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Art of the Spiel: Lessons from the 2016 Election Cycle

September 5, 2016 Bradford Group Administrator

There are few career fields that can be best summarized by just one aspect of the job. For instance, you couldn’t claim that basketball players are only attempting a string of free throw shots every game, or that graphic designers are always hanging out on Photoshop for 40 hours per week. While all job positions have specific responsibilities, the job description is probably broad.

As public relations professionals, this is definitely true. Our jobs rely on multi-faceted expertise, a natural “knack” for writing, skills in new media, speaking and more. But if one were to dial in to the essence of the job we do for our clients, it wouldn’t be factually incorrect to boil it down to one idea: the spiel, or pitch.

The Art of the Spiel

Our jobs rely on multi-faceted expertise, a natural “knack” for writing, skills in new media, speaking and more

Everything PR pros do is based on a story – whether it begins with our client or in the media. We are using story pitches to discuss our clients with the general public, often through media relations, and often amidst the ebb and flow of the daily news cycle. In some ways, this can be compared to the jobs of POTUS candidates, and their one job – to influence voters in a sea of news stories.

If you’re anything like me, you have been watching the day-to-day happenings of the 2016 presidential race, and thinking to yourself, “Wow! There are media relations lessons to be learned here!” A wise observation, and I must say – I agree.







So without further ado, below are six rules to follow for polishing your pitching process, c/o of lessons learned via the current presidential race:


  1. Need the news.

    This may be obvious, but before even discussing a pitch, you have to be aware of what’s going on in the world; the trick here is to read every day with unending fervor. In an election cycle, being a step behind in the news or not knowing the intricacies of a story can deal some damage in terms of public image, and it’s not much different for public relations pros. As a result, you should grow to develop a hunger for the latest news. Once you become more educated on trends, breaking news and viral stories, your story ideas will become more topical and your pitches will be more precise.

  2. Simplify the story.

    Let’s be real – there is an overwhelming amount of “filler” that has clogged up the news machine in this election cycle. With the saturation in the media, things can get a little confusing (and often, disorienting), right? There’s a lesson here, too. Avoid confusion around your story by double-checking that your facts are clear cut, to the point and not bogged down with irrelevant information. As you’re developing your spiel to media, make sure that you are only giving the most important details about your story in your communique.

  3. Perfect the pitch.

    Just as candidates must be confident to inspire voters, you must know what makes your story idea compelling, so you can take it to the media with confidence. Before sending out your pitch to journalists, make sure that you have refined it based on just three factors: the hook, the meat and the next steps. The hook should be the reason that readers will want to read a story based on your pitch, while the meat is the actual facts and main source of newsworthy information that speak to a journalist. The end of your pitch should have a call to action, offering up more tips/info or even an interview.

  4. Mold to the media.

    Simply put, there will be media outlets that are not interested in what you have to say. So put effort behind knowing who would be interested in your pitch, and send it to those people only. A blanket email to varying outlets with different focuses will only serve to aggravate journalists. In fact, some reporters respond well to thoughts and story ideas via new media, such as Twitter or LinkedIn. Be flexible and open to new methods of communication.

  5. Know your contact.  

    One of the most important lessons to keep in mind when pitching is to know your contact. After all, you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you have to backtrack your way out. It can be as simple as not knowing the journalist’s beat, or more complicated, such as not knowing the way they like to communicate. You’re not always going to be blessed with a personal relationship with the journalist at the start, so make an effort and do your research. It will pay off in the long run.

  6. Have the answers.  

    Preparation is key when it comes to pitching. Be ready for follow-up questions from the journalist by having a source of information or answers ready to go. If media end up biting on your story, you want to ensure that you’re able to provide follow-up information quickly and efficiently. If you plan correctly, perfect your pitch and make a compelling argument for why your story is newsworthy, you’ll be able to take care of the journalist in a timely and efficient manner.

Have you picked up any PR lessons from recent election coverage? Sound off below and let your voice be heard!

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