This hypothesis is borrowed from the retail industry, where retailers work on the concept called predictive analysis to be able to market their products by efficient consumer targeting. They study their consumers so minutely based on their buying pattern that they are capable of telling you what you might purchase next even before even you realizing it. Researchers in the retail industry while studying buying patterns of consumers uncovered that consumer preferred to buy products that they are already familiar with as compared to something they are not seen before. Researchers examined people’s brains as they shopped and tracked which neural regions are involved in comprehending aural stimuli. Shopping activates numerous areas of brain, including cortex, the thalamus and the superior parietal cortex. These areas are associated with pattern recognition and helping the brain decide which inputs to pay attention to and which to ignore.
The areas that get activated while shopping are designed to seek out patterns and look for familiarity. Our brains crave for familiarity while shopping because that is how we manage to decide what to buy without getting distracted by everything that is on offer in the retail outlet.
Now apply this theory to our business. Our job is to sell stories and our customers are the journalists who write on our client industry. Our bread and butter depends on the stories covered by them as if we do not get anything printed in the target media about our clients, then we will be out of business. But how much as an individual or as an industry we try to study about our most important customers?
Most of us draft a pitch/concept note with an aim to influence a journalist to write a story in favor of our client and send the same randomly to few journalists covering the beat and wait for a favourable response. If anyone of them does respond then great or else we repeat the process with few other journalists. We don’t actually try and study what kind of stories the journo has done in the past couple of days, what he may be currently interested in etc., and end of being ignored or worst ridiculed by them.
So this is how according to my hypothesis we can apply the familiarity theory. Journalist if you observe their writing patterns typically write similar kind of stories or have similar styles in all their stories. If you read their stories over the period of time, you will realize their story attitudes, whether they mostly give a tint of negative bend in their stories, or give neutral information or have an investigative style of reporting etc., If you happen to understand their style of writing accurately and pitch your concept with the flavor that they prefer, there are high chances that your pitch will be accepted.
I have tried this concept for over a month and have been able to influence the journalist atleast 8 times out of 10 attempts. The only thing is that for every concept and for every journalist your pitch will have to be differently drafted after studying the stories done by him/her in the past.
There is one another way, how the familiarity theory works in our favour. The more your pitches get accepted by the journalists there are high chances that he/she will be familiar with you and may also pick up any new themes suggested by you as the confidence goes up based on the past successes.
I understand given the busy schedule we are too stretched to do so much of research before trying to sell each pitch but if the story is really important then a little more effort will increase the chance of your success as well as you will be able to build a long term relationship with the journalist.