How to Pitch: How Someecards, Tin Shingle PR Leads & HARO Reveal Hot Topics in the News


The act of pitching, from creating a "perfect pitch" to landing a placement because of said pitch, is a business art form that even the best publicists work regularly at improving upon.  Whether you're a PR pro or a small business owner just dipping your toes into the world of DIY public relations, there is always room for improvement.

In today's How to Pitch series post, I'm going to talk about three sources (one that may surprise you) that I use to gain insight into the hot topics that will be relevant to the media, which serve as reminders and inspirations to me when working on my short lead** pitches.

**short lead - pitches that you're sending to outlets such as newspapers, blogs, websites, television and weekly magazines.  These can turn into stories within hours to days after you pitch them, so the stories you're pitching them should be relevant to what is happening now or in the near future.

The bottom line is, the short lead media all tend to hover around the same hot topics every week and/or month, finding new and interesting ways to cover them, and it's PR placement gold if you can find a way to "spin" you or your business into these stories, or find a way to piggyback onto them.  Hot topics could include anything from national holidays to a Hollywood divorce to the upcoming election.  The point is, they are the stories the media will be talking about across all types of outlets, and this means you're chances of getting on air (or in print or online) increase if you can find a newsworthy way to attach yourself to them.

But how do you make sure you even know what hot topics the media is buzzing about?  Well of course there is the obvious: read the news outlets - especially those you want to be covered in, but also the major news providers in order to see what is "newsworthy".  Every morning I wake up and read everything from to Slate to to the major daily newspapers and oh so much more throughout the day (thanks mom & dad for forcing those speed reading classes on me in high school).  But there are other ways I measure what is buzzworthy now and what will be in the near future, and I'm going to give you a few of these today. 

PR LEAD SOURCES (Tin Shingle, HARO, etc):
If you're doing your own PR, chances are you're subscribed to a PR Lead generating service of some sort (where members of the media place queries looking for experts, products, anecdotes etc. for upcoming stories).  You could be getting these from people like us here at Tin Shingle (where we send out PR Leads 2x a week and upload them constantly to the website) or you could be signed up for a more general service such as Help A Reporter Out, either way they actually provide more information than simply reporter queries.

I read scan through PR Leads sent from both of the above sources daily, and I look at them with two eyes...My primary reason for reading them is, of course to see if there are any upcoming stories in the press that are good fit for any of our clients at Red Branch PR, as well as the team at Tin Shingle.  The secondary reason I read these leads is that I can often see a pattern in media requests, mostly for short lead stories but at times for long lead (stories planned months in advance).  I look to see what stories are repeatedly being queried by different outlets.  This tells me that the story is hot, will be getting lots of coverage, and these outlets (and more) will most likely be covering the topic from multiple angles.  I also look to see timing of PR stories.  If start seeing a lot of queries for a specific holiday, it reminds me that the media is already "pulling" (asking for products/experts/input) for these stories.  You would be surprised at how early some stories begin to take shape, and these PR Lead sources often reveal the timing to you by announcing their pulls via lead generating sources.

I have loved the online, free e-card source Someecards for years, as they have some of the funniest, snarkiest and generally entertaining e-cards around, and I love sending them to friends & work colleagues from time to time.  Years ago, when I first began using the website, I used it simply for what it was created to do - send sassy cards.  Then I signed up for their newsletter, and I discovered that the company was useful in other ways as well: they always have their finger on the pulse in terms of hot topics in the news and approaching holidays.  After all, they have to, they're an e-card company!  In a way, specialize in short lead stories! 

So how do I use them for my PR brainstorming/hot topic hunts?  I subscribed to their newsletter, which will tell you what the hot card topics are of that week - in these newsletters they show off their latest cards which are nearly always directly attached to upcoming holidays or hot weekly topics - this week I saw everything from political/election cards to President's Day notes to Mardi Gras to cards about basketball player of the moment Jeremy Lin to jokes about the Facebook timeline.

I also check into their site every week and check their homepage slideshow and "newest cards" that always nail it in terms of what everyone is talking about.  The fact that I can then send a few funny notes out from the site afterwards is just the cherry on top!

Well there you have it, a few new tips for your DIY PR campaign, a little fuel for your PR fire!

I encourage you to stay tapped into the Tin Shingle blog for more How to Pitch lessons, which we'll be serving up regularly in hopes to make your journey to wonderful press placements a little easier!

Now get to your hot topic research!