Hitting the Home Run: 5 Pitching Tactics from the Associated Press

by Affect Team on December 21, 2012

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Recently, a few members of the Affect team attended a PRSA-NY panel, “Inside the Media” at the Associated Press (AP). The event panel consisted of three journalists: Beth Harpaz, Travel Editor, John Simons, Technology and Media Editor and Amanda Barrett, New York News Editor whose goal was to discuss how PR practitioners can further collaborate with reporters in a mutually beneficial way.

There were quite a few interesting discussions that took place during the panel, as well as important takeaways, including the following pitching tactics to remember:

1.     The AP does not accept 99% of surveys. To be accepted, it would need to be “as good as a political poll.”

One of the most interesting takeaways was that, in order to be accepted, surveys cannot be conducted online. If you think about it, aside from the presidential poll, can you think of a survey that has not been conducted online in the past few years? No? Me either. If you’re pitching out a survey for a client, save yourself the time and leave the AP off your list.

2.     Reporters are not going to write two stories on the same topic (maybe not even in the same year!).

Once they have written on a news story, they’re already on to the next. Keep this in mind, especially as you’re conducting media relations for a client story hijacking campaign. In place of offering commentary on a story that the reporter just wrote, offer commentary on the larger issue or trend at hand. While you might not see immediate coverage as a result, the reporter will most likely keep your email on hand for the next time a similar news story comes around.

3.     Treat your email subject line as an article headline.

If your email subject line isn’t clear, targeted and interesting, they will move on. Remember to put as much time and effort into the subject line as you do the body of your email. It’s just as important, if not more. Your subject line is a tight window of opportunity to showcase why your pitch is worth the reporter’s time. If you can, keep it to 40 characters long, including spaces.

4.     Understand that the AP is not a local news station.

While the AP is an American news agency, they have global reach; they’re looking for that “big bang” story that can translate to a global audience. Do you have a client in New York City with a fascinating announcement? Before pitching it to the AP, do your due diligence and work to tie it into a global issue. Is a company in Europe doing similar work to your client here in the U.S., pointing to an industry trend? If so, use that in your pitch to sell the story. If you can make the case for a trend by offering other companies as examples, do it. The bigger the impact, the better the story.

5.     Have a sense of timing as well as a sense of the reporter’s needs.

What are the issues of the day? What’s breaking? Take a half an hour every morning to do a news roundup with your team. Make sure that you’re constantly monitoring the industries your clients fall under. If news is breaking that your client could speak to, make sure you have the processes in place to monitor for that.

In addition to being aware of the breaking news, make sure that you understand the reporter’s needs and remember that your relationship with the reporter should be mutually beneficial. You’re looking to get your client placed in the news, and the reporter is looking for a reliable, trustworthy, honest source. Ask yourself, “How can I make these two agendas meet in the middle?”

Here at Affect, we’ve had some great success in securing opportunities with the AP, most recently for one of our clients, Radware, which can be seen here. In addition to these AP tactics, Affect continues to leverage our trademark strategies of trend intervention and story hijacking for media success.

Have you had success pitching the AP? If so, leave your tips in the comments below. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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