Earlier this year I overheard someone say regarding pitching journalists, “Public Relations is just expectation management,” and that could not be more true.
However, it’s becoming more challenging as a public relations professional, especially in the B2B tech space, to manage expectations in a consistent way. It seems the tactics to get coverage are changing constantly.
Is it due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Perhaps partly. But, according to Cision’s 2021 State of the Media report, it seems that most members of the media are just plain overwhelmed. The report states that nearly 20% of journalists receive more than 150 pitches per week, with only one third of them filing more than 10 pieces per week – the odds are not in the PR pro’s favor. While this report covers all types of media (national, industry, etc.), the statistics echo what we’ve been experiencing on the B2B tech side of journalism. The pitches in question can run the gamut of news releases, interview requests, contributed content, media advisories and more. Regardless, the traditional view that sending dozens — if not hundreds — of email pitches will yield gangbuster coverage just isn’t the case anymore. It’s not about pitching – it’s about resetting expectations around the outcomes of it.
The Previous State of Pitching in B2B Tech
For many years, it felt as if distributing a press release created this “lightning bolt” moment. The release is out on the wire for customers, prospects, media and investors to see. It’s pitched directly to potentially hundreds of relevant B2B tech media contacts who (not all, but at least a few) are interested in covering the news and interviewing company representatives to dig in on the story. Coverage is rolling in, feeding the blog and social media machines in tandem. Even without a press release to pitch, other content opportunities, like syndication and contributed bylines, were quick to secure (for free). In these “good ol’ days” it seemed as if there was always at least one journalist at a B2B tech publication that was standing by, eagerly awaiting pitches. We are no longer in the “good ol’ days.”
The Current State of Pitching in B2B Tech
Whether or not they cover the news, pitching press releases to journalists keeps them in the loop and there’s always the downstream possibility that they keep the news in their back pockets for future stories. And, it’s also not to say that every single pitch these days goes into oblivion. There are still “wins” taking place, but they are more difficult to obtain and just fewer and farther between.
Expectation management with pitching is more important than ever. Especially in the B2B tech industry. Over the past five years, the B2B tech startup scene has absolutely boomed. Not just from the staggering amount of vendors in the market, but also the funding, M & A’s, major partnerships, IPOs, etc. that flood the newswires daily, if not multiple times a day. For example, looking at the Startups section of TechCrunch on October 19, 2021 there were nine stories published about tech startups raising funds. Out of how many total pitches received about funding that day we don’t know, but it is to be expected that some funding news was not able to be covered by TechCrunch that day or week. This is where we are now. B2B tech journalists who were once hungry for news are now bursting at the seams. While the Cision report mentioned above covers all types of media, from personal experience, it feels that the overarching data is relevant when drilled down to this industry level.
The bottom line is – B2B tech journalists are having to make decisions about priority stories in-the-moment. And, they are fielding a lot of great stories and pitches (likely 150 or more of them per week).
Please stop announcing new deals. Seriously. My fingers hurt.
— Dan Primack (@danprimack) March 4, 2021
What’s the Solution?
Don’t stop pitching. Reset expectations around the potential outcomes of it. Where B2B tech journalists were once eager and able to hop on a call for an interview, they simply just do not have the time. Most press releases, even major funding announcements, won’t get the phones ringing off the hook. Coverage is still expected for any release, but a copy/paste or slight tweaking of the announcement is more common – and that’s okay. At the end of the day it’s all about getting in front of the right audiences (prospects, customers, investors, etc.) with consistent, clear messaging. And, it’s about keeping pace with competitors who are likely also pitching the same media contacts frequently.
If a deep-dive story is what is considered a “win,” then consider having at least one contributed article on the docket for pitching at all times. More frequently, B2B tech PR pros are receiving responses to pitches from publications asking for contributed content vs. journalists writing the story. Having an article ready to go means you can quickly hit “submit” when a call for content comes through.
There is a new reality for pitching in the B2B tech PR space. Journalists are thin on bandwidth, and to no fault of their own. As the B2B tech vendor space continues to grow, so do the news and other pitches that come with it. Knowing that journalists are fielding potentially hundreds of requests for stories or interviews per week, a new approach and expectation setting must happen. Feature stories are still being written, but the odds for one company’s announcement to get covered broadly are going down. Press releases still serve many intrinsic purposes, but PR pros should consider turning to content creation to serve up fully baked stories to publications whose journalists don’t have the time to write the stories themselves. A symbiosis is taking shape between PR pros and B2B tech journalists – PR pros need to augment the overwhelming state journalists are living in, in order to secure coverage. The only constant is change, so it will be interesting to see how these trends ebb and flow in the coming years.