As public relations professionals, one of our main responsibilities is to build relationships with the media on behalf of our clients. Developing a good rapport with a member of the media can result in interview and byline opportunities you’ve pitched as well as opportunities where a reporter proactively reaches out to use a client as an expert in an upcoming piece.
In order to foster a great relationship with a member of the media, a PR pro must first understand the keys to successful pitching. Understanding what a reporter is looking for will enable you to draft pitches that will not only be worthwhile to the reporter, but also to you and your client.
Here are five things to remember before you develop your pitch:
- Facts, Facts and More Facts: The media loves hard facts, so beginning your pitch with a reputable, eye-opening statistic to address a pain point is a great way to get a reporter’s attention and spur his/her interest in the topic you are pitching.
- Hard News Is Great News: You can pique the media’s interest by pitching them hard client news such as new products, acquisitions, partnerships, etc. In some cases – when newsworthy enough – you can even use these types of announcements to kindle their interest through embargos or exclusives.
- Breaking News and Events: Whether it a recent election or a major conference/event/holiday, you can use timely news hooks to get the attention of a reporter that may already be covering a related story
- Catchy Subject Lines: A subject line can make or break your chance of catching the eye of a reporter, as they are often working on-the-go or trying to meet a deadline. Your subject line should be as short and clever as possible, as well as readable from a smartphone or tablet.
- Ready-to-Go Content: Reporters are often juggling multiple stories at once, so they may pass on a story idea if it requires them to interview a source and ultimately write another piece. Having “Expert Tips” or “Top-10 Lists” at the ready can increase your chances of coverage. In some instances, it can also lead to a byline opportunity for your client.
Keeping these tips in mind, you can now confidently draft a pitch that will get a second look and help you open the door to new and greater opportunities for client coverage.
The Anatomy of a Success Pitch
By Maggie Markert, Strategist
A client with a strong pipeline of newsworthy announcements is as exciting as winning the lottery to most PR professionals. The media craves hard numbers, customer partnerships, funding, and new products. More often than not, however, early stage companies don’t have a never-ending stream of announcements. This can be a major challenge, but nearly ten years in the industry and numerous start-up clients have given me some great ways to make sure that a lack of hard news doesn’t mean a lack of great hits.
Look to Executives and Unique Employees
It might be time to refresh your media contacts that cover entrepreneurial journeys. There are full publications that solely focus on productiveness, leadership, and management styles. Entrepreneur.com and Inc.com often feature small companies and start-ups with distinct perspectives. The New York Times has a recurring section called “Corner Office” dedicated to leadership and management.
In addition, find out if any of the company’s employees have any extreme hobbies or interests that impact their business style. Does the CEO fly a plane or volunteer with his therapy dogs? Sometimes it’s the people at an organization and their stories that grab the attention of reporters, which can lead to coverage of the company.
Local publications like to see the impact that your client is making in the community. Does your client participate in local volunteer work? Has their company grown recently in size and/or revenue, adding more jobs? Do they simply have a cool office space? All of these angles can lead to securing media coverage. Explore the various news sections of your clients’ local media outlets and see what angles are available.
Create Your Own Content
With a 24-hour news cycle, publications are always looking for high-quality, pre-packaged content from experts. Now is the time to pick a couple of “topics to own” – areas where your client is expert – and pitch targeted bylines to publications that accept them. If you’re not sure where to start, set up an interview with the executive you’re working with. Ask good, reporter-style questions and look for an angle that’s a little bit different than all of the other articles on the topic.
Chances are that you are already monitoring news in your clients’ industries. Use this to your advantage. If a competitor is getting covered, pitch those same media contacts. If a certain topic is trending that your client can speak to, introduce them to the relevant reporters and editors for follow-on stories. In times of sparse news, it also pays to think outside your core media list and look to writers in associated areas or verticals.
There is no shortage of PR professionals working to get their clients media coverage. In fact, it is estimated that there are four times more PR pros than journalists in the U.S., all competing to get their clients coverage. With that in mind, it’s important to remember that no matter which path you choose to secure media coverage, knowing your audience and standing out from the crowd should be at the core of your strategy. Happy pitching!
By: Alyson Kuritz
Emailing the media is easy. You draft your pitch, email the reporter and wait to hear back. On a good day, the reporter writes back that he or she wants to interview your client. On a bad day, you don’t hear back. On an average day, you probably still don’t hear back. So I ask, how can you rely solely on email when the top journalists are getting 100+ pitches a day and juggling deadlines, meetings and special requests from their managing editors?
I’ve found that using the phone is a complementary tool for pitching the media. The phone is not always appropriate when the reporter is on deadline, says “no” through email or you have not researched his or her recent stories and publication, but what follows are 7 ways to use the phone to your advantage:
- Time sensitive release: Just as football is a game of inches, PR is a game of minutes. Sometimes there’s just no time to wait to hear back from a reporter if the big event is the next morning or your client just launched the hottest medical device. Follow up by phone if you don’t hear back through email on important and timely announcements.
- Holiday weeks: Don’t underestimate the holidays. Some journalists will certainly plan vacations around the holidays, but the bottom line is that news marches forward and most journalists who are staffed around the holidays have quiet schedules and could be waiting to take your call.
- The “generic” email: Often magazines and newspapers will list an “info@” email for following up with key contacts. Calling these outlets directly and asking to speak with your intended contact insures that the right person hears your pitch.
- Reporter only responds to your first email: When a reporter initially emails back with interest but later becomes idle on follow-up emails, give them a quick call, assuming that you’ve given the reporter a reasonable amount of time to respond. Most journalists are actually ok with follow-up calls if you do your research.
- Voicemail: Don’t underestimate the power of voicemail. It’s non-invasive, and as I mentioned above, your contact could simply be swarmed with too many emails to ever open your pitch. Earlier this year, I pitched an event to the Los Angeles Times and couldn’t reach the right person by email or phone. I left a couple of quick and to-the-point voicemails and the next morning I found out that the morning assignment editor received my voicemail and sent to a reporter who attended my client’s event and wrote an influential article.
- Finding the appropriate contact: Usually a media database or publication’s website list the appropriate editors and beats. However, if you cannot quickly identify the appropriate contact at a publication, take a stab at calling the publication’s editorial desk for the most appropriate contact. Sometimes by calling you might even reach an editor who asks you to pitch them and with the proper research and good PR pitching they might encourage you to follow up with a specific reporter that will want to write a story.
- 100% belief in your pitch: I left this last because I feel that this overrides all situations in media relations. If you truly believe that the reporter is an extraordinary fit, you’ve done your research on the journalist and you just don’t hear back from emailing, try calling. At worst, if the journalist is not interested you can use this as an opportunity to find out how you can make your next pitch better or bring closure by crossing the contact off your list.
At the end of the day, our clients judge us by the amount of quality media coverage we can bring to the table. And the phone becomes another way to get out your story. I can tell you first-hand that adding the phone into the PR toolkit has led to additional media coverage that ultimately has increased client leadership and generated additional customers and revenue.