PRSA Portland Metro Chapter

Pitch Perfect with Michael Smart workshop recap

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Nov 13

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By Erin Merz, M.A., APR

Pitching journalists is an art, especially in today’s ever-changing media landscape. Last week, a room full of Portland-area, seasoned PR pros learned to pitch perfect from one of our nation’s most sought after media relations coaches, Michael Smart.

Michael’s pitching pointers were beautifully coupled with recent, real-world examples. He demonstrated that with a little research, creativity and resolve, it’s possible to bring even the most seemingly mundane stories to life in high profile media. From focusing on the process to spotlighting real people, or RPs as they are called in the newsroom (execs and PR pros don’t qualify!), Michael took us inside the minds of journalists and then showed us how to effectively deliver pitches.

To close the four-hour workshop, Michael asked us to write down three action items to implement based on what we learned. Mine are to:

  1. Write shorter pitches. So short that it hurts!
  2. Be tenacious. It’s often easy to give up after facing repeated rejection. If you have a story you know is good, you deserve to have a reporter consider it.
  3. Be confident about picking up the phone to follow-up on an email pitch. When done correctly, it can produce big results.

I walked away with dozens of insightful tips that I will immediately implement in my media outreach. The core message of the morning: as a PR pro, do everything you can to make a journalist’s life easier.

Here are some more takeaways from workshop attendees:

“While listening to Michael’s presentation, I kept thinking of my student, Mario, who was raised in the Philippines. One of Michael’s tips is to tie into current news stories. Mario was willing to talk about how Typhoon Haiyan is impacting his life, so Marylhurst pointed me directly to a news editor at The Oregonian. I wrote a three-paragraph pitch and sent it off. An hour-long telephone interview took place and this story appeared above the fold on the front page of the opinion section three days later. It was wonderful to be able to help my student and his friend reach out in such a quick and effective way.”

– Kathy Hubbell, APR, M.S., Fellow PRSA
Adjunct Professor in Public Relations, Marylhurst University

“It’s easy to see why Michael is so well-respected by journalists. His proven techniques provide exactly what they’re looking for: newsworthiness and time savings.”

-Joe Lang
Media Relations Director, Pacific University

“I found Michael’s information and style of delivery to be a perfect balance of useful content and mentorship. I walked away with a number of practical pointers that I can use in our North America PR efforts, as well as in other regions of the world. I look forward to future, more in-depth workshops with him.”

-Amanda M. Roe
Global Public Relations Manager/Research Manager, Biamp Systems

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