Every PR practitioner secretly dreams about it: receiving a call from a The New York Times reporter asking to write a story on our clients/issues/companies. And, while many of us have vast experience with crafting and pitching stories, the truth is that an NYT “hit” remains a distant dream.
Not for 2008 SPR MA alum Christina Wong, director of PR and brand expression at Tender Greens, a Los Angeles-based restaurant chain that is taking on the big boys like Chipotle. On July 26, 2014, she woke up early to see the story she pitched about the restaurant staring back at her from the FRONT PAGE of The New York Times! “I couldn’t believe my eyes: not only front page but lead photo, too!” Christina noted.
A self-avowed foodie, Christina crafted a pitch that she thought might catch the eye of dining reporter Julia Moskin. “In PR, we emphasize the relationships with journalists but I’ve found that a good strategy and compelling, timely angle are equally important.” Leveraging Chipotle’s then-recent news of 12% quarterly profit increase and that Tender Greens was listed as #10 in the July 2014 issue of Restaurant Business magazine’s “The Future 50: Fastest Growing Small Chains in America,” Christina thought Julia might be interested in a counter story: a restaurant chain that actually offers farm-to-table fast food. The timeliness of the Chipotle news and working with the NYT photographer to capture a colorful, beautiful food photo landed the article and a photo of Tender Greens’ Backyard Steak Salad on the front page.
Not resting on her newly exalted media maven status, Christina was quick to engage social media to spread the word even further. In fact, on Facebook, she admitted, “Wow, PR dreams do come true.”
And here are some other tips this media-savvy alum offers for current and budding PR practitioners:
“I was up late on Friday night 7/25 obsessively hitting refresh for the online version of the story that inevitably drops the night before so I could merchandise it to my bosses immediately. I was also hitting refresh on the “Today’s Front Page” digital PDF and sent to my team at 11:46 p.m. on a Friday night. Getting a story placement is only part of the PR magic. Merchandising it and sharing with your team in a well-communicated email immediately, before anyone else sees it, is an art.”
Since last summer, Christina also landed a major story in the Los Angeles Times, Tender Greens’ hometown newspaper, which she also heavily merchandised, but adds:
“Too often I see PR practitioners taking too much time to share incredible press placements or not staying on top of run dates. We live in an on-demand, immediate gratification world, if a placement isn’t shared until hours later or end-of-day, some of the PR magic and the perception of our hard work to make that placement happen gets lost. In PR, we are constantly justifying our role within the company and the ROI of our results. Most people outside of PR don’t realize how much behind-the-scenes work is required to get the results we want. So, it’s also our job to step up and merchandise the work we did to get the story placement in addition to the article itself.”
Photo credit: Flickr / Michael Daines