When I worked in Silicon Valley, a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal was the “ungettable get.” Our teams would persevere for weeks trying to figure out a way to get their venture-backed technology startup onto the front page of the Dow Jones-owned media outlet. Our efforts often felt futile, as the Journal covers mostly business news with significant financial or industry-shattering impact.
Nevertheless, at every kickoff client meeting, the first question I asked was, “What is your Wall Street Journal headline?” The wide-eyed glances executives gave one another made me chuckle, especially given that this icebreaker technique put clients on the hot seat. What they didn’t realize at the time was that this exercise was to prepare them for the journey they were about to embark on and forced them to deeply consider how they would want such a successful and likely influential readership to perceive their organization. I’d listen intently to their responses and take notes on what they shared. Afterward, I would detail the purpose of the exercise: to distill company messaging for a strong business pitch.
Business media operates differently from mainstream media in that its focus is on market and financials. Let’s say your doughnut company introduces a new doughnut flavor; that’s great. However, the business media won’t care unless that new doughnut sells millions or shifts the industry on its head (e.g., the cronut). How, then, can companies complete a similar exercise to fine-tune what is necessary for their own business media efforts?
- Outline your elevator pitch. In 30 seconds or less (the average time of an elevator ride), explain the purpose of your product or service. Include key differentiators or competitive advantage.
- Determine what problem you solve. Does your company solve a problem? If it does, it will succeed. If it doesn’t, success remains a movable target unless you deliver something that others absolutely require (food, clothing, shelter, water, sunlight). Determine the challenge that your target audiences face and how your service or product solves it. Condense details into a couple of short sentences.
- Locate your numbers (data). Business media outlets love numbers. Publicly held corporations have their numbers spread across screens daily, however, privately held organizations often keep financial data under wraps. To sidestep the financials and still get business media to consider your story, provide measurable, substantive data of some kind. For example, detail your customer base – numbers served, size of companies you support and potential size of the marketplace. If you’re unable to share financials (revenue), consider highlighting other numeric elements that make you worthy of coverage, such as number of units sold in one year, forecasted sales for next year, etc. Even more helpful in this age of social media are well-executed infographics and graphs for quick viewing and sharing.
Once you’ve successfully taken the actions above, it should be relatively easy to fill in any gaps and pull together a great story pitch as well as the headline you’d like to see atop said story. If the exercise fails, perhaps it isn’t yet time to contact The Wall Street Journal. Don’t give up! Pitch local business stories first (e.g., local business journals, business editors of daily newspapers). The traction you gain will help make appearance in the Journal a reality one day.
To learn more about pitching the business media, watch Axia Public Relations’ webinar “Confessions of a CNN Producer,” which highlights why pitches fail and how to make your pitch stand out.
Clients love Wendy’s compelling writing. She has nearly 20 years of experience in technology, business, consumer and nonprofit public relations. She serves on the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress PR Task Force and is a culinary enthusiast and champion for the special needs community. Wendy has worked with Axia Public Relations since September 2014. Learn more about Wendy.
Featured image credit: 123rf.com