You want to generate exposure for your business or organization, right? Publicity seems like a natural option – you can share your news with the media and they’ll cover it. While it sounds simple, it’s anything but…
Reporters and journalists receive hundreds of emails each day, which means sending a standard news release won’t always put you in the spotlight. If you want to generate editorial coverage (get your news online, on TV, or in a newspaper, etc.), then consider the following pitching tips from journalists, producers, and reporters.
- NEWS RELEASE VS. STORY PITCH
First, we must recognize the difference between a news release and a story pitch. News releases are timely announcements of news (e.g. who, what, where, when, why). Story pitching is one of two things. It’s either a creative follow-up to your news release or it’s a standalone outreach to media designed to entice a them to cover your business or organization. The latter requires strategic planning, innovative thinking and practice – and it’s what we’re focused on in this blog.
- KNOW REPORTERS: Pitch to the right person.
Familiarize yourself with reporters at media outlets you want to pitch. Research their beat (the type of news they typically cover i.e. education, sports, health) to ensure you’re speaking to or emailing with the most appropriate person.
Do not pitch to executive producers or senior producers. Story development pitching is on the shoulders of their reporters, editors (sometimes) and associate producers. Those are the individuals to contact, the ones you need to get excited about stories, and who will fight for your pitch. The more resources you provide (photos, details, points of contact, etc.), the higher likelihood of getting their support because they’ll have a better chance of convincing senior staff.
“When someone takes the time to understand what I’m trying to do it cuts through.” – Steve Ladurantaye, The Globe and Mail 4
- KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Who do you want to reach? What are they talking about? Research and identify cultural and social trends for “trend spots.” Use your findings to investigate and formulate a question that you can address using your expertise to give a personal spin in your answer.
Example: “Are news releases a thing of the past? PTE public relations expert Samantha Scott, APR says…”
- KNOW YOUR STORY
Much like the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared,” you must be prepared for any questions a reporter might throw at you. Do your research. Focus on your goal – what you want to communicate – and break out all the elements of information so you’re prepared before the tough questions come up. Tell what you consider to be the problem and then explain a solution.
Use the inverted pyramid model, placing the most important content at the top, followed by less important, supporting details. Attention spans continue to decrease while requests for reports time increase. Get to the point, then give additional details if they ask for them. Quick tip: the same rule applies in writing news releases.
- KEEP IT SHORT
In your first two paragraphs; focus on substance over form. Remember and apply the “WWWWW” rule – who, what, when, where, and why. These are the key components every reporter or editor will need to know.
When including video in your pitch, be aware of the duration. Don’t share video longer than 2 minutes. Use a descriptive, captivating headline that will target their niche of interest.
Keep your initial pitch concise, but once you have their interest, give them as much information as you possibly can.
- CONTENT IS KEY
Reporters are quick to determine if something is newsworthy, so make the topic interesting right away and focus on human interest. Tell a story. Ask a question. Use a quote. Follow this checklist to help you out:
- State the expert/technique/product right away
- Explain why this matters to their viewers
- Give statistics when you can (i.e. 54% of homeowners are using ABC product) and where to find more information
- Peg your story to a news angle – give it national interest
If you are pitching an expert on a given topic, provide a link to a video of them speaking publicly. I.E. Compilation video of John Doe, CEO of XYZ company, speaking on the topic of X at national conferences, on TV shows, etc.
- DON’T PRAISE YOURSELF
Let others support your story/pitch and legitimacy. When pitching media, share personal testimonies from your customers, clients, staff, etc. Use this as an opportunity to showcase your credibility through the words of those who experience your business/organization, service, or product firsthand. You can talk all day about what you do, why you do it, and what great purpose it serves, but when it comes from outsiders, it speaks volumes!
- BE CREATIVE
Try a new style of presentation that will help you connect on a more personal level. Instead of writing and distributing a traditional news release followed by a pitch, try a video news release, or connect with reporters and journalists on social media.
Not sure if you can handle this all on your own? You’re not alone. We’re here to help tell your story. Check out our public relations page for more tips and resources!