need each other to survive in the industry.

I was once the eager beaver obsessed about clinching the cover story. I would follow up (pester) aggressively, and had no qualms about being pushy; not realising that I may come across as insincere and unabashed.

So how do we pitch with grace? There is an art to the delicate craft, which is all about the finer details – picking the right words, and getting the across the right message in the press release, actually knowing your client or brand to be able to convince editors why they’re worth writing about, and giving alternative angles.

According to Social Media Today, and my fellow Mutants, there are a few points to bear in mind for an effective email pitch.

Know your brand, and the journalist or publication you’re pitching to:
Mutant Directors, Joe and Jacqui, used to be journalists from The New Zealand Herald, who affirm that there is nothing more annoying then an “irrelevant” pitch, “Don’t pitch a fashion story to a Food Editor or Foreign Correspondent. Save yourself a bit of time and do a little research to make sure that you are speaking to the right person.”

Keep it Short and Simple:
“Brevity is the soul of wit” – Keep to the point and get your message across clearly with minimum words.

Bullet points:
It can’t get any clearer than succinct, concise, and factual bullet points – a journalist’s dream.

Tone:
Nabeel, Mutant’s Communications Assistant, says that adopting a friendly tone when speaking with journalists on the phone helps, “Also be clear and stick to key points when explaining the reason of your call.”

Personalisation:
This is where ‘relationship building’ comes to play – make it a little special and address them by their names. Writers know when it’s a generic cookie- cutter blast. Make an effort to know them, and make small talk about an article they wrote on this week’s paper.

Jacqui says that it helps if you sincerely get along with the writers. Meet them up for coffee or lunch, “I feel more compelled to read an email from someone whom I’m already familiar with. Don’t bribe, or be too needy – be natural, as you would with a friend.”

According to Hunter PR blog, they loathe the question, “So have you read my email?”, so try an alternative approach when following up – offer new and interesting angles, or try and tempt them with……

Giveaways and Freebies!:
You don’t have to force things down their throat for coverage, there is a more passive and effective way for them to relate with your product or client, and offer their readers a reward. Have them review it; send them samples, run competitions and giveaways for their readers.

Following Up:
Daniel, Mutant’s Content Manager, thinks that following up in a timely and tactful manner will do wonders, “Give it a few days before calling to follow up. Be confident and prepared for whatever questions that may be thrown at you.”

Pace your flow of information:
Going back to the first point, keep your message short and simple – don’t reveal too much and try to whet their appetite. Once they bite the bait, furnish them with more details.

Journalists everywhere will start thanking you for this. (You’re welcome!)

Need help with pitching? Drop a message to hello@mutant.com.sg