Quick Guide: Pitch Calendar

A pitch calendar, or editorial calendar, is the guide to follow throughout the year when pitching your company or client to the media. An editorial calendar also is a useful tool to keep your monthly newsletter or blog posts on track. Developing an editorial calendar takes some time initially and requires a bit of follow up as the year progresses. 

Research

Identify your company’s most compelling story ideas, and begin gathering the information needed for your calendar. The idea is to match up your stories with similar anticipated topics in relevant publications. Make a list of the magazines, trade publications and newspapers you wish to target. There’s often an online media kit to review. These are designed for advertising buys, but if you’re lucky, you’ll find an editorial calendar as well that lists the topics the publication plans to cover over the next year. Take a look at the topics the publication will feature on a monthly basis. In addition to monthly features, there often are on-going topics and columns that might align with your story ideas.

If you’re creating your own in-house editorial calendar to help manage blogs or newsletter themes, simply brainstorm a list of topics that help convey your organization’s key messaging and organize them by month.

Develop

Create your editorial calendar in a spreadsheet, Word document or a calendar template. At Bottom Line, the editorial calendar for our blog posts is written on a whiteboard for all to see. Information to include would be the:

  • Publication name
  • Topic
  • Publication issue date
  • Pitch deadline
  • Editor’s name and contact information

Execute

Once the calendar is complete, keep it visible to review on a weekly or monthly basis. Many publications have a hefty lead time. An article about veterans to appear in a November publication might need to be pitched as early as June. Ask the editor what their deadline is. It’s also helpful to do a little research about the publication and target your pitch to the editor most lined up with your topic. With a little planning up front, you’ll have a pitch calendar to work on throughout the year. Patience and persistence will help get your story published.

Uncertain Times Require Strong Brand Messages

In uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to connect with and speak to your customers proactively and on a regular basis to maintain and strengthen the relationships you’ve built with them over time. It’s also key to catching the eye of new prospects. Your brand, your products and your corporate reputation are not luxury items – they are necessities. And they lead the way to increasing profits.

Not Always Advertising

The strategy of choice for many is not advertising. No matter how clever, funny, dramatic or aesthetically pleasing, advertising is self-serving. It is a pitch. No matter how cleverly disguised, we all recognize advertising as a pitch. Yet there is no company on the planet spending a billion dollars a year on public relations. In advertising, there are more than 25.

In today’s social media world of Web 2.0, you can now get better mileage from your public relations dollar than you can from an advertising dollar. Let’s take a look at news releases, one of the better known aspects of public relations, in terms of their online value and how they can outshine advertising in terms of return on investment.

Pre-determined Shelf Life 

Banner ads and other paid advertisement have a pre-determined shelf life. Press releases don’t. Their ROI has a longer horizon. You can calculate this by the traffic to your website and your partner websites over the life of the news release and its associate landing pages and media. The return from a news release may last for several years when posted on your website. According to several recent studies:

  • Press releases and their associated media show up in organic search engine results, which get more than 94 percent of all clicks online (organic versus paid);
  • Press releases have an upfront (known) costs, but no incremental or variable costs compared to pay-per-click advertising, which can vary day to day. For example, the cost of the key term “press release distribution” was $1.57 per click in September 2007 and increased to $5.14 a year later as competition of the keyword increased;
  • Links distributed through press releases allow for search engines to find those pages, providing credibility with search engines and help in boosting page ranks and organic listing, (ads don’t) and directing web traffic to a call-to-action page.

Given the greater credibility and return on investment, perhaps you want to devote more of your marketing budget to public relations, as well as a greater portion on your public relatiosnbudget to SEO and social media-optimized press releases. This can help reduce costs and increase exposure, improving the potential return on investment. It also means understanding journalism and journalists in the social media age.

Journalism in the Digital Age 

An interesting  recent study from the University of Indiana School of Journalism: “The American Journalist in the Digial Age: The Findings”  provides some key insights into the impact of social media. This survey continues the series of major national studies of U.S. journalists begun in 1971 by sociologist John Johnstone and continued in 1982, 1992, and 2002 by David Weaver and his colleagues at Indiana University. Much as the U.S. Census does for the general population, these studies provide an important decennial measure of the pulse of U.S. journalism. This present study, based on online interviews with 1,080 U.S. journalists that were conducted during the fall of 2013, updates these findings and adds new ones concerning the role of social media in journalism.

Overall, the findings suggest that the past decade has had significant effects on U.S. journalists, some more negative than positive. Read it. Enjoy. Learn.

http://news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2014/05/2013-american-journalist-key-findings.pdf

Mobile Marketing Equals Concise Content

Health care is a complex subject. Social media, on the other hand, tends to be 140 characters or less, especially when it’s read on mobile devices during the brief digestible attention spans of today’s consumers. Since we operate in the space where these two concepts meet, we’ve become pretty skilled at communicating in-depth ideas in a few short sentences.

Here are some of our favorite tips for creating concise mobile marketing in healthcare:

  • A picture’s worth 1,000 words. No, really. A photo will build higher interest and communicate more fully than a lengthy LinkedIn post, for example. Choose a compelling image and place a key phrase or stat across the top of it.
  • Use mobile to drive people to additional content. Good news: Your mobile content doesn’t have to be the be-all, end-all. You can use it to generate interest and action that leads to more detailed information. Customers can click a link to visit your website, read the full news release, or attend an informational community event.
  • Why should the patient care? When in doubt, bottom line it. Why does this piece of information matter to your customers (whether they be patients or others)? Put THAT info first in your mobile content. The details can be supported via links like we mentioned above.
  • Practice being concise by highlighting key phrases. Grab your organization’s latest white paper, news release or event announcement and highlight the short phrases or sections that best capture its importance. Those are the items you can build posts around.
  • Craft your posts in series. Don’t try to say everything related to a news item in one single post. Spread it out over a series of posts that highlight different aspects of the news. Remember, mobile content has a short life-span, so releasing your posts in a series can also help with overall visibility.
  • It’s okay to not use full sentences. Look at our second bullet. See how we said, Good news: instead of, The good news is that… It saves space and gets to the point faster.

Now, we’re off to check the latest mobile healthcare headlines. Is yours there?

Easy Recipe for Making Decisions

I’ve told my kids that the way to manage a household is to address needs in the priority order of the Three Ps: People first, pets second, plants last.

It’s seemed to work for our family (of course it helped that we never had a pet!)

Making marketing communications decisions is often a more complex business. In crisis situations, for example, you need to account for many moving parts. In messaging decisions, personalities, politics and positioning come into play. In planning decisions, time and budget constraints often require a delicate balance. How can you make an efficient decision, so you can move forward effectively? There’s no one recipe that works every time, but a few key ingredients usually produce a good result.  

1. Mission comes first. When weighing options, put them up against the organization’s mission or the project’s goal. If they don’t align, you’ve got more work to do.

2. Know your audience or customers and be true to his/her/their needs. The art of decision-making in communications requires the marriage of the message you want to share with the needs of your audience.

3. Say out loud what you’re thinking, to someone else. Do the gut check. Be open to honest feedback. It helps every time.

4. Follow the logical progression. Think beyond the moment. “If I do this, what might result next, and next?” Taking the long view might give you a different immediate perspective.

5. Be true to yourself, and let go if you have to. There are times when there’s no one, right decision. Accept it and move on. There are other times when you’ll be over-ruled, or even when you’re unhappy about a decision someone else makes. That’s when you really need to exercise good judgment and decide to release the outcome. You’ll be calmer, and the work will advance regardless.

It’s not as easy as deciding to make dinner now and water the plants tomorrow, I know. But by keeping in mind this mix of decision-making ingredients, you’re more likely to avoid a half-baked result in favor of an informed, defensible decision.