Posted by Tom Foremski - January 11, 2010
I'm often asked by PR people about the best type of pitches. There is a widespread belief in the PR community that there is a way to make the perfect pitch about a client company and everything will fall into place.
My answer is always the same: first, make sure you know the publication before you pitch. And make sure you have a good understanding of your client's business.
While there are lots of bad pitches out there, there are also lots of good pitches. Even with a perfect pitch, sometimes a reporter won't write the story because there is not enough time, there's too much else to do.
But here's a killer pitch. It's one that I haven't heard yet but it's only a matter of time.
" ... and we have the ability to drive a lot of traffic to your story."
In a world where reporters are increasingly rewarded not on the quality of their work but on how much traffic their stories attract -- this becomes the killer pitch.
The pitch wouldn't have to be spelled out directly, agencies that show they can drive traffic, will be able imply that they will drive traffic to specific news stories.
Fortunately, PR agencies don't know how to drive traffic to news stories.
I say fortunately because the other side of the coin is: they won't drive traffic to stories that they don't like. They would be able to exert some control and favor certain news stories over others. That's valuable leverage.
And it might not take much extra traffic to favor a news story.
News aggregators love to pick up on "popular" or "trending" stories. A relatively small traffic boost from a PR agency can become magnified if the story makes it onto a 'most popular' list.
Will PR agencies figure out how to drive traffic? Maybe.
I know some are thinking about this topic, such as Christine Perkett at PerkettPR. (@missusp).
But there are lots of ethical issues. When pageviews are a surrogate for payments, driving traffic then becomes a proxy for a payment to the writer.
But what would be wrong with a PR agency driving traffic to news stories about a client? Nothing. Agencies are hired to drive attention to a client.
This is why using pageviews as a basis for setting compensation for reporters is wrong because it is open to abuse. And it can harm the reputation of reporters even if their motives are pristine.
Would reporters write negative stories to protect their reputations from accusations they were benefiting from PR boosted traffic?
At least for now, we are fortunate that PR companies don't know how to drive traffic to news stories.
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