Pitching tip: talk up the talent

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how to talk to a journalist

Still a publicist's best friend. FYI kids it is a telephone.

We held a public Media Savvy 101 workshop in Melbourne this week. On the agenda was a pitching session. “Pitching” is the term given to the act of telephoning a journalist to convince them to consider your story. Each of our eight participants bravely trialled a pitch for review.

how to talk to a journalist

Pitching is a moment of truth.

One piece of feedback equally relevant to all was this: talk up the talent. By “talent” we mean prospective interviewees. Whoever might speak or appear is referred to as “talent”. It’s a silly term but that’s showbiz for ya.  

As part of any pitch you will have to describe the talent. Too often this means little more than providing a name and title but that’s not enough. Journalists want to be convinced that your talent is interesting. Make it so.

Consider how you might describe a potential blind date to your single-but-picky housemate. 

Surely you’d provide more details than name, job title and age of the prospective date. You’d do your best to persuade your housemate that this date is special – funny, caring, smart, good with kids, generous and so on. You might tell a revealing story of how the date overcame a poor start in life to build the second largest muffler and tyre balancing franchise in south east Queensland or somesuch heroic tale. You might say something along the lines of: “Don’t tell her I told you this but…” and reveal some breathtaking nugget that makes them irresistible.

Well that’s how it should be when you are describing your CEO / program manager / chair / contented client etc. Talk them up. Get to know your talent so you can pitch them with confidence. 

Remember you are not making an apointment for your boss – you are persuading a busy journalist to consider your story among hundreds of others. You’ll need to sound like you truly know why this is a story worthy of coverage.

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One for the kids…

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Here at Hootville we believe that the children are our future. That we should teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. And so on.

University seeks internship opportunities

Young, eager and ready to learn. Or climb chimneys.

If you feel similarly perhaps you should engage an intern by talking to Ella Hewitt who is the partnerships coordinator for the School of Communication and the Arts at Victoria University in Victoria. Here’s what she told us:

As part of their postgraduate degrees, Master (Communication/PR) students are required to undertake a placement of 12 days in length in order to be accredited by the Public Relations Institute of Australia.

The professional placement program offers employers the opportunity to gain the skills of an extra and competent postgraduate within their organisation. The aim of the placement is to give students a realistic look at the current employment situation and the vocational possibilities of where their skills could be applied. As a benefit to host organisations, students bring new perspectives, creative ideas, and are familiar with the latest research and best practices within their field. (To which we say…maybe so, maybe not but do they do coffee runs?)

Please note that there is no cost to the host organisation and the students are covered by Victoria University’s public liability and personal accident insurance during their placement.

Interested? Call Ella Hewitt 03 9919 2234.


And the winners are…

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free PR advice

An artist's impression of the four winners reacting to the news.

Each new Citizen of Hootville (AKA subscriber to the Hootville Lowdown) in May was in the running for one of four free consultations with Hootville. Well the darts have been thrown, dice rolled and ping pong balls thrown into a rotating glass container and the winners are:

The Family Centre of NSW, SACOSS of SA, Clontarf Foundation of WA and Animal Liberation Victoria (Squiggle’s first choice.)


Reading list June 7 2012

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Bono says that a great lyric sounds familiar the first time it is heard. He may be right but now there’s some science investigating why some phrases are more memorable than others. This technology review article explains more and offers you the opportunity to take the test that uncovered just why some lines stick in the memory more so than others.

social marketing poster

Well it certainly influenced those two chaps' decision.

Sex workers and soldiers go together like…well you get the drift. However this relationship has long been frowned upon by the military. At least officially if these vintage public education posters found on website Lost At E Minor are anything to go by.

Many marketers dream of creating a viral video hit that takes the planet by storm. Aparently this one is hot, hot, hot. Rarely have we seen a video so strongly recommended.

pr mistakes

This can't be good.

Newsflash: journalists all hate publicists. Never mind that they would have nothing to say without us – they resent the inane pitches, the perky voice on the other end of the phone and the contrasting fortunes of the two professions. Who could blame them, poor saps. This article found on website Grist, is the sort of thing journalists write when they receive one too many media releases.

Analytics Savvy 101 announced

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Analytics Savvy 101

Tuesday June 12 from 10am to 11.30am. 

Got a website? Of course. Got Google Analytics? Sure. Look at your Analytics regularly? Kinda. Constantly use Analytics to improve your website’s perfomance? Well…

google analytics advice

Place your website into analysis.

Well it’s about time your all important online investment was given some adult supervision. Learn how to get the most from Google Analytics in our 90m webinar. Agenda: 


  • meet the Google Analytics dashboard;
  • de-jargonning and defining terms such as “bounce rates”;
  • benchmarking – what expectations are reasonable?
  • tracking the performance of your social media endeavours;
  • monitoring your website’s vital signs;
  • using Google Analytics to improve search engine results;
  • some clever reports to impress bosses;
  • how GA can help boost purchases and donations;
  • quarantining your colleagues’ activity from the stats;
  • finding your site’s cul de sacs and abandoned areas.

All the details right here.

Join: Jean Hailes Foundation for Women, University of Melbourne, Community Sector Banking, Cancer Council Victoria, Australian Physiotherapy Association, Tasmania Landcare, Barwon Water, Benetas, Diabetes Australia, Victoria, Alzheimers Australia Victoria. 

Your website is surely your biggest communications tool. It’s also the easiest to dramatically improve. Google Analytics helps you do this.

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SEO and images

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You already know that good search engine results depend on many factors – the length of copy on your page, the URL of that page, the age of that page and the images on that page. There are many more factors of course but let us talk images for now. By “image” we mean photograph, graphic or illustration.

Images are a key factor for Google when evaluating the credibility of your page. Google  knows that over all, pages with more images are more credible and information-laden than pages with less images. Credible, valuable, much-referred to pages are the pages it wishes to recommend. 

So #1: use images, preferably more than one per page. Find an excuse.

Using images to boost SEO

This alt tag aims for people investing in property at 590 Orrong Road.

#2: take time to fill in the details relating to that image when you insert it into the page via your content management system. As the image on the left shows, filling in the Alternate Text box (the “alt tag”) to your image takes seconds and helps Google’s robots understand what the image is. Be sure to use search-savvy terms. If you want new mums to see your site, use a term like “parenting advice for new mums” as the alt tag text. 

Sadly many images are inserted with no alt tag information. No alt tag information = no way for Google to understand the image = bad.  Change this image by image ASAP.

#3 The image / file nameis also important. Digital cameras usually give pictures

using images to boost google rankings

Yes, we're just using this second to boost SEO. So sue us!

an alpha-numeric name such as jpg35018ki which is not helpful to Google. The world’s most committed SEO-savvy marketer (that’s you, yes?) will rename the file to something SEO- friendly such as “autistic child receives free early intervention”. This is time consuming but it will help you forever.

#4 Refer to the image and what it describes in text near the image. Eg: Note above the text we wrote as part of tip #2. It mentions the image and explains the image. This helps Google understand the image.

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Reading list May 30, 2012

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Brett thinks Malcolm Gladwell of Tipping Point et al is over-rated. Squiggle think Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw is “inspired”.

marketing advice

The revolution may not be digitised after all.

Regardless, the perennial New York Times best seller has penned a piece for The New Yorker on social media revolutions which is worth a read unless you’ve got work to do, in which case close this down immediately.

If you’re still reading this far you are looking actively for a distraction. You could do worse than 99 Problems But A Pitch Ain’t One which is for PR and comms folk like you. This goes double for consultants and freelancers. Warning: this site is very American and very corporate in its references.

twitter blooper

Naughty naughty bollocks. AKA lies.

This is oldish but a good PR blooper looking at true blue Aussie celebrities being paid to tweet. Cringeworthy, amateurish and possibly illegal. Courtesy of Mumbrella.

This is a MUST READ from Hubspot about your website and why people hate it.


The pen(cil) is mightier than the fraud

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Journalism is still – even in this era – a glamour profession. Journalists are proud to be journalists – they have a professional ego and are slow to concede the full truth about why some stories are run while others are ignored.

Journalists love to tell you that stories get run on their merit and that they are always looking for a new angle and substantive issue. Some are, some of the time but most are trying against the odds and the clock to fill the space they have to fill.

They never reveal how malleable they are, pretending that they are quality controllers, tough nuts and cynical dudes able to see through our flimsy PR ploys. Yet day after day we see their stores – graduation day at the Police canine college (Squiggle loves that one) the unveiling of the Christmas windows, the rush of bargain-hunters at the Boxing Day sales et al. These are picture-driven stories which fill a lot of space, and make a lot of publicists happy. 

No matter how unvisual your story make it more visual before you pitch the idea to media. Create a crowd of supporters for your launch, hold it in front of a symbolic location, release some balloons, cut a giant cake, offer video of last year’s 24 hour dance-a-thon, letters of thanks or desperation* from a parent you assisted, archival photographs from the days of institutions for the people you now help in the community. You get our drift. Think visual, no matter what the story. 

Like feeding the chooks. But with pencils. And journalists.

This bollocks on the left was run for no other reason but the visuals. It’s the suave head of pencil maker Faber Castell Count Anton Wolfgang von Faber-Castell recreating a PR stunt one of his forefathers created. The Count is throwing to the ground 500 of his pencils from the tower of his own castle (yes, his own) to demonstrate their strength. None do and the media eat it up. The fawning stories this created were numerous and non-threatening. Among the many hits were articles on two of the world top 11 news websites: CNN and MailOnline. 

pr training

There. Up in the sky. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No just a photo opp.

We guarantee that few journalists would acknowledge that such a transparent, pointless, angle-less, fraudulent, self-promotional idea could get past their editorial gatekeeping. Publicists: 15. Media: Love.  

Learn how to get more media coverage at Media Savvy 101.

*Yes, of course with permission. Duh. 


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A good idea. Sadly not our own.

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Here’s a good idea worth a mention.

1. Open conference. Brett recently emceed day one of the Interchange Outer East Keeping It Real conference in Melbourne’s leafy Upwey. Interchange Outer East works with young people, people with disabilities and other oft-excluded groups providing respite, social activities and post-school options. 

conference emcee

The view from the pulpit.

Every two years they shut everything down to gather as a tribe and confab. All staff attend. This alone is a little special but what makes this newsworthy is that Interchange makes it a point to invite clients, carers and volunteers too. Perspective expand, relationships are built. That’s not all – also on the invitation list are other agencies, clubs, service groups, local employers and government folk. Oh; it’s free for all. Even the conference dinner was $15 a pop. People talk “partnerships”, “innovation” and “inclusion” all the time. This is the walk. Kudos Interchange Outer East.

The agenda was far broader than might be expected. Speakers from Streat and The Big Issue covered social enterprises, 2011 Australian of the Year Simon McKeon spoke about philanthropy and the rich, Yooralla’s ComTEC unit presented a cool show-and-tell session and there was a presentation on recruiting CALD volunteers.  It was a broad approach to the issues facing Interchange. Impressive stuff.

BTW the Burrinja Conference Centre was excellent – spacious and confortable, better than average disability access, catering, parking, audio-visual set-up and staff service ethic. Remarkable back stage facilities too. Highly recommended if you are in that part of town.

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When to tweet?

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when to retweet

Take the weekends off.

You tweet hard for the money, no doubt hoping that your followers will recognise your genius and retweet you. Well genuises, you can take weekends off as it seems that retweeters have better things to do on Saturday and Sunday. At least this is what this chart from HubSpot reveals.



getting more retweets

Ask and thou shall retweet.


Humans are strange but utterly malleable. As this HubSpot graph to the left shows, ask followers to retweet your content and they will. Even the wording of how you ask effects the influence you wield. Who knew? You do. Exploit it.   


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