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Does Michael Smart Live Up to His Name?

February 25, 2013

Does Michael Smart Live Up to His Name?

by Diane W. Jones, MPA, APR

If you were fortunate enough to have attended the Professional Development Seminar on Feb.13, then you know the answer to the question is a resounding YES!

Popular media pitching coach, Michael Smart shared with seminar attendees the seven secrets of new media relations superstars. As one of the 50 who attended this presentation, and a newly designated “superstar,” I am compelled to use my newfound powers for the good of others, which is why I am going to share a few of these secrets with you in this blog post!

We all know pitches should be kept brief but according to Smart, reporters can tell within the first sentence or two whether or not they are going to read on. After discussing this topic with a friendly reporter, they determined a first email pitch should be no longer than three paragraphs and DO NOT paste the release copy at the bottom of the email – it just makes it look longer.

Tailoring your pitch to a specific reporter is a must these days but it takes more than simply adding their name to the email and referencing the type of beat they cover. Smart suggests taking the time to read earlier works by the reporter to learn about what types of stories they cover. Afterwards, reference the work and explain to the reporter how your pitch relates to a previous story. The pitch needs to be personal in order to spark interest.

Pitching traditional reporters and pitching bloggers require different approaches, according to Smart. It’s OK to place more information in an email pitch to a single-author blogger because many times, what you email will end up in the actual blog post. Position everything they will need for a post directly in the first email.

What is the worst thing you can say to a reporter when you call them? “Did you get my email?” This line seems to have trumped “no comment” when it comes to the biggest no-no in reporter to PR professional communications. Even if you are calling a reporter to in fact, find out if they received your email, say something else! A simple, “I wanted to call you to add an important fact I just learned regarding some information I sent you a few days ago,” will work nicely.

Hearing Michael Smart speak at the February Professional Development Seminar was a real treat but it was just the icing on the proverbial “cake.” Earlier that day, Glenn Selig, Don W. Stacks and Andy Bowen discussed how we can use measurement effectively in our communication campaigns. One important tip I took away from the discussion, was how benchmarks are important not just at the beginning and the end of a campaign but are necessary throughout the campaign, in order to determine if you are staying on track.

Suzanne Grant, APR shared some great tips and stories on how she handles crisis communications as the media relations professional for Progress Energy Florida. She also introduced us to a great polling by texting technique!

We also heard some wonderful information on the future of journalism from Jeff Houch of the Tampa Tribune, Honey Rand and Samara Sodas. A recurring theme during this discussion was how busy and overwhelmed reporters are today, and it is just going to become worse in the future. By giving reporters all the components they need for a good story from background information, video components and interview subjects, you are more likely to be successful in getting a story published.

Thanks to all the amazing speakers at this Professional Development Seminar. It was awesome!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jeff Widmer permalink
    February 25, 2013 9:15 am

    Thank you, Diane, for reminding us to take the time to make the pitch personal.

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