If you are looking to promote your company or cause, product or service, then here’s one thing you most certainly won’t want to do: throw one fastball after another at the same list of media outlets.
The baseball metaphor is timeless because one of the indispensable ingredients in the success of any hard-throwing hurler is his ability to mix up hitters with “off-speed” stuff. A curve ball here, a slider there and then—bam!—the fastball suddenly seems to have that extra zip on it. The 90 mph pitch seems like 100 mph and becomes virtually unhittable.
Fail to develop those reliable alternatives, though, and soon batters will be able to time the fastball and start knocking the ball all over the park.
Howie Danzik knows something about the need to keep hitters guessing, having been a standout high school pitcher. Danzik possessed a fastball clocked at over 90 mph, but he also had the good sense to mix in sliders and curveballs. That was before an arm injury prompted Danzik to shift gears to a career in sports medicine/physical therapy.
A native of the Philadelphia area, Danzik later channeled his competitive instincts on the baseball diamond to a different playing field: he has built a very successful Amway business working with World Wide DreamBuilders (WWDB) organization.
When he presents business options, Danzik doesn't force a fastball pitch to everybody--instead gathering what a given individual's interest may be and then tailoring his approach accordingly.
For PR practitioners connecting with the newsroom, there's an imperative for a similar level of nuance. Otherwise, if you play the bull-in-a-china-shop role, that’s the equivalent of daring decision makers (reporters, editors, producers of one sort or another) to knock your news releases out of consideration.
More specifically, your predictable self-serving pitch gets relegated, often in the blink of an eye, to the trash bin. And believe me, based on my 20 years as a reporter, it doesn’t take long to cement a reputation as a strictly “fastball pitcher.” That’s when the media develops an especially itchy “DELETE” finger.
So mix things up—become less predictable and thereby more effective for your organization:
If you promote, say, dog food manufactured in Elmhurst, that doesn’t prevent you from submitting a colorful photo of a father-and-son flying a kite in a community over in Lake County to publications in and around that spot.
If you want a television station to pursue a profile on your environmental non-profit group’s 25th anniversary, you can still offer up a suggestion on the inspirational military veteran who lives two doors down from your home in Evanston.
Starting a unique high-tech business in January? That doesn’t preclude you from thinking about a great romantic story about the couple in Rolling Meadows who are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary right before Valentine’s Day.
For unimaginative, and unrealistic, PR types, each of these scenarios represents a “curveball.” In the past, when I have championed this approach in workshops and one-on-one interactions, a certain uncomprehending glaze washes over their faces. Even though some might murmur half-hearted agreement with this tack, they remain blind to the connection between selfless suggestions and lasting public relations and media relations success.
What this approach requires, of course, is the investment of time in activities that don’t hold the guarantee of immediate return on investment. It’s about doing the little things that, when added up, amount to much: figuring out the contact information for an editor you have never contacted before, navigating a website so you can upload a photo or two without any PR strings attached.
One piece of good news here is that we’re not talking about neglecting your usual PR and marketing efforts. And then there’s this bit of really great news: this approach is just time-consuming and seemingly unrewarding enough to be practiced by precious few.
As a result, you will face little competition. And over time, as you build deeper and stronger relationships with decision-makers whom you want to influence, you will reap even better results for your clients.