Prepare for media pitching take-off

There’s a lot more legwork to helping our clients’ stories take off than writing a press release and hitting “send.” A decade ago, it was standard to write an upside-down pyramid-style release, leading with a terribly boring who-what-when-where sentence. Then, it would be sent to a mass distribution list of reporters. The surprising thing is that a lot of businesspeople still believe that’s what PR pros do. But media pitching has eclipsed press releases and doing it well is more important than ever.

Today, the method of writing a press release and sending it to a big list is known as “spraying and praying.” And if a business is doing that, a lot of praying is required. That’s because journalism staffs have gotten leaner. Take a local large metro newspaper for example. Its business section alone had a staff of more than 20 reporters in the early 2000s. Now it has 2. This is not an isolated incident.

Media’s small staffs still receive hundreds of press releases and pitches a day. If they don’t have a relationship with the person sending them, they’re probably not giving them consideration. But if you get them at the right time and with the right pitch, you can still get their attention and land great coverage for your news stories.

ClearWing focuses on techniques that strengthen the writing and give reporters (and more importantly, their audiences) a story worth paying attention to.

Pre-pitch planning

A thoughtful, targeted pitch can get attention in ink, digital or on air. To do this successfully, we must start with something that is newsworthy, think about the audience we intend to reach, the media vehicles they consume and the people doing the talking or writing. While traditional media may be a fit, we may also consider trade publications and even influencers. Today, landing your story with a highly-trusted influencer with a small but loyal following could be just as powerful as landing a story in the general media.

Who is the story about?

It’s always best to find the human in the story. People don’t care for stories about things. But they’ll read a story about how a thing impacted a person.

Put the reader at the focus of the lead when possible, answering the question: “Why does the reader care?” 

In 2018, we worked with Atlanta start-up InpharmD to earn media attention to garner awareness and gain credibility.

We identified a targeted list of media and reporters who cover healthcare and tech stories. The list included trade media as well as general media. But it was tricky. InpharmD’s app was created for use by physicians, not the general public. Would a general news audience care? We needed to humanize the story.

After some thought, we pitched a behind-the-scenes story about how patients’ doctors are using technology to give them high-quality care on a hospital floor. We paired our pitch with a popular trend topic (apps for home health care).

This is how we pitched a reporter at Atlanta’s NPR station:

Everyone talks about patients using apps for healthcare at home. But what about health care providers using apps in their healthcare facilities? A new app developed in Atlanta gives physicians a chance to submit complex questions about medications to reduce research time by hours.

Cleared for take-off

You may have notice there’s not even a company name in that pitch. That’s okay. The pitch was designed to get attention. Names, titles and industry jargon slow down the attention-getting process. Once the reporter was interested, ClearWing coordinated interviews with the app founder and a physician who used the app regularly. The company’s name led the headline in the final story, which ran on several different programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered. The lead below is the reporter’s wording, but the meaning was based on our own pitch above:

Smartphone apps that allow patients to communicate with their health care providers using only their cellphones have gained popularity, but an app developed by an Atlanta-based startup is moving the concept forward.

Shaping the story

For companies that seek media attention, it’s also important to note the level of their control over the story. While brands have complete control over what a paid advertisement looks like, PR is different . While a strong PR pro puts a lot of thought into shaping our pitches, press releases and headlines, there’s no guarantee what the media will print or say (unless it’s a paid advertorial, but that’s another topic for another day). Those are the positives and negatives of public relations. People tend to trust information from a third-party more. The trade-off for the company is giving up control. And…sometimes a headline that will surprise you. But the pay off of a great story is often worth the risk.

In the client example above, the similarity between our pitch and the media’s lead isn’t a coincidence. We gave the reporter a good angle and he used it. That’s the best outcome when we do a great job of preparing client stories for take-off.

If you’re ready to discuss how to help your organization’s stories take off, let’s talk.

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Why and how to be an outstanding podcast guest

What’s your favorite podcast? Podcasts mean numerous radio-style shows with a narrow focus on almost any topic. They offer great opportunities for business people to reach new audiences as podcast guest experts. There are podcasts dedicated to the Watergate scandal all these years later (Slow Burn = awesome).  Not to mention entrepreneurship, murder, marketing, business and beer. And a few other topics too.

While most don’t necessarily have the broad reach of a radio station, podcast interviews can be an incredible tool for you to market your business. Below are several reasons why you might consider serving as a guest on a podcast.

8 benefits of serving as a podcast guest expert

  1. Introduction to a targeted and engaged audience. While the podcast audience may be small, these listeners seek out the program. They go online to listen. Or they download episodes through an app. They want to hear the host and learn from guest experts on the show. It’s a matter of quality over quantity. Often magazines with a specialized audience charge more money for their ads than those with a larger, general audience. This is because they know the value of niche marketing. The same concept applies here but with one major difference… 
  2. Free advertising. While magazines charge a premium for niche market ad space, a podcast interview is usually free. While you need to provide helpful information and shouldn’t be self-serving in an interview, a podcast is like an ad for your business. You get to talk about your background, what your business accomplishes for customers and any other important messages you may need to get out there. And it’s free.
  3. Third-party verification. The very best advertising is word-of-mouth from a third-party, whether that third-party is a friend, a stranger who left a review online or a beloved podcast host the audience thinks is worth “tuning in” for. Their verification of you being “guest-worthy” speaks volumes.
  4. Increased website traffic. When you offer helpful information to an audience that is a good match for what your business offers, they may choose to visit your site for more information. You can up the chances for a visit by offering a free download that’s useful. (See point #5 for more.)
  5. A bigger email list. You can grow your email list with the podcast’s audience by offering a free download. It could be something you already have created (like a free e-book) but they have to enter their email address to download it. Voila! Now you have a bigger email list with qualified prospects.
  6. Increased search engine optimization. The host of the podcast should create a backlink to your website and social media channels from their website. To Google and other search engines, a link from a trustworthy website back to yours is like a vote of confidence. The more backlinks from reputable sites you have, the higher the chances that your website will be returned for searches related to your business.
  7. Street cred. When you appear on a podcast, you position yourself as a thought leader, raising your street cred among your peers and prospects. You can use your appearance to boost your reputation with phrases like “As heard on ______________podcast” if it’s well-known. Other places to leverage your appearance are your bio or LinkedIn page.
  8. New content for your own audience. I’m a huge fan of leveraging content. Once you create content, don’t let the opportunity to use that content slip by! A podcast is another reason to share your expertise with your own audience. You can link to it in your blog, social media channels, website, emails, newsletters and your other communication channels. And make sure you share the love and link back and tag the podcast and/or podcast host.

While the benefits of being interviewed on a podcast are tangible, for some people it can be nerve-wracking. It may feel more comfortable than public speaking to some, but stage fright can still come into. But don’t let that stop you from benefitting from a podcast appearance. A little preparation goes a long way.

Even if you’re not nervous, you’ll get a lot more out of the podcast interview if you’re well-prepared.

When I was recently invited to be a guest on A Brighter Web podcast, I’ll admit I had stage fright. I know I know. You’d think someone who prepares others for interviews and has given many presentations would be fine. But I was nervous. I said yes anyway and followed the same rules I use to prepare clients for radio shows and speeches. Thanks to the host, Mickey Mellen, for putting me at ease and being well-prepared – it went great! Below are some tips to make sure your podcast or radio interview goes well too. 

7 helpful tips to be podcast-interview-ready

  1. Ask your host for information. Hosts are usually happy to share questions, the timing for answers and helpful guidelines. Find out if you’re allowed to share your website or offer a free download to listeners.
  2. Create speaking points for each of the questions. Remember– your answers should help others. You can’t be self-serving and just talk about your services or products. However, if the host allows, you may be able to offer a free download of something useful for listeners on your website. That’s a great way to offer value and collect email addresses for your email list.
  3. Submit your answers back to the podcast host ahead of time. Ask for feedback. You can even ask if any of your answers spark other questions so you can prepare for those too. Make sure the host knows you want to prepare well so that you can respect their time limits for the show.
  4. Practice out loud. Things that look good in ink don’t always sound good when you say them out loud. As with speech preparation, the more you practice out loud, the less tongue-tied you’ll be during the real deal.
  5. Time yourself. When you rehearse your speech, time yourself to ensure you’re staying within appropriate time limits. Your smartphone probably has a stopwatch built in so you don’t have to watch the clock.
  6. Practice ahead and often. Practice as you would for a speech. That is, over and over and over and over. You should know the speaking points so well that you don’t have to refer to your outline very much.
  7. Practice on camera. If there will be a video component for the podcast’s website, you may want to make a video of yourself practicing. This tip is really handy for giving speeches too. Recording yourself can help you recognize anything you do that you may want to change. For example, you may realize you look too serious (depending on the topic of the podcast) and can practice smiling more.
  8. Smile. Whether or not there’s a video component, one thing I learned when I did ad sales for a magazine is to smile. Whether you’re pitching a sale over the phone or recording a podcast, a genuine smile goes a long way. People can hear it in your voice. Smiles add energy and are contagious. This may sound crazy, but multiple research studies -including this one in Psychology Today – prove that smiling builds trust and confidence. So, smile during your podcast interview (even if they can’t see it).

Contact ClearWing to for help with public relations and communications strategy as well as interview prep and media training.

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ClearWing ‘latches on’ to Phoenix Award for innovative brand content

ClearWing ‘latches on’ to Phoenix Award for innovative brand content

It’s been a great first year in business at ClearWing Communications! We’ve had the honor to help clients’ brands fly through unique content creation. To cap it off, we took home a Phoenix Award from the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America for creating powerful branded content.

ClearWing’s shiny, blue glass award was for helping Christie Coursey of Breastfeed Atlanta share groundbreaking information. It positioned her as a thought leader and elevated her business as a preferred care partner. All in the name of healthy babies.

The problem & the solution 

Babies who quit mom’s milk too early suffer from poor health outcomes. But they’re often referred to lactation consultants too late. Breastfeed Atlanta worked with ClearWing Communications to create a position paper with two goals:

  1. To propose a new model of care for earlier intervention for breastfeeding babies and moms.
  2. To position Breastfeed Atlanta as a leading expert on lactation care for newborns so health providers will refer patients.

ClearWing Communications position paper

ClearWing ghostwrote the article for Coursey after a one-on-one interview. We captured information such as who we wanted to educate and action we wanted them to take. The audience included physicians, nurse practitioners (NPs) and other advance practice practitioners (APPs) who see breastfeeding patients.

The professionally-designed and printed branded content piece resembled an article in a medical magazine. The content theorized a gap in specialist care, citing reputable third-party data from organizations such as the World Health Organization. Supporting graphics included infographics (see below). These images helped health providers digest information quickly, even if they didn’t read the full article.

ClearWing-Communications-infographics
ClearWing worked with a talented graphic designer to ensure infographics helped tell the story in a fast, straightforward manner.

Public relations campaign

The position paper was part of a larger PR plan for Breastfeed Atlanta’s expansion into Marietta. The practice had no existing brand recognition in the area. The PR launch’s purpose was to garner awareness, brand recognition and referrals among the healthcare community, leaders and women. PR support included: A media alert, personal invitations to leaders, a ribbon-cutting/open house event, on-site photography, a press release, story pitching, a series of organic social media posts and the mini position paper.

The results

The four-page position paper was hand-delivered to physicians, NPs and APPs by members of the clinic’s staff. This branded content was the most powerful piece of the clinic’s collateral. It resulted in increased brand awareness, valuable new relationships and healthier babies. It will continue to educate health partners for healthier and happier moms and babies.

To read a blog post version of the article, visit the Breastfeed Atlanta website.

To position yourself and your company as a thought leader, contact ClearWing to chat today.

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The truth about jargon and its startling effect

The truth about jargon and its startling effect

Which piece of advice would you be more likely to remember after a visit with your doctor: the sentence with or without jargon?

Dr. Jargon: Decrease your lipoproteins and glucose, increase intake of herbaceous plants with water-soluble vitamins, and increase your calisthenics to reduce your BMI and comorbidities.

-or-

Dr. ClearWing: Cut back on red meats and sugar, increase your intake of leafy greens and exercise to lose weight and lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Did you glaze over when Dr. Jargon was talking? I hope none of that guy’s patients flatline…

The truth about jargon blog post by ClearWing Communications

But seriously, jargon and acronyms are popular no matter what industry you work in. We’re all guilty of using them.

Industry-speak has its place. It can help people learn detailed pieces of information and exchange it quickly amongst peers. But that’s where it should stay.

Have you ever met someone who made you feel like you needed a pocket dictionary just to follow the conversation? When it was over, you may have wondered what you actually talked about. All those words were forgotten and you may have decided NOT to engage further with that person or their business.

Do you speak Jargon?

While it’s easy to be critical of others with a robust vocabulary filled with industry-talk and acronyms, it can be hard to recognize you’re doing the same thing. Even worse, to your customers. (Or maybe you cringe when you use the word “synergy” with a prospective client…even Dr. ClearWing slips up sometimes.)

Business leaders are often entrenched in their industry and meetings with colleagues. It can be tough to realize or admit the need to change their language for different audiences.

Clear messaging for all

Speeches, elevator pitches and marketing content should be as devoid of acronyms and jargon as possible. You should keep your language simple with a general audience, but even with a highly educated audience. People with advanced degrees are still hard-pressed for time. The simpler the message, the easier to process. The quicker to understand, the higher the chance they’ll get your message.

This is something I’ve driven home with my content teams over the years. For general audiences, we shoot for writing on a seventh or eighth-grade level. We measure that with the Flesch Kincaid Readability test. It takes different things into account, like how many words are in a sentence and the length of each word.

It’s hard to grab attention and once you have it, it’s fleeting. The easier your content is to digest, the more likely you’ll be able to communicate your key messages, even if your ideal customer has an M.D.

At ClearWing, we work with our clients to reduce jargon and acronym-filled content so your messages are crisp, clear and easy to digest. So remember, clear messaging saves lives!

Jargon-ClearWing-Communications
We’re not the classiest wine drinkers here. Bought this one for the label, which inspired this blog post.

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How to tell your brand story to engage your audience

How to tell your brand story to engage your audience

Storytelling can be a powerful way for an organization to connect with its audience and inspire action. I’ll give you some ideas on how to tell a brand story through the story about a boy we’ll call William.

How a story about a boy caused urgent audience action

Photo of a piggy bank and change lying on the floor.
A story about a boy with a heart problem inspired my 6-year-old daughter to donate her own money.

When my daughter was in first grade, she came home from school one day and shot up the stairs to her room. You could cut the intense determination in the air with a butter knife. Wadded ones, quarters and pennies spilled from her money jar onto the bedroom carpet. She stacked and lined up the coins, flattened the ones and counted out how much she could donate to the American Heart Association (AHA). It was close to $10. Then she asked me to pony up.

Picture of Shopkins toys.
For the curious, these are Shopkins. They’re a bit bigger than a quarter. My daughter – and many girls in elementary school – have hundreds.

I was proud that she wanted to give her own money to a good cause. She earned that money. She brought in groceries, cleaned bathroom vanities and did general housework. Instead of buying Shopkins, she wanted to GIVE HER MONEY AWAY.

As businesspeople, we want to capture the hearts of our audiences like this, don’t we?

So what made her rush upstairs that afternoon when she could have been on the swing in the backyard? What made a 6-year-old donate money instead of cashing it in for toys?

I was sure I knew the answer. She wanted to win one of those silly plastic duck prizes they give students for hitting fundraising benchmarks. And I said as much as I pulled some cash from my wallet.

She looked at me with a mixture of disgust and pity.

“No mom. I want to help this boy.”

She held out a brochure. A little boy with big blue eyes stared back at me while my daughter’s own brown eyes gazed at me from the other side of the brochure.

“He has a heart problem,” she said. “The American Heart people can help him.”

This money wasn’t about the AHA. For my daughter, it was about the boy we’ll call William.

How companies can tell stories

Companies exist to serve a purpose; to resolve a pain point for someone else. Whether it’s an educational institution, an arts organization or a business-to-business tech company, there’s a human behind it.

If you want to tell your organization’s story, where do you even start? Here are a few tips to keep in mind to find and tell your brand story:

  1. Start with goals and people. State what you need to accomplish. Do you need to get people to download a new app? Then think about the people involved. Who came up with the idea for the app, and why? Who beta tested it? How did it help them and what did they say?
  2. Find your Williams. People connect with others like themselves. My daughter wanted to help the AHA when she heard the story of a boy she could picture swinging on the monkey bars at recess. It’s good to have multiple stories to represent one goal. Why?
    • Most media outlets want unique content, and may not agree to do a story if another station or newspaper is doing the same human interest story.
    • If you have two (or more) people representing the same story, you can take the story to more outlets.
  3. Make your brand the hero. A strong brand story should include a person with a problem, a solution (your brand/employees) and a great resolution/positive outcome.
  4. Show the story. Remember William’s blue eyes? Storytelling is as much about visuals as words. If the story will appear in written format, it needs to include eye-catching visuals like photos and infographics. Don’t wait until last minute to ask for photos or set up a photo shoot. You will reach a higher percentage of people through visuals and the key messaging you place in captions than you will through the story itself.
  5. Leverage your story. Will you pitch the story to the media? Or will you self-publish and share it through your own channels like your website/blog, social media, newsletter or annual report? Remember, multiple human interest stories for one goal help the story go further.
  6. Use high-quality storytelling techniques. Should you choose to publish the content yourself, make sure it’s strong writing or high-quality video production. A great story goes nowhere fast with bad grammar, industry jargon, bad lighting and poor sound. Work with a strong storyteller who can make use of the senses to give a sense of place, create emotional impact and knows when to keep and delete details to keep the story moving.

When you connect with your audience on an emotional level, you’ll discover one of the most powerful ways to inspire someone to act.

Every company has a William. You just have to do some work to find him. When you do, share his story in a way that truly inspires your audience.

Interested in telling your brand story? Let’s talk.