The Best Pitches of The Year and Media Relations Trends to Watch in 2023
I’ve talked before on our blog about how thankful I am to have ongoing professional development opportunities here at Hodges. Joining media relations and writing coach Michael Smart’s Inner Circle in 2021 has been incredibly valuable to me, particularly the monthly master classes and Inner Circle Facebook group where members can ask questions and share advice.
One of my favorite sessions each year is the December session on lessons learned from the best pitches of the last year. Members submit their best pitches, and Michael reviews them, identifies trends among the top pitches of the year and reveals the winners.
Having the chance to learn from the great work of other PR pros is always inspiring, and it is nice to be reminded of the impact that storytelling can have.
A few of the top pitches of the year:
- Susan Dosier of DK Communications Group represents Jacksonville, NC. She had a remarkable story to tell about the Montford Point Marines, the first Black Marines. A visit from a blogger and a reader comment ultimately led to Disney and National Geographic documentaries. A great example of how less traditional media channels can create big opportunities.
- Taryn Scher of TK PR placed an amazing NBC Nightly News story on the new Unity Park in Greenville, SC. Taryn’s pitch wasn’t short, but she had an established relationship with the reporter she was pitching, and she highlighted Greenville residents who could speak to the significance of the project. Having strong characters and being able to display impact is so important, and this story was a testament to that.
- I was excited to be recognized with an honorable mention in the national nonprofit pitching category for this placement for our Mercy Chefs client and its founder Gary LeBlanc on the PBS NewsHour segment Brief But Spectacular. My big takeaway from this placement? Patience is key, and so is follow up! This placement was more than two years in the making from initial pitch in 2019 to placement in December 2021. It took multiple follow-ups to secure interest at the time that the producer could move forward with the pitch in a tangible way.
Media relations trends to watch in 2023:
There were some common themes among the best pitches of the year. Here are some things you should think about building into your media relations best practices in 2023:
- Flexible timing: I loved this takeaway from the presentation. Identify your top target and see if you can build out a timeline that will suit their schedule. You can’t offer everyone flexibility, but if there’s one outlet or contact you REALLY want for a story, find a way to make your story work for them.
- Relationships: The pitch example from Susan above was a great testament to the “cascade” effect that one relationship can have – leading to much more coverage beyond an initial placement. If you establish a successful working relationship with someone once, they’ll be much more receptive to hearing future pitches from you.
- Follow up (when done right) remains key to media relations success. Many of Michael Smart’s teachings focus on the art of follow up – when it’s appropriate and how to do it well. I always think of follow up as being somewhat of a fine art, as you carefully must walk the fine line between being persistent without being frustrating.
- Many top placements this year resulted from follow up, with PR people often following up multiple times and over the course of months or years to finally get a story placed.One follow-up “trick” is to hold pieces of information from your initial pitch so you have something new to share later. Dan DeBaun with Life Time Fitness had been pitching a Fortune contact, and in one of his follow-ups he mentioned Life Time’s commitment to pickleball. The outlet ran with the idea – resulting in a stellar story.
What’s your best pitching takeaway from this year? What do you think is on deck for media relations in 2023?