You’re probably thinking, “of course I know how to pitch the media,” but do you? Really? Long gone are the days of plugging in some criteria, pulling a media list from a media directory service, and then blasting out a news release to hundreds (or thousands) of media contacts. This outdated tactic is often referred to as “spray and pray.”
Former journalist, now media relations coach and trainer, Michael Smart says “…that all great pitching pros implement [this one thing] … building a custom media list for every new story angle.”
Media relations basics haven’t changed much:
- Stay on top of breaking news–so you’ll know where your or your client’s story may fit in, and so you’re not pitching at an inappropriate time.
- Put yourself in the reporter’s shoes–understand, empathize, appreciate, anticipate.
- Act ethically with honesty, integrity and respect—never, ever lie.
- Be accessible and straightforward –deliver well-thought-out responses, don’t ad-lib, and “no comment” is not an acceptable reply to any question.
Like us (PR pros), journalists are doing more with less. They’re covering more subjects, writing more stories — and in many cases also creating blog posts, opinion pieces and podcasts; and they’re doing it with shorter deadlines.
You’ve no doubt heard the adage, “If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.” This definitely applies here!
Seth Arenstein, editor of PRNEWS, told rbb Communications, “Too often you find PR pros who’ve failed to do their homework before they contact you.”
We must be diligent in digging deeper – looking at past stories, reading the journalists’ and outlets’ blogs, and seeing what they’re tweeting about—in other words, virtually getting to know the person enough to be confident that the story that you’re pitching is a good fit.
Here are five questions you should ask yourself before pitching a story:
- Is the content pertinent, timely, fresh and newsworthy?
- Have you stated the essential facts (products, services, events, people, projects) while avoiding jargon or specialized technical lingo?
- Do you have facts, statistics, photos, quotes, back-up stories, video or audio, and experts available where you need them?
- Have you tailored the pitch to the specific interests of the targeted journalist or blogger?
- Are you capable of presenting your pitch in 150 words or less—complete with the story’s significance, the unique angle, the connection to their readers, and its relevance?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the challenges of pitching during times of crisis, since we’ve all been living one crisis after another over the past year. Regardless, we still have jobs to do and must proceed — with caution and sensitivity. Who can forget the scathing The New York Times article last year when a fashion publicist pitched latex lingerie — during the initial spike of the pandemic? Or (from the same article) a poorly-planned pitch for Brazilian body waxing when lockdowns were beginning.
Obviously, this blog post isn’t intended to be an all-inclusive guide or checklist, but if you answer “yes” to all five, it certainly stacks the odds in your favor!
For more recommendations on pitching the media, download our free Media Pitching via Email tip sheet. Burrelles understands the media and help you effectively target your pitches. Request a free Burrelles Media Outreach demonstration.