Getting the attention of journalists isn’t easy. Alongside their day-to-day role writing copy to tight deadlines, interviewing their sources, fact checking, researching and a lot more, some teams get 100s of pitches a day from people like you who want to share their story.
This means you can quickly become a hindrance if your approach to media pitching isn’t well-thought-out. No one likes their inbox filled with irrelevant information that doesn’t get to the point, and you don’t want to be that person who comes across as a pushy salesperson rather than a considered PR professional who’s simply helping them find a fascinating story.
But there’s good news…
Although journalists are busy it’s their role to hunt for compelling stories, so if you get the pitch just right, your business could be featured in that magazine or newspaper your target audience love. With a simple strategy which involves putting yourself in the shoes of a journalist and building meaningful relationships, you can get coverage in exchange for simply being useful, making their lives a little easier, and taking the time to show your personality.
Figure out your hooks
Before you even consider media pitching, you must have something interesting to say. A journalist wants to cover news that their readers will want to sink their eyes into while they’re having their morning coffee and share with their friends. At its core, journalism is simply storytelling, so take the time to figure what yours is.
What’s a hook?
A hook is the interesting nugget of your story, the bate to get interest from journalists and readers alike. For example, you may have launched a new product or service, but it’s probably no use just focussing on the features of your product. You are best off communicating about a problem you’re solving and how it’s helping your target audience. A fun way to quickly fine-tune your story and distil it into key messages that stand out is to use the “so what?” test. When figuring out your hook ask yourself “so what?” This helps you uncover what’s in it for your target audience so you can communicate this as clearly as possible to the journalist.
Tailor your stories for the journalists
When you discover your hooks, you may notice that you have multiple stories you want to tell. For example, if you are a food sharing platform your main hook may be that you are saving the planet by reducing food waste and bringing the community together. Another hook could be around the propriety technology you’re using to bring the community together or how the app is helping low-income families.
You will need to consider the fact that one journalist may not want to cover everything, so you may want to tell different stories to different journalists.
This highlights the importance of researching your journalist and the publication before pitching. A journalist will have a subject area they specialise in and themes they like cover, so keep an eye on the articles they write.
Now you can approach journalists with confidence as you know you are giving them the types of content they want to see.
Build genuine relationships through social media
Social media is an incredibly important source for journalists with 80% of them believing that the influence or importance of social media has increased a lot in recent years. They use it in a number of ways including scouting businesses and individuals to feature, publishing their own content and finding user-generated content. This provides a perfect opportunity for you to build genuine relationships with journalists around shared interests. By engaging with them in a tactful way, you open the door for a warm reception when you do decide to pitch a story. Liking a few posts, responding or commenting with humour and being helpful when they ask for individuals to feature (even if the person isn’t you) will go a long way in building trust.
When you’re ready to approach the journalist with a pitch, you can also mention your previous encounter to remind them you’ve previously taken an interest in them.
Useful hack: Look out for hashtags like #journolink and #journorequest on social media to find journalists on the lookout for people to feature and follow those who are relevant to your organisation.
Make sure your email and the subject line is succinct but engaging
If you don’t have the chance to build a relationship with a journalist, you will need to send a cold email. As it’s something that journalists are used to, it means your email needs to stand out and make sense right away. Your email should deal with the who, what, why and where to ensure they have everything they need. We recommend using the following structure to grab their attention but remember to give your email some personality too. It’s the personal touches that ensure that journalists respond to you as an individual and where bonds are formed.
How to structure a media pitch:
Make sure it’s succinct and use bullet points if needed to make everything clearer.
Make your press release “article ready”
Alongside your media pitch you may want to attach your press release, a statement which outlines your story in fuller detail, as well as images and unbranded video content.
Some journalists will simply publish your press release, meaning you should make it ready to be published as an article, alongside high-resolution images they can use. This makes the journalists job miles easier and increases the chances of them covering your story.
As the demand for video content increases, there’s no harm in sending any supporting video content too. Some publications will appreciate having unbranded video content without your logos so they can share it with their audience. Just make sure you follow copyright rules and get permission from photographers and filmmakers to share their content.
Follow up, but patiently
You’ve done all the work now and while it can be tempting to follow up with a call, a recent article by PR Week stated that 50% of journalists said they don’t want PR professionals to call them, and that they would not pick up the phone. We suggest sending a follow up email, which is helpful in tone, two days later and another a week later.
A word of warning though; research shows that journalists will not respond to pitches they are not interested in, so you can assume that after a week or two has lapsed the lack of response means a lack of interest. This doesn’t mean you should give up though. Sometimes stories aren’t covered because of they don’t have the time, they have covered a story recently which is too similar, or national news has broken meaning your story is now deemed irrelevant. There are many reasons why, which means it’s always worth trying again further down the line.
For more advice on media pitching and public relations, read more on our Knowledge Hub, and follow Lionbridge PR on LinkedIn. We are also always around to help your business with PR and more, simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.