When Crafting a New PR Business Presentation, Lead With Storyline

When crafting a public relations program, much time can be spent debating which up-front information—how to structure the strategies, objectives and tactics—to include in the presentation, at the expense of developing ideas that work for both the client and the media.

I came to that conclusion myself when the marketing manager of a major consumer products company, Gillette, cut short an individual during a presentation and said, “Enough of that. Just tell me how you are going to get our story told in the media.” The remainder of the presentation was dominated by the storylines we developed and the specific media we would approach with each one.

The Pitch

We showed the client how the storylines, with a slight revision, could be used in various sections of a newspaper or magazine, and possibly on TV programs, and used examples from major publications to demonstrate how simple it is to do so if the original storylines were crafted with that in mind.

PR practitioners should remember that it’s the storylines that you develop and pitch that makes or breaks PR campaigns—not the up-front presentation. And developing stories that work for both the client and the media is the job of PR practitioners; the strategies, objectives and tactics can be left to others.

When developing a media approach, consider adhering to these tenets:

  • The Idea vs. The Gimmick: It is essential to match the personality of the client and the nature of the message to a specific target audience.
  • The Strategy vs. The Hyperbole: In a world dominated by glitter and glitz, being strategic is essential. Not only should campaign strategies be thought through, but their implications should to be thoroughly considered.
  • The Program vs. The Promotion: The best public relations program should be crafted with the overall corporate culture in mind. When developing storylines, attempt to tie them to the brand’s advertising campaigns.

Ideas for Approaching the Pitch

  • Lead with the storyline. Rather than giving examples of previous major placements your agency has achieved and the number of offices it has in various countries—a task that may be the job of your colleagues—illustrate how the storyline(s) will assist with media coverage.
  • Demonstrate the efficiency of your approach. Present a mock-up of a proposed story, followed by other mock-ups showing how with slight revisions and a minimal number of new facts the initial story can be used in various sections of a publication, during a TV show or via another channel.
  • End with personal anecdotes, if useful. For instance, before ceding the floor in the example above, I shared my experience as a reporter and editor, during which my colleagues and I would notice the similarity of pitches from different agencies. Only the names of the clients were different. This demonstrated why an agency that values creativity and thinking outside the box is the wisest option. Present an example of how, with a little originality, the same core program can be used year after year to deliver the client’s messages, much as a successful advertising campaign does.

Crafting a new business presentation begins when a client asks for a request for proposal (RFP). But it should not end with unoriginal ideas. It’s the programs (to clients) and the pitches (to journalists) that demonstrate the original thinking that leads to success.

Arthur Solomon was a journalist and SVP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller who worked in sports and other sectors. Contact him: [email protected]