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Writing pitches with punch

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Sharon Fenster

Sharon Fenster

Sharon Fenster

A public-relations executive’s greatest challenge is to help her organization stand out from the crowd, to get the editor’s attention, to keep it and to translate it into ink.

Believe it or not, if you follow a few simple strategies you are almost guaranteed success:

Create a seasonal tie-in. What is the central focus of your nonprofit? If, for example, it is health-based, one option is to look at the time of year. Spring ushers in allergy season.

Other hooks, such as greater physical activity or an annual event like National Alcohol Awareness Month, also can be used as the basis of your pitch.

Select a spokesperson for your organization – someone who is knowledgeable about the subject. This person will be your “expert,” speaking to your issue with reporters and producers, giving background and tips on how to survive the season.

After that, find a case study. Finally, locate a third-party source from a related organization – someone who also has expertise in the subject.

All of these steps will broaden the scope of your pitch and provide balance by giving another point of view.

Package your story. Make the reporter’s job easy by providing an objective story line. This will increase your credibility and make editors take notice. Remember, the less the editor has to do, the better.

Write a backgrounder that explains how to recognize the symptoms. Then provide your survival tips with quotes from your expert and your third-party source.

Craft a fact sheet that can be used as a sidebar. If you want to pitch broadcast venues, then offer both of your spokespeople, as well as your case study.

Flesh out the segment idea by presenting a draft of how it would unfold on-camera.

Next, pursue lifestyle editors in print or online (now your work will be simple because you can use all of your research and the same press materials).

Finally, and before you dial the editor’s number, don’t forget to develop a compelling phone script that is to the point and evidence-based.

Use current events. Once again, timing is everything. You must work fast, otherwise editors will not respond.

Think: has some recent legislation been passed that sets a trend in motion and affects your organization and the people you serve?

If so, this is your opportunity to present one of your staffers as an expert on the subject and to raise the profile of your nonprofit.

Write a pitch that details the trend and provides quotes from one of your lead staffers. Offer that staffer as an interview subject.

For example, if you are a social-service agency and legislation is passed that gives parity to mental health treatments, then you could raise the profile of your organization by setting up a meeting with a reporter.

Conduct a survey. Media outlets are well-known for covering pitches that point to important developments – especially ones that uncover some form of malpractice or misrepresentation.

It is most important that your survey be large enough to be statistically significant. If it is not, then editors will not take it seriously.

Keep in mind that the more startling your results, the greater the chance that an editor will respond.

If possible, provide a case study or two that underscores the credibility of your findings.

Finally, secure your pitch even further by laying out the background that led up to it, and provide spokesperson to elaborate.

When you use any of these techniques you will be “making a difference”– raising the consciousness of your audience and helping them understand or discover an important idea.

Remember this as you work. It will provide you with the inspiration you need to score a home-run.


Sharon Fenster is a nonprofit marketing consultant based in New York City and an Affiliate with Shoestring Creative Group (www.shoestringgroup.com/SharonFenster).  Sharon can be reached at affiliates@shoestringgroup.com or 1-888-835-6236.

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