Friday, January 9, 2009

Help me not make the Bad Pitch Blog :)

Our big State Games is coming up next weekend and now's the time for me to pitch a few human interest stories to a few reporters in the metro-Atlanta area. Below are the type of pitches I send out. Note: The blanks are where names and locations would be.

There's a well-known blog called the Bad Pitch Blog dedicated to crappy pitches. I
don't want to make a headline there. So, how would you improve these pitches?

Pitch 1: Dear _____,

I thought you might be interested in a story about a local man who will attempt to break a world record next weekend.

Elliott English will attempt to break the 10-year-old record next weekend at (specific) State Games next weekend. The record, a 1,000 pound deadlift, was set by Elliot's teammate Mark Bigham at World Games. Elliott plans to lift 1,500 pounds at the power lifting competition.

English will remain in the (city) area until mid-week when he travels to the Games. Both athletes train at the ______. To find out how one and now potentially two athletes from the same agency learn not only life and work skills at the center, but how to break world records, please call me so I can set up the interview.

Pitch 2: Dear ______,

I thought you would you be interested a feature story about a group of older adults with special needs and how they stay connected to their community, when typically most in their population tend to live sedentary lives.

For several reasons, people with intellectual disabilities risk leading sedentary lives. The reasons: many are cut off from social activities and making friends; and some are not as likely as others to be employed or live independently, according to studies by the University of Massachusetts and Yale University. But this group of former ____________ who no longer compete, use music and performance to the odds.

With this special needs choir members perform for the community and at church and develop friendships. The choir sings and signs _______, ________, _______ and ________. Last year the group performed at ________ in front of their former teammates. And they wore medals too, given by the choir director.

To find out how the choir works in the lives of the former athletes, please give me a call.

Here are a few tips I picked up from other PR people and at conferences:

1. Pitch a story one to one reporter at a time. And tell them that. You can even say, "you're the only writer I'm sending this story to, so will you let me know by (day), (date) if you're interested in pursuing this story?"

2. Just like any writer would do, think of something you would want to tell your family over dinner. That's your pitch. Other families would like to hear these stories too.

3. Keep the pitch short.

4. Go ahead and tell the story as you would see in the newspaper: use a good lead and a nutgraph to show why the story is important.

So, PR people: What are your favorite tips for story pitching?

Reporters/writers: What works for you? What doesn't?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Twitter, Twitter, not so bitter about you anymore: Plus, a Twitter testimony from writer Melissa Oyler

I shrugged off Twitter this summer because I didn’t understand it. One, I couldn’t figure out how to find other public relations people on this social networking site to follow and two, why would anyone care “What I’m doing”? After messaging a few people and stealing some of their people to follow, I got it. You can keep up with friends and share information and interesting articles with your e-colleagues on Twitter. I think you should check it out, too.

I follow 62 people who are friends, other PR people or my newest favorite friends: social media experts. Some people follow a 1,000 people or plus, but I like to only follow a few people that know the most about PR and social media. Otherwise, the conversation gets too noisy for me. But you can connect with me here, if you like. ☺

Here’s what I learned during those first few months:
- Try not to tweet much more than providing an interesting link or a light-hearted note of what news is breaking or something funny heard in the office. And something encouraging to others is also very nice.
- It’s also very important to be quiet and listen first. Just like joining a new real person group or starting a new job, no one really likes a Ms. Smarty pants declaring undeniable truths without introducing herself gently first.
- Execs tweet about important meetings or newsy stuff. Or, they tweet about a new kick-butt product or their next TV interview time and channel.
You can also find out what’s being said about you and/or your company by using these links:
2. Alerts will be e-mailed when someone mentions our organization.
3. Twitscoop.

I ended up with positive results.

With Twitter, I was able to connect with top-notch PR social media people, who otherwise may have been hard to reach, like the CEO of Zappos. Several of the people I followed reviewed my first social media strategy and offered help. They answered my questions about how to get You Tube to open as a TV screen on a Web page and what in the world ROI is. Still haven't worked on either of those things, but at least I sorta know what they are!

In an e-mail, I asked my a colleague and talented writer Melissa Oyler, who has her own blog and is working on her first novel, to share what she’s gotten out of Twitter:

Melissa wrote:
“What I expected to get out of it was some social networking that would hopefully lead to increased visits to my blog, What I didn't expect was for it to change my life.

I don't know most of my Twitter followers in real life. This makes it different for me than myspace and Facebook. I found followers based on common interests - graphic design, writing mostly. What has resulted is a huge outpouring of creativity among me and my new peers. When I was writing a novel in November, my peers provided encouragement and I was able to track my progress and theirs. It even helped me to jump start my new web site,, which I had thought was still a year or more out.

I was sick this week and spent a couple of days barely online. I found I was just as curious what my Twitter networkers were doing as I was my real-life friends. When I'm having a bad day, they are there to provide encouragement. We know about each other's families, likes and dislikes, jobs. Some of them are now my friends on Facebook and some of them I email and Instant Message with. When I say Twitter has changed my life, I mean it. I will never again lament for the days in which I have creative buddies again. I will never again feel lonely working from home. And yes, my blog has gotten more hits! Which in turn makes me want to write more because I know they are reading.”

You can follow Melissa here.