Pitching a story to the media is no easy task. It involves a lot – it’s about building relationships and getting your message across in a way that sparks interest. Media relations is an important job function for PR professionals, and there are new and engaging ways to get the right kind of coverage. Just because it’s interesting to your company doesn’t mean the media cares! Always re-evaluate the news, to see if there’s a better angle you can pitch. There can be ways to guarantee that a reporter picks up a good pitch. You can ensure that whatever news is pitched will satisfy the needs of both the reporter and the communicator making the pitch.
Here are some things to remember when pitching journalists:
- Keep it relevant, remember your audience
Before making your pitch, make sure you know which media you’re targeting and why. Are you targeting Newspapers, TV or Radio networks, small blogs, portals, magazines, or community newspapers? When you understand exactly to whom you want to pitch to, and what they (and their audience) care about, you can appropriately tailor your pitch and make it relevant and powerful.
- Keep it simple, keep it short
When you pitch to the media, be sure to keep it short and simple. Journalists today, are very busy and often read your pitch from their smartphones! Make sure that the pitch should state key facts and get to the point of your news quickly (or it will most likely end up getting deleted!). Something I can vouch for, is that a journalist does not need fancy writing, they want the facts and the ‘why’ behind the story. You could work at a pitch that is 150 words or less.
- Use simple formats for easy reading
Creating a pitch that is easy to read and understand is critical. You could arrange the content so that it’s clear to the reporter you’re pitching to, by using bullet points to break up large sections of text and to highlight important points. You can control your own message, but not media. It’s common to see people trying to make sure they can control what the media publishes – sometimes even wanting to see the content, before it goes live! That may not happen. Don’t do this, and as a PR pro, you have to educate clients about the media’s responsibilities.
- Customise to the needs of the selected media
We remember how often we hit the ‘delete’ button when we get emails, that are part of a mass emailing exercise? Nothing can be more putting off than when a reporter can decipher that the same story has also been pitched to ten other reporters !! So, it’s important to customise pitches – they tend to be the most successful. Refer to a recent article or blog post by the reporter that’s relevant to your story. If it is obvious to the reporter that you’ve done your homework and your pitch is relevant to their beat, they are much more likely to read it and perhaps get in touch.
- Build Trust
Building trust is easier than you think. Meaning – it’s simply about courtesy, respect, and good communication. Journalists are busy all the time, so be sure to check out if they have time to hear your pitch before jumping right in. Make sure that after you pitch to a reporter, your spokesperson does not turn around and tell the reporter that he/she is not available! Just keep in mind that the reporter has to sell the story to the editor, and getting your spokesperson to be part of it is integral. Do be accessible for any fact-checking even late at night, so that the reporter can meet the deadline and get the story out, the next day! Once you have their confidence, remember to be available to answer questions; and, if you can’t answer immediately, at least let them know when you can revert. This removes any anxiety and frustration, specially when a reporter is working on a deadline.
- Old information is not news
Even if it a week-old information, it is not news! Timeliness is key when trying to generate publicity. Sometimes it helps to keep the “news peg” top-of-mind, otherwise media will not be interested.
- Exclusives can increase your chances of coverage
If you have a big story to pitch and are willing to give an “exclusive” to a specific reporter, you might get a better story than you would, when working with multiple publications or channels.
The underlying message is – always consider your opportunities for coverage. Try to think “out of the box”, but don’t try so hard that it feels forced, for then you can be rest assured that media will not touch you with a bargepole!