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The public relations function typically constructs media pitches based on the story that the company wants to tell. These stories tend to be pristine narratives — the sun is shining; birds are chirping — that dull the senses.

That largely explains why 95%+ of pitches to the business media fail.

Instead, we should be thinking like journalists and pulling together the type of content that aligns with how journalists write. Company messages have a place in this exercise, but as supplemental material, not the crowbar to open the door.

By reverse-engineering articles in the business media, we can extract lessons to hone our media pitching skills. That’s how a Bloomberg Businessweek story on OraSure Technologies ended up on my operating table. Here’s a company that makes vials for spit, a product category that doesn’t exactly shout innovation.

So how did they do it? How did they land a feature story in a Tier 1 business book? Breaking down the construction of the story by content type goes a long way toward answering the question.

 

Content Type in Businessweek Story on OraSure

 

What immediately jumps out is that 20% of the story consists of anecdotal content. This is a core part of the storytelling in business publications. Yet, PR often spits on anecdotes — allocated one bad pun per month — as inconsequential or fluff. If you audited the content generated by the PR function on a worldwide basis, I’m convinced that anecdotes would be lucky to tip the 3% mark of the overall content collection.

We also find a contrarian hook. It turns out that transporting saliva isn’t as easy as it sounds with time and temperature conspiring to wreck the genetic information before it arrives at the lab.

And nothing like a colorful quote from the CEO: “Saliva is not pure. It’s got a lot of bacteria and other stuff swimming in it.”

Obviously, I don’t know how OraSure pitched the Businessweek journalist, but I suspect the contrarian hook and anecdotes were there in some form. Otherwise, how does the journalist conclude that there’s a story in the spit market?

For more posts on this topic, media pitching, not the spit market, check out:

Deconstructing a New York Times Article on Amazon for Storytelling Lessons

How Does a B2B Customer Story Crack The Wall Street Journal?


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