Brien McDaniel is the Director of Communications and Senior Associate of FXFOWLE Architects, a firm committed to innovative design inspired by urbanism, technology and sustainable strategies. He has over 20 years of communications, media relations, and special event management experience for higher education and cultural institutions, and architectural practices
by Brien McDaniel
Now that you’ve planned wisely and pinpointed your targets, you need to create a perfect pitch to engage your clients and audiences. Each new building, project win or milestone, and design award your firm receives can be a significant opportunity to increase your visibility and advance your brand – if you have the right story to tell.
Here are a few tips that can help you create a successful pitch:
Set-up the Pitch / Position the Story: Before you pick up the phone, send an email or draft a newsletter, you need ask some basic questions: “Is it newsworthy?”, “Does it have value and advance my brand?”, “What do I want to accomplish?” and “What about it will be of interest outside my firm, especially editors?” In order to create a more compelling and relevant story to pitch to the press, research your project to gather background information and material, develop a topical news angle and a few key messages, and then secure an expert spokesperson.
The Pitch: Now that you are ready to pitch, you should decide which publications and outlets to contact. Don’t forget to research what type of stories the publication publishes and the editor/reporter covers. One of the best ways to do this is through social media. Create a personal account on Twitter and follow all of the publications you want to pitch, and don’t forget to follow editors and reporters. It will give you a good idea of the types of news and stories they pursue and publish. When you are ready to pitch, keep these suggestions in mind:
- Email your pitch, follow-up with a phone call or another email a few days later.
- While on the phone with the editor or reporter, be sure to resend your pitch – don’t make him/her search for the email you previously sent.
- Pitch the story, not the project (or your firm).
- Keep your pitch brief and focused; pitch only one idea or news angle.
- Once the article is published, don’t forget to say “thank you.”
Build Influence / Increase Visibility: Although the A/C/E industry is moving away from traditional press relations, there are many options for communicating your news and content across multiple platforms. From 140 characters, a 1,000-word press release, an e-newsletter, a personalized e-mail pitch, or self-publishing, you can use a variety of strategic approaches to effectively build your influence and increase your visibility across all media outlets.
Lessons Learned: Each publicist has his/her own approach, and there are no set rules or guidelines. But I keep the following in mind for each story, event, initiative and project milestone I pitch. I hope it just might help you pitch perfectly, too.
- Think 360° – Each project has multiple angles, don’t settle on just one.
- Do your homework – Read A/C/E publications; ask your clients what they read; follow your favorite editors and reporters on social media.
- Do most of the work for the editor/reporter. Be organized. Be available. Be thorough.
- Expand your communications team to include subconsultants, client PR consultants and, in some cases, the client. This will (1) strengthen your message (2) provide consistency in messages and images (3) broaden your reach (4) and add depth to your story.
- Let go of the control (i.e. social media). Once you put it “out there,” it’s “out there.”
- It takes a long time for things to happen quickly; opportunities don’t end when the milestone is over.