It’s All In The Pitch: 6 Ways To Ensure Your News Gets Published
Your press release is written. Your team is excited. Now, it’s time to send your news to the media…right? Not so fast.
Pitching a story to the media goes far beyond attaching a press release to an email. Getting a story published involves finding the right outlets, journalists and angle for your news. Before you hit the “send” button on your email, take a look at these six ways to make sure your news gets picked-up.
1. Consider The Angle
First things first – you need to figure out how you’re going to sell your story. This is what publicists refer to as the “hook”, or the angle that is going to catch a reporter’s eye and make your news stand out. It’s great that your company is celebrating 20 years in business and you want to publicize that milestone; however, the “hook” needs to go deeper than that. Instead of saying, “Hey, we’ve been around for 20 years!” try offering a “hook” that will mean something to the reporter and his or her audience. For example, “We’ve been around for 20 years, and now we’ve created a list of lessons learned for other business owners to read.”
2. Determine Where You Want Your News To Go And Why
Once you have your angle down, decide which publications you’ll be targeting. Is your news relevant to local media? Are you looking to get into the national outlets? Is this update something that would be better suited for industry trade publications? Figure out where you want your news to end up – and, most importantly, why you want it there – and create a list based on those outlets you want to target.
3. Identify the Right Journalists
After you’ve decided where you’ll be sending your news, the next step is to establish who you’re sending it to. To get started, conduct some organic research by searching through each outlet’s roster of reporters, or by typing in keywords that are relevant to your pitch in the website’s search bar. When you find a journalist who might be a fit, take a look at his or her previous articles or segments. Does the reporter actually cover news that is similar to what you’re about to send? If not, do some more digging and find a different reporter at the publication who is more suitable for your angle. Online media databases, such as Cision, are also great tools for finding the right journalist and his or her contact information.
4. Keep It Simple
I mean, really simple. I’ve stressed the importance of simplicity in media relations before, but I’ll say it again, especially when it comes to the pitch. This is the portion of your email where you have very little space and time to sell your idea, and to get the reporter interested enough to read your press release (which, by the way, should go at the bottom of your email after you’ve prepared the reporter for what they’re about to read). Use that space and time wisely by getting the “hook” across in a simple, creative way, and try to keep the pitch to just a few need-to-know lines.
5. Thou Shalt NOT Spam
If there’s one thing you take away from this blog post, please let it be this: never, ever send out a mass email blast to journalists! This is a surefire way to get blacklisted by a reporter, or receive a nasty response that will likely traumatize you for the rest of your pitching days. Individualize each pitch you send, take the time to double-check that you’re sending it to the correct person and, no matter what you do, make sure the journalist you’re sending your pitch to is the right person for that news.
6. Follow Up
Once you’ve sent out your pitch, you’re done, right? Not even close. After the initial pitch, you should always send a follow-up note that 1.) asks if the journalist received your previous email and 2.) offers something new or reinforces why your news is timely and relevant.
Like most things in media relations/life, timing is everything when it comes to following up. Typically, I allow an entire business day to pass between the time of my first email and the time of my follow-up email. That means you shouldn’t send a follow-up note at 9 a.m. on a Wednesday for a pitch you sent at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday. Journalists work on deadlines and many simply aren’t staring at their computer screens for eight hours a day like the rest of us. Give them time to read your email, then gently nudge them for a response.
Depending on the journalist and the nature of your pitch, a follow-up phone call might also be helpful. While we’re living in the digital age and a simple email will usually do, if your news is extremely timely, if you’re offering an exclusive or if it is absolutely groundbreaking information that you know the journalist won’t want to miss (re: not a detailed description of your coworkers’ promotion), a phone call may be a welcomed reminder for a reporter who is being bombarded by tons of information.
The art of media relations is constantly evolving; however, sticking to these basic tips for pitching journalists will not only help get your news published, but it may also open the door for lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with members of the media.