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CEO Thought Leadership Series from Trade Show

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D S Simon Media (@DSSimon) CEO Doug Simon (DSSimonDoug) speaks with the founder of Michael Smart PR, Michael Smart (@michaelsmartpr) about his proven methods of successfully pitching journalists and becoming a master of media relations.

At this years PRSA International Conference, D S Simon Media CEO, Doug Simon, met with Michael Smart, head of Michael Smart PR, to discuss ways to improve your media pitches and how to get over the “I feel like a pest” syndrome. Michaels three tips: Know your target, dig for gold, and bring a sense of urgency. Doug and Michael take a closer look at these steps and provide examples of how a company can use them to their benefit in today’s edition of VlogViews.


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Doug Simon: Hi, I’m Doug Simon from DS Simon Media. I’m here at the Public Relations Society of America International Conference with my buddy, Michael Smart of Michael Smart PR. Thanks for joining us.

Michael Smart: It’s always an honor, Doug. We’re starting to do this every year now, right?

Doug: Yeah, we’re getting back together. We go back longer than we would say. But what’s good is, I started when I was 12. He started when he was 13. Michael just gave a great presentation about pitching, which actually, if you want to take it to a spiritual level, included some great tips for life, both professionally and personally. But taking a pitching, you don’t want to be a pest for journalists. Tell us about your three steps to prevent that, one at a time.

Michael: OK, I’ll take them one at a time and you can ask me about them if you want. The first one is to know your targets. It sounds obvious at first, but this actually helps you with more than just practical skills. It gives you that conviction that you know you have something that’s going to help them do their job better. It takes away that fear that you’re being a pest when you actually consume the media that your target outlets put out.

Doug: And that goes beyond more than just reading them, seeing what they’re doing. Might be interacting with them on social media, getting a feel for what their needs and interests are.

Michael: It’s exactly that. Not just consuming them, but engaging with those influencers directly, letting them know you’re out there.

Doug: Now in our own survey, I mentioned this in our session, 85% of agency people say the clients make it too hard for them to earn media. You have a different take. You’re saying, don’t blame the client. What should you do?

Michael: Well obviously, if the client side folks are listening, I want them to help their agency. But for all of us, whether we’re agency or not, we need to stop using it as an excuse, well, the client or the bosses aren’t giving me anything newsworthy. We need to take the approach that we’re going to find our own gold. And there are two ways you can do that, in brief.

Michael: The first one is dig it up yourself. Set up a process that surfaces newsworthy nuggets, where you go directly to the newsmakers in your organization or at your client and ask them with questions that are going to give you the raw materials you need. The second one is to practice alchemy. That’s what the medieval people used to do when they tried to turn stones into gold.

Doug: They’ve talked about data and science being a part of PR, I guess now we’re talking alchemy, so explain.

Michael: Yeah, that’s right. It didn’t work back then, but we can make it work in PR, where you can take an ostensibly boring and routine set of facts and apply a few external frameworks to it, and turn that into a newsworthy or shareworthy story that journalists crave.

Doug: Maybe a quick example?

Michael: Absolutely. Ancestry.com sells online family history research. It’s a pretty dry topic, right? They found a formula where they can get, every year, millions, tens of millions of free impressions from the entertainment media. What they do is, they research the family histories of celebrities who are appearing in that year’s blockbuster films. Twilight, Harry Potter, most recently The Hunger Games, and they find some interesting celebrity connection. One was that Robert Pattinson, who stars as Edward the vampire in Twilight, was related to Vlad the Impaler, the real life inspiration for Dracula.

Doug: Interesting, probably more interesting than whether I’m related to Matthew Broderick. Third thing is timing, creating a sense of urgency.

Michael: A lot of times we blame journalists, oh, they’re never getting back to me. Or he did this interview, where’s the story? Again, they’re busy. It’s our job to help them by giving them a reason to move our story to the top of their heap. And I call that pressing an urgency button. One urgency button, for example, would simply be to update them on something that’s happened since your initial pitch that makes your topic more newsworthy, something that happened in breaking news for example.

Doug: And that’s three great tips. Know your target. Dig for gold yourself. Bring a sense of urgency. Works if you’re trying to pitch the media, works if you’re trying to advance in your career, works all across your life to make you more successful in whatever endeavor you’re trying. Thanks so much for being with us.

Michael: It’s always an honor, Doug. Thanks for doing this service for the PR community.