Turning an idea into a story? If you’ve constructed your pitch properly, you have two key pieces of the puzzle already in place:
1. You’re sure your story is actually newsworthy in the eyes of journalists and the public. This means that whatever you’re sharing is relevant and/or useful to the interests of a segment of the audience of a particular media outlet. It’s something they need to know if they follow your brand, industry or field. It’s something that actually matters outside the organization you’re pitching for.
Compare the following examples:
A restaurant chain that is hugely popular in another part of the country is opening its first location in this area. This is newsworthy because customers will be excited, it’s a sign that the restaurant industry is growing in a certain area and it’s simply the kind of thing people talk about.
A restaurant chain is raising capital to fund expansion of new locations and the renovation of existing ones. This is newsworthy because it’s of interest to the business community, investors and consumers alike.
A restaurant chain has just hired a new Senior VP of Domestic Operations. Yawn.
2. You’re sure that you’re pitching the right media contacts. In other words, there’s a fit between what you’re pitching and what the journalists you’re reaching out to usually catch.
Continuing with the restaurant example above, this means being in touch with one or more of several types of journalists — those who cover the local business community in your area, the local restaurant scene and even financial reporters. These are precisely the people who are ready to read and respond to exactly the kind of news you’re sharing. After all, this is what they write about.
Now, the third piece of the puzzle is an angle. When it comes to pitching your story, finding the right angle will actually make or break a potential placement.
It’s time to come at PR pitching from a different angle—the angle of having an angle.
Story angle – definition
What is an angle in PR pitching? Essentially, it’s turning the facts of your pitch into a story. It’s framing it in a way that makes it easy for journalists to visualize why their readers, listeners, or viewers will be interested.
You’ve surely heard of the “W words” that quickly give the details of a story — What? When? Where? Who? Think of your PR pitch angle as the Why? part because that’s exactly the question that it answers.
And explaining the “Why?” can be just what moves your pitch from a “maybe” to a “yes” for journalists considering what to cover. After all, when you put all the pieces together for them in a convincing way, there is no other direction to go:
✅ It’s newsworthy
✅ You’re talking to the right person
✅ The journalist can easily see why this will be interesting to the audience
The next step is setting up interviews, getting some visuals, and putting the media spotlight on your story!
Types of story angles
While theoretically, the number of pitch angles is unlimited, it’s easy to see the same basic group of angles over and over. This happens for an understandable reason — these angles work!
Using an angle is important because it can change the conversation with journalists. Instead of “Do you want to cover this story?”, you can turn it into “Here’s how you can present the story”. You’re helping to do their work for them, and who doesn’t like that?
Go through this list and think about not only how it could apply to the news you’re sharing, but how often what you hear, read and watch in the media is framed in these terms:
The classic angle that drives everything from marketing campaigns to the pages of tech magazines and so much more, we’re always interested in what’s new.
The details of your pitch will affect the approach you take, but try to frame it in terms of what you’re sharing is deserving of interest because it represents a new way of doing things, some kind of leap forward, is different from the conventional way, etc.
Newer isn’t always better, but it is always more interesting. Also, journalists are always attracted to the “new” angle because it gives them a chance to be first or among the first to cover it.
If your pitch involves something that is new or can be framed as new, that has to be part of your angle when communicating without journalists about media coverage.
It protects us from danger, or solves a problem
The modern world is full of threats, and we’ve been conditioned to deal with an ever-growing list of dangers. Part of the reason is the never-ending media coverage given to threats we didn’t know about until yesterday. You want to be aware of things that protect you from these threats, right?
Of course you do.
Coming down a couple of threat levels, we also want to know about solutions to common problems. If your PR message is focused on something that protects, defends, solves or otherwise makes life easier, your angle is obvious.
Frame your pitch in terms of how what you’re sharing is going to attract attention because it’s the solution to something on the minds of lots of people who read, listen and watch the media every day.
This one might seem a bit vague because it can mean so many things, but it’s simply the idea that something that is out of the ordinary is interesting for that very reason.
You’re launching a new fashion brand? Ok, wake me up when it’s over. You’re launching a new fashion brand that uses organic plant materials grown in Tibet and harvested by monks who live in a temple on a mountain top? Ok, let’s talk about it!
A local theater group is performing a Shakespeare play? Oh, that’s nice. A local theater group is performing a Shakespeare play with all the characters adapted to the Star Trek universe and the audience is warned in advance that they’re likely to get splattered with paint? Wait, what? Let’s talk about this!
You get the idea. If there is any way to show that your pitch involves a twist on the normal, some variation on the expected – there’s your angle.
It’s in the news or on-trend
News trends are self-reinforcing. That is, they attract more stories about what people are already talking about. From serious topics like the pandemic and economic issues to, let’s say, less serious things like pop culture and celebrities, something that can be connected to what’s already getting coverage has a greater chance of getting coverage itself.
Riding a wave that’s already out there is much easier than trying to start your own. Keep an eye and what is consistently getting media coverage and look for any connections to the content of your pitch.
Another classic because it is so effective, controversy always drives interest. You have to be careful here, though, because walking a fine line in the eyes of public opinion can be hard. If your pitch is somehow connected with controversy in the media, you definitely have a shortcut to attention, but you’re also playing with fire.
Be sure to consider the possibility that you can’t appeal to both sides of a conflict, and you have to choose to go with one or the other. That might be what you want, but it might not.
Positioning yourself close to controversy is a risk/reward calculation. The payoff can be huge, but so can the consequences. Tread carefully!
How to find the right angle for your story
Follow the news
One of the best ways to find the angle right from the start is to look at the news itself. What are the most talked about stories right now and how can your client tie into them?
For example, with COVID-19, does your client have a product or are they doing something that ties into keeping us safe? Have they invented something that will help people through the quarantine?
Likewise, think of relevant holidays. For Easter or Passover, is your client a restaurant that could consider featuring a special menu? Would the chef be able to put together a one-off recipe for vegetarians, or something that’s kid-friendly that could be used within a feature?
Consider all angles and how you can maximize what’s relevant right now to insert your client as a source.
Take a closer look at your media contacts
Think about who you’re pitching and how it’s relevant. We are all busy nowadays, but throwing something blindly to the wind and hoping that it’ll help you achieve your desired outcome probably isn’t going to happen.
If you’re pitching an editor at the New York Times, make sure the editor has the beat in which your news is relevant to. You might be pitching a managing editor – but if their beat is automotive and your client has to do with weddings, you’re wasting your time – and also, risking a potential relationship.
It’s always wise to spend a few hours doing manual research and compile your media list based on reporters (whether they are staff or freelance) who have covered a similar subject in the past and pitch them with a quick, personalized line about their previous coverage and why your client’s story might interest them.
Experiment with different angles
Don’t lose hope! You might think the angle you have is the “be-all, end-all”, but perhaps, you’re not framing the story correctly.
Try a different subject line or alternate the leading paragraph. Could this reporter possibly be interested in interviewing someone different than you’re offering (maybe a customer versus the founder of the company)?
Work the pitch from all angles so that you present any and all alternatives. If you still don’t receive an answer, know that right now might not be the right time for the reporter to take on the piece and circle back at a later time. Be persistent, but never pushy!
Support your angle with visuals
It’s also critical to understand your desired publication’s audience. Are you hoping for a web write-up or a quick brief? Never underestimate the power of good, high-resolution photography.
Having visuals to support your angle can secure that placement even when your words might fail. Compile a Dropbox for the reporter or tease a single image in the body of your email for a quick “sneak peek” of what you’re talking about.
This is especially vital for TV when a crew might not be able to be sent out to do the story, but the news is still interested in a VO at the desk.
When you’ve got your angle ready to go, Prowly is where you can put everything together and create great media pitches that get attention. It can support you in PR storytelling, finding the right media contacts and organizing them in a PR CRM, creating aesthetically pleasing press releases, managing email pitches, maintaining journalist-friendly newsrooms, and more.
Cover photo by Ugo Mendes Donelli