Media coverage can be incredibly effective for getting in front of current and prospective customers and growing sales—often generating better results than popular social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Forget influencer marketing, growth hacks, going viral or the latest soup du jour for a second. The right media coverage can place your business and your brand smack dab in the middle of hyper-focused industry journals and business publications--dramatically increasing your brand awareness and reach while also putting you in front of people who are more likely to buy (try saying that about a branded Snapchat filter).

Yet despite the potential upside, many businesses still aren’t taking full advantage of PR to increase their brand awareness and reach. Why? For many it’s hard to know where to begin. Questions we often hear from clients include:

What’s the best way to pitch my business to the media?

Where do I find the right contacts at different industry publications?

Do I need a press release?

In the coming weeks, we’ll address each topic in greater detail but today we really want to spend some time talking about one of the most crucial elements of any successful PR pitch.

Focus on the Story, Not the Sale

Often easier said the done, the key to highly effective media pitches is your ability to craft the right story—something people will actually want to read and share with their friends and colleagues. Don’t think like your business. Think like the publications you’re going to pitch and their readers. You’ve got to do your homework upfront. Who are their readers? What information do they want to see? What different perspective will you hopefully bring to the table? How will your story or contribution add value?

One of the easiest ways to get the ball rolling is to research any previous coverage that relates directly to your business and/or your core competencies. Tools such as BuzzSumo can really help you dial in on the types of content that resonate the most. But you can also just as easily start by googling potential topics to see which outlets and articles come back and keeping track of everything in a simple Excel spreadsheet.

Align Media Coverage with Business Goals

Once you have those insights, you also want to make sure your story ideas align with your overarching business goals. For example if you know you want to make your company more attractive to VCs/investors, change the perception of your company and your capabilities, support HR for recruiting needs, and provide supporting materials for your sales team—you want to build your pitches around those goals and then find the online influencers and journalists who are most likely to care.

The other added benefit of this approach is having the ability to pitch multiple stories to multiple outlets simultaneously which means you don’t have to worry about multiple outlets potentially being interested in the same pitch.

From there, whenever possible we also look for opportunities to build upon ideas and topics that have been previously covered. Doing so creates a nice segue that we can leverage as part of their pitch and also shows you’ve done your homework—both critical elements of effective media pitches.

Crafting Your Pitch

This is where your brand voice and brand personality really come into play. Beyond just being interesting and relevant, you also want to pique interest and pull your readers into your story. Generally we encourage our clients to embrace more of a conversional tone—something that allows them to showcase their passion and personality for the particular topic. After all, if you want others to get excited about what you’re talking about, you’ve got to be excited.

Avoid cookie cutter messaging. Although press releases allow you to share information with a wide audience, they’re almost always overly generic. When it comes to getting noticed by the media, one-size fits all is generally not the best strategy.

Where to Go Next

If you’re just getting started, be sure to check out our earlier entry Using PR to Increase Brand Awareness and Reach . You can also share your questions on Twitter @DeepVarnish.