PR Training

Stop Taking Orders and Seize Control of What You Pitch

Most PR pros get to build their own media lists (WHO they pitch) and determine the way to phrase an email (HOW they pitch). But too often they relinquish control of the WHAT.

To earn the placements you really want, you must seize the authority to choose WHAT you pitch. You may need to be subtle about it, but you can do it.

Here are three different ways you can do this, based on conversations I had with three consulting clients recently:

The first PR pro I spoke with asked how to identify the best media influencers for her particular company. She recognizes her company’s products are essentially commodities. And that led her to ask who she should be targeting, if not the beat reporters who would typically cover that kind of product. I asked her:

  • What kind of story/placement are you envisioning that includes brand names and/or actual products?
  • Who writes/produces those kinds of stories? 

After thinking that through, she realized she needed to tap into a different category of story — something such as a lifestyle piece about how people use products like hers, where she could plug in a spokesperson. So we spent the rest of our time talking about those kinds of angles. Key point here: Once she stepped back and changed WHAT she was pitching, then it became obvious WHO she needs to reach.

The second pro had been tasked with earning top-tier coverage for a major donation to his nonprofit. The thing is: Neither of us were sure that the dollar size of the donation would be big enough to attract coverage, despite what his president thought. So he wisely tweaked WHAT he pitched to be interesting to the WHO that his bosses were dictating. He dug into the backstory of the donor, which had some promising novelty and connection to the region his media targets care about.

The third pro had already done the hard thinking — she’s pitching a startup software company in a very competitive space. She knew she couldn’t sell the very technical distinctions between how their product works versus its more high-profile competitors, so she had already prepared an interesting founder angle about her CEO’s unique military background, and we tightened it up.

The takeaway is: Never accept the premise that you have no control over WHAT you pitch.


Michael Smart teaches PR professionals how to dramatically increase their positive media placements. He’s engaged regularly by organizations like General Motors, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Georgia Tech to help their media relations teams reach new levels of success. Get more media pitching knowledge from Michael Smart here.

Want to dive deeper into Smart’s tips for landing more media coverage? Check out his “Secrets of Media Relations Masters” workshop or his “Crafting the Perfect Pitch” online course. 

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