Companies spend an incredible amount of time refining their pitches so that people can understand what their product is trying to achieve in as little time as possible. While this is critical for adoption, it might not be all that effective in getting journalists to cover your launch. This is because no matter what sort of service you are providing, it’s very unlikely to be the first of its kind. If it is truly the first of its kind, that’s the hook.
Create a knowledge gap
If your product does something revolutionary, like the first toothbrush to stream Spotify through vibrations in your teeth while you brush, that’s the hook right there. The idea in itself is so new that it will peak people’s curiosities by creating a knowledge gap. A knowledge gap is when messaging effectively conveys a lack of understanding on the part of a customer. Things like “Did you know…?” are examples of knowledge gaps.
“Did you know that the dinosaurs were probably brightly colored?”
“What??? I always thought that dinosaurs were green or brown like in Jurassic Park. Tell me more!”
The “tell me more” moment is what every journalist is looking to capitalize on to drive readerships to his or her articles. In turn this is what your subject line should be in emails to journalists, it should have your hook in the line so that a journalist has the same response that they want their reader to have. Tell me more.
Brand new ideas already have knowledge gaps built in. Since they are brand new, few people will know what it is. Some will be curious naturally. But most products are not brand new, they are variations on other products and ideas that already exist. In this case people need to be compelled to be curious. What are some of the most compelling things around? Stories!
Tell a compelling story
There are seven archetypal story formats. You are probably familiar with all of them, like rags to riches, or overcoming the monster (David v. Goliath). A good exercise for your PR efforts is to try to pitch your product in as many of these seven different formats as possible. You will glean insights that might have been invisible.
Say, for example, you are focusing on your product, and how it’s newer and better than what came before. But you’re finding that no journalists are picking up on your product because “newer” isn’t news anymore. Time to go back to the drawing board.
Ask yourself, do we fit into any of the seven archetypal story formats? Do we have a client that overcame their monster thanks to our solution? Are we – a ragtag band of disruptive entrepreneurs – trying to dethrone Apache? Do we have a founder who rose from obscurity to become a leading expert in the field? Is our industry growth like a quest? Who is the cyclops? Was there a rebirth?
A common trend that we’re seeing on the web today is the use of the demonstrative pronoun “This.” “This kid broke both his legs but still rode his bike home before the tornado.”
“Wow, who is this boy?”
Another example: “This entrepreneur has her sights aimed directly at Zuck.”
“Shit, who is she and what’s she going to do??”
The “This” phenomenon invites the click. I would not recommend using this format for your pitch, it’s more something that a journalist will use depending on what their audience is like. But the idea that it instills a knowledge gap and tells a story at the same time is extremely useful and something that should be paid attention to.
Qualify your superlatives
Going the story route still needs a hook, but in the end, you’re doing the journalist a favor. A story structure gives the journalist a clear flow of ideas and information that can easily be transposed into an article. The worst approach is to bullet point features of your product, slap some superlatives all over the place, and send something like this:
- Our solution is the coolest
- It is the best way to achieve a customer’s need
- It has the best design
- It offers the best experience
None of these bullet points means anything! Things like “coolest” and even “best” are always subjective. Design and experience are also subjective. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use these words, but they must be qualified.
“We’ve applied modern design theory to improve the user experience, which has changed how we interact with our target problem.”
When possible, use quantifiable superlatives. For example: fastest performance, largest database, smallest file size, the most possible integrations. Then, back them up! Journalists love statistics because it shows research and understanding, plus it adds credibility to the article they will write about you. “2x faster delivery times than the market average.”
A very strong statistic can even become your hook. “92% of people hate pop-up ads. So we made SuperAdBlock+, which eliminates nearly all pop-up ads.” You can hear the clicks now!
It doesn’t even have to be some major consumer statistic. If you’re offering a B2B solution, zero in on your target publications. “AlwaysUpAd eliminated 74% of dropped server-side ad deliveries in only 6 months. How did they do it?”
To summarize, the formula for finding a hook is:
- Figure out how new your product is. If it’s truly brand new, there’s the hook!
- If it’s not truly brand new, figure out if a story format can work
- Create a knowledge gap, like a “Did you know…”
- Quantify superlatives so that you build credibility and accuracy
- Grab compelling statistics and see if they back up your hook
Then, finally, it is super important that you test what your email looks like. You need to be aware of how many characters a journalist will see if they read your email subject line in their inbox on different devices. Being concise in your hook is extremely important, because burying the hook after the break means that all your hard work will be for nothing!
Email your pitch to your friends and family and ask them how it was formatted. Make sure you control for Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail and their corresponding mobile apps. The best hook in the world won’t catch anything if it’s hidden!