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How to Pitch Consumer News with Megan Garbe, Fahlgren Mortine

How To Pitch Consumer News With Megan Garbe, Fahlgren Mortine

In this month’s profile, we are talking with Megan Garbe, the Vice President and Director of Consumer Media Relations at Fahlgren Mortine.

While she’s focused generally on consumer PR over her nearly 20 years in the industry, she’s had deep experience in food and beverage, restaurants, and retail communications while working at everything from boutique to global PR agencies in Chicago and Columbus.

Read below for the entire interview with Megan:

 

1.) Tell us a bit about your day-to-day and your role as the VP, Director of Consumer Media Relations.

This is actually a new role for the agency, one that I was thrilled to take on. Even though we’re a completely integrated agency, our roots have largely been in public relations. We’ve always had a deep bench of media relations experts across practice areas but this leadership position was created as a way to ensure we were investing in consumer media relations specifically as that practice area continues to experience incredible growth.

Beyond providing strategic account counsel and support for a lot of our consumer clients, I’m charged to ensure we’re staying on top of whiplash-inducing changes in the industry, providing training and development opportunities for our consumer media specialists as we continue to build our team, and helping our teams come up with best-in-class creative ideas that earn attention where we need it most.

 

2.) What’s the best pitch of yours that resulted in coverage and what elements made it successful?

This is like picking a favorite child! One that immediately comes to mind is one I secured recently in Eat This, Not That for a local client that provides cancer support resources for employers to offer as part of their employee benefits package. The story was about Signs of Cancer Women Should Never Ignore, and the reporter had a tight deadline.

While my client was managed by a small team of clinical experts, the reality was that they were a) fairly unknown to people outside of Columbus, Ohio, and b) one of the thousands of well-known cancer experts that this reporter could have sourced. And yet, our share of voice as an expert in the final published piece was something money can rarely buy.

Why were we successful?

– We answered quickly. If you are one expert of many, response timing is critical. As we know, once journalists have enough sources, they often don’t make room for more.

– The client was so incredibly thorough in her responses. I think our obsession with brevity in a pitch often translates to that same obsession with brevity in a response, but those two are very different things. We provided a well-researched, well-documented, and well-written response that the reporter could very easily copy and paste into her story. We didn’t just answer the questions, we helped her tell a story. I have to imagine that for journalists under a deadline, that feels like a true partnership.

– We focused on the topic, not the client. Yes, we showed why they were qualified to be an expert, but it was clear that our goal was to help the reporter educate her readers, not promote a service.

With nearly 43MM unique visitors per month, Eat This, Not That also provided a strong backlink to my client’s site which had just recently relaunched. And, we helped educate women like me about the important signs and symptoms of cancer. A truly rewarding placement.

 

3.) What makes a good subject line? Can you share an example of one that worked?

Up until recently, I’ve always believed in the power of a clever subject line to get attention. But as journalists’ inboxes have become that much more cluttered, they don’t want to expend energy on trying to guess at the meaning behind your pithy wordplay. I try to be brief and direct. Journalists are using their inboxes as a search engine, so the more direct you are, the easier you will be to find when they ultimately go back to look for story ideas or sources.

A subject line that I used recently that saw some great responses couldn’t have been more clear: “Samples Available: New vodka to donate 100% proceeds to Ukrainian relief.” There’s no question about what my email will be about, and we got a fabulous response.

 

4.) What information do you always make sure to include in a pitch?

It feels so obvious, but the typical Ws – Who, What, Where, When, Why – but as we work with a lot of consumer brands, we’ve expanded that to include price point, link to download assets (never attach), and a nod to affiliate network integration, if applicable. With affiliate marketing continuing to grow, it’s so important to flag up front if your clients are part of an affiliate network, particularly when working with shopping or commerce editors.

 

5.) What’s been your favorite campaign you’ve worked on and what made it successful?

This was in a previous life, but when I worked on the Olive Garden team, we executed an incredible pitch around the core insight of brides and grooms going overboard when asking their friends and family to be part of their wedding party (or high school students doing the same with prom dates!). But why give someone a bouquet of flowers when you could give them a bouquet of breadsticks?

We worked with the incredible team at Olive Garden to create branded wrappers that were available to download on the website for someone to print and wrap around a bouquet of breadsticks for a yummy way to ask someone to prom or to stand up at your wedding. The coverage was incredible.

What made this pitch so special is that it was done in complete collaboration with the clients – those are the best kinds of accounts; it was relatively free – we didn’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a big stunt; it was so unexpected – breadstick bouquets!; and it was based on what was at the time a really relatable human truth.

 

6.) What’s your best tip for measuring PR? What’s the most valuable KPI to track in your opinion and why?

There’s no magic bullet KPI as that’s entirely dependent on what the client deems as successful, but if what we’re doing doesn’t ultimately support an actual business goal or outcome, we’re not showing the full value of PR. I am energized by the fact that our agency continues to prioritize both quantitative and quality-based metrics, and often in partnership with digital analysts who can measure how PR is actually driving business outcomes. We’re getting smarter about the best ways to do that, which helps our clients really sell in the value of PR and ensure there’s a place for it in the budget.

 

7.) How do you maintain relationships with journalists when you have no news to share?

It’s hard. You don’t want to add to the clutter of their inbox when it’s already overflowing, but you also don’t want to go completely off the radar. My favorite way to stay connected is through genuine connections on social media, and without an agenda. Follow and engage with people as if they were part of your personal network or group of friends (they are!). We’re all human, so I love connecting on a super-human level. I never pitch via social media, but when I have a relationship, they’re more likely to read my email when I do have news to share.

 

8.) How do you utilize social media/marketing to amplify your PR results?

Our clients will often re-share great articles on their own social channels as a way to not only amplify news but help drive more traffic to the media partner’s site. I’ve had clients also put some paid amplification behind a news story so there’s ultimately more eyeballs on the content. I’ll also often share a link to a story on my own personal channels, tagging the journalist so they get some additional love.

 

9.) What’s your #1 tactic for building relationships with journalists?

Be human and be helpful.

Stories are at the heart of what we do on both sides of the fence. In a lot of cases, we need each other to tell those stories. So I prioritize talking to journalists human to human, removing as much “transaction” out of every interaction, and seeking to provide as much value to them, with my client’s best interest also in mind, every step of the way.

 

10.) What’s the best PR advice you’ve received or given to others?

It’s PR, not ER. Simple as that.

 

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If you’re looking for more tips from PR professionals, check out our entire PR profile series highlighting some of the top PR professionals in the industry!

Like this series and have a guest you think would be a good fit? Shoot us a Twitter DM or email us at info@onepitch.co and let us know who you’d want to see featured next! PS: you can recommend yourself too.

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Kendall began her journey at OnePitch as an intern in January of 2019 and is now the Marketing Manager handling all of the marketing efforts ranging from social media to content, and emails. She studied communications at San Diego State University and enjoys drawing, being outside, and practicing yoga in her free time.

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