Natalie Alatriste|Sep 10, 2019

Getting a positive viral or a front-page feature story in a major publication, like the Washington Post or the New York Times, is said to be both a client’s and publicist’s dream. Not only is the exposure great for branding purposes, but if done strategically a media placement of this nature leads to credibility for your business and can even help reach business goals.

While many may think they have the golden ticket, not all pitches warrant national attention. In fact, there are plenty of pet peeves that PR pros tend to still use. And considering there are now more than six PR pros for every single journalist, the competition is tougher than ever.

So then what, exactly, are the elements to build a strong national pitch? Sadly, there’s no such thing as a perfect formula. It often depends on things like timing, whom you speak with, what your angle is, etc. However, there are definitely a few factors to consider when ideating your next pitch.

Recently, I was able to get my client’s positive news story published all over the world—and it also happened to be the most-read story in the Associated Press the weekend it posted. It resulted in over 500+ news stories and 700M+ impressions in more than 20 countries.

For a separate client last year, I also had success with a front-page feature in the Washington Post, leading to a massive increase in traffic to their website.

How did it happen? Through my experiences, I’ve found the best results using a mix of these elements:

  1. Always try to live the experience to better tell the story. As media experts and storytellers, we can find details that can make a huge difference. Push to meet the people you’re pitching in person or see the facility, program, etc., for yourself. Listening to people, their passions and witnessing events will help you sell the story.
  2. Offer strong visuals. With the takeover of digital media, pinpointing good visuals is arguably the most important aspect to a story, even for print. This is especially true now more than ever. Don’t skimp on this, and make sure to offer the visuals up front in the pitch.
  3. Incorporate statistics, if possible. Showcase the importance or significance of the story through numbers. Reporters get hundreds of pitches a day, so this is a quick and easy way to share the impact of your story.
  4. Find the national hook/angle. Think to yourself: Why would this be important to an audience across the country? If you come up short, reconsider if you have a national story. It’s OK if you do—as mentioned, not every story deserves national attention.
  5. Know your audience. Spend time researching the right reporters. Don’t just pull a list from prior outreach or a monitoring service, like Cision or Meltwater. Reporters will appreciate you more if you do your due diligence.
  6. Put in the time. It’s important to know that major national and front-page feature stories require a lot of time from you, your client and the reporter. Preparation is key to make sure all parties are willing to participate beforehand.

To reiterate, there is no perfect formula for a viral or major national story, but the elements listed above can help create a strong narrative that has national appeal with the potential to “go viral.”

Just keep in mind: Taking the time to learn the end goal and the narrative a company wants to tell is the most important part—and the hands-on experience could make or break your ability to tell the story correctly.


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