In the past, small business owners and nonprofit organizational leads have approached me frustrated and confused as to why their media contacts aren’t covering their stories and seeking counsel. Some had excellent media pitches and press releases, so their confusion is understandable.
In order to engage media, your company news must be really newsworthy, meaning it must meet certain criteria to be considered. And with the extra work journalists have to complete, and the rising number of citizen journalists, it needs to be really juicy stuff.
Below are some best-practice tips for pitching to the media–which has earned some pretty dynamic client media coverage (if we do say so ourselves.)
Stories must be relevant to your media contacts
You must target journalists correctly, which means understanding your contact’s beats. This involves research, either from old-fashioned Google searches, or through a media database. And for goodness sake, make sure your news is relevant. For example, if you’re a make-up manufacturer with a killer tutorial on creating lash “wings,” you wouldn’t send your news to a business reporter. Seems simple enough, right? Target appropriate contacts.
(Tip: if you know the name of the journalist or blogger you’d like to cover your business, those Google searches produce an array of stories they’ve written and the outlets they appeared in. So if it’s not relevant, DON’T waste their time. (You’ll thank us later.)
Exclusive stories attract lots of attention
Entice your contact with exciting company news that has not been covered before. This could be news that profoundly affects your industry or a product that will change lives. Breaking news or extraordinary content is attractive because it allows contacts to break a story that hasn’t been revealed by a rival publication. And let’s be honest, everyone wants to be the first to “win the race.”
(Tip: When pitching an exclusive, you’ll be asked for details so contacts can ensure the news will appeal to their audience–so you must have a trusting relationship. You should also be prepared that the contact may choose not to cover it. It’s the nature of the industry.)
Keep pitches short and interesting, with the contact’s readers in mind
Oh…jargon. Sometimes there’s too much of it, and this rings true in press releases–sometimes they’re enormously lengthy or boring. They serve an important purpose in pitching though. Did your company just complete a unique industry survey? Pitch results in visual aids: infographics, a brief video or image briefs wok well. Include the release with the pitch as they’ll need to reference additional details. Sharing these pieces also allows contacts to use them to accompany and strengthen their story. Plus, visual data is much easier to absorb and is great content for social media.
(Tip: Press releases are for media, not customers. While customers can (and do) read press releases, they’re not written with the customer in mind, they are written in a specific way to attract media. When pitching, the media contact is your customer and you want them to “buy” your story, not your product. This is an important distinction to remember.)
Don’t badger your media contacts
Do NOT contact the journalist repeatedly to ensure they received your news. The media operates under tight deadlines and are busy. Send your material(s) and wait a day or two before you give them a call/email. Obviously if your news is extremely pressing you can call them within a reasonable time frame after the initial contact. In either case, be friendly, say hello and ask how their day is going before you address your request.
(Tip: Check out their social media handles and note recent posts. Sometimes, you’ll discover tidbits that explain why they haven’t contacted you yet. If they share they’re working a major story, don’t badger them. If they just got married, give it a week before you contact them. You’d be surprised how many less media you’ll alienate if you make the effort to check prior.)
Respect Media Deadlines
Reporters and bloggers work on deadlines. If they call you back, respond quickly as they have deadlines to meet. If you can’t contribute to a story, then you can’t contribute. It stinks you won’t be included, but you never want to ignore or be lazy in responding to an inquiry. This leaves a very sour impression and you never want your company to appear as an unreliable source.
If you do reach your contact and they sound as though (or say) they are swamped, back off. Assignment desks and editors delegate last-minute stories, so sometimes (many times) your news takes a back seat. If you do get them on the phone, ask if it’s a good time. Don’t continue pressing them for time–this it can be very bad for your story if you continue interrupting.
(Tip: Always have trained spokesperson(s) ready to be quoted in a story, and update your media kits regularly. You want them to be readily available so you don’t miss a coverage opportunity–especially due to photo needs, or something else that’s entirely avoidable with proper preparation.)
If you’re unsure of the right media contact for your business, we can help.