21 May 2020

Power Pitching Post Covid-19

by Lauren Hillyer

Press meetings in the PR world are often about building relationships as much as they are about discussing current and future PR opportunities. This is of course always made easy by indulging in that Balthazar breakfast or sipping cocktails at the latest bar opening in town. 

So, what do we do when we can’t meet up to pitch our clients to the media? Welcome to virtual power pitching! 

How does it work and how do we pitch non-coronavirus related news?   

Recently BWP took part in a Power Pitching event on Zoom with 25 top tier journalists for our clients KODAK and Polaroid and, we have to be honest, it was epic. We learnt a few essential things in the process. Here are our take outs which will carry us all through pitching virtually in a post Covid-19 world.  

Break the ice  

There has always been and probably always will be, a friendly rivalry between Journalists and PRs. Journalists view the PR world as the ‘dark side’, so there’s always an element of having to impress and mitigate any divide.  

The minute Zoom activates, you realise that the fashion editor you have been admiring for 5 years is in her home, the barrier between you and her is down and you can breathe. Breaking the ice is important to do straight away because this is new territory, pitching on Zoom! Commenting on outfit choices, the surroundings and checking-in really helps ease the tension and allows you and, them to relax. And you soon realise, there’s no PR / Journalist divide right now. We’re all in this boat together, trying to steer through the uncharted water. 

Camera Etiquette  

Whether you’re using Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Skype, being on top of your video conferencing game is important. Firstly, Rule 1: make sure you have tested your software before your call, test the mic, test the video quality and make sure you haven’t got anything running in the background taking up your bandwidth, you don’t want to be freezing during your 10 seconds of fame.   

Rule 2: be on time. Tardiness is not cool.  

Some technical advice for Rule 3: mute when you’re not speaking. It is distracting to hear your neighbour’s dog bark, the washing machine end or the irritating wind noise of you breathing down your microphone.  

You have your camera on, so guess what – they can see you! Rule 4: look engaged, this is no different to being in a room with someone, be polite, pay attention and be present. Don’t go off to find that bit of paperwork for your next meeting, or have another conversation with your co-worker, unless that co-worker is your pet in which case, totally get them involved – remember my point about breaking the ice?  

Rule 5: look into the camera when speaking, believe in what you are saying and speak with confidence. Gravitas gains trust.  

Finally, Rule 6: share your screen, do not send over documents before your call if you want to avoid pre-determined expectations or glazed-over eyes. Sharing something new and current allows the whole room to be present and excited – especially if it’s unveiling a new product in a press release.  

Our survey says   

The news is saturated with Covid-19 related stories, the press want uplifting stories or products that will work with the current situation we are living in, so when you’re pitching, use your common sense and be human. Think, am I flogging a dead horse here? Is someone really interested in writing about this product that is perfect for holidays when holidays aren’t happening?  

Work smarter, not harder and have an honest conversation with your client about your PR strategy. Shifting focus isn’t a bad thing. Be creative and think about staycations in the UK, camping in your back garden, turning your home into a holiday home and putting distractions away.  

Test your pitches out first. This is not a time to sell a story or a product, but a time to be practical; so be practical and use the consumers you can speak to; partners, housemates or family are the perfect audience. 


Be thankful  

Finally, this power pitching event was nearly 3 hours. That’s a long time out of someone’s working day where staff may be sick or have been furloughed and time couldn’t be more precious right now – including yours. So be thankful for the moment you have had with those Journalists and it will go a long way.  

It’s worth remembering that pitching is just as useful for us PRs as it is for the Journalists wanting to fill their pages.  

Gone are the days (thank god) of dragging the full-to-the-brim suitcase across London and back, in your glad rags while it’s raining, so a big “Hello!” to virtual pitching, I hope you’re here to stay.  

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