JAN. 8, 2020
In this episode, podcast host and AdvertiseMint CEO Brian Meert is joined by the Founder and CEO of 30 Miles North, Priscilla Vento. With more than a decade of experience, Vento reveals, among other valuable pieces of advice, her strategies for pitching to publications, the characteristics of a successful publicist, and her distaste for phone calls.
Vento’s first tip? Do your homework.
“Now everybody has a voice,” says Vento of the advent of social media. “On the PR end of things, it’s really figuring out who’s the best fit, as far as an outlet, for that story or announcement or product launch. Don’t be lazy. Do your homework on who you’re pitching.”
Not only has socal media given people a platform to amplify their messages, but it has also increased the number of outlets PR professionals can contact. Despite the wide selection, Vento recommends pitching only to the outlets that best fit campaigns goals.
Why pitch to 50 people who will probably say no because they know you’re going wide with it? I’d rather give it to a higher-tier outlet and shoot for the stars first.”
When promoting a story, Vento first pitches an exclusive to one journalist from a big publication, rather than sending stories to several smaller outlets. The reason behind her strategy drips with ambition and optimism.
“Why pitch to 50 people who will probably say no because they know you’re going wide with it? I’d rather give it to a higher-tier outlet and shoot for the stars first.”
If clients require press during a specific time, Vento recommends applying an embargo on the story. This, she says, ensures clients will receive publicity at the time that they expect.
“That writer agrees to not publish it until you say when. Then it launches on the day that your client expects. That’s the best case scenario to go about it.”
Not all are fit to undertake the resposibilities of a PR professional. According to Vento, a successful publicist must be skilled in handling stressful situations, pressure, and criticism. Above all, a publicist must be completely forthright, especially when publications aren’t interested in clients’ stories.
“Be completely transparent with your client. That’s hard to do. Sometimes it gets hard to say, ‘Hey, there’s nobody picking this up right away. Let’s move. Let’s try another strategy here, another story, another angle. Whatever it may be.’”
Although many publicists may prefer calling the outlets to whom they’re pitching, Vento, unlike her contemporaries, is more of an “email gal.”
“I don’t want to talk to you on the phone. I know you’re busy. I’m busy too.”
Her sentiments are shared by the journalists with whom she works.
“I hear reporters complain a lot about phone calls. The people who I have a really great relationship right now appreciate that I don’t pick up the phone every three seconds to follow up and hound them.”
A time will come when clients will exhaust their stories, once the public launch or funding announcement has passed, and there’s nothing left to pitch. At this time, Vento says, get creative.
“What is your client good at? Can they be a thought leader in that industry? You don’t always need to have a press release to reach out to press.”
Of course, as always, the story pitched must be relevant to the outlet, must fit the reporter’s area of interest.
Would you give yourself your own haircut? Your own surgery? No. So why would you want to do your own PR?”
When should businesses hire publicists and when should they do PR on their own? According to Vento, always on the former question and never on the latter. She puts it in words everyone can understand:
“Would you give yourself your own haircut? Your own surgery? No. So why would you want to do your own PR?”
Business owners, she says, will be deprived of the resources that come with hiring a seasoned public relations agency if they decide to do PR alone.
“You’re not going to have a strategy. You’re not going to have a campaign. You’re not going to already have a Rolodex of wonderful reporters you’ve been working with for who knows how long. You’re not going to have a team behind you.”
Vento’s valuable advice are welcomed words, especially at a time when competition is fierce, when attracting the attention of coveted outlets has become even more arduous.
“In the last 10 years, you have so much VC [venture capital] money popping up. More VC money means more start-ups, which means more PR people trying to pitch stories to all these different writers. You’re in a race to get your client’s story in these top tier publications.”
Vento also offers advice on how to handle a scandal, an example when she elegantly marketed a client on Reddit, a scenario of when not to get press, and a list of necessary PR tools. For more on this discussion, listen to the seventh episode of Duke of Digital.
By Anne Felicitas, editor