At one point or another, every public relations professional has an angry phone call with a reporter saying their time is being wasted, or sends an email pitch to a big list and never hears back from anyone. Pitching stories isn’t easy, but there are a few best practices that can help you secure the feature you’re looking for and get the greatest impact for your clients. The following tips are an extension of previous pointers in The Reach Blog post, The Press Release is Not Dead:
Be reactive. We’re surrounded by news every day, whether through social media, the daily newspaper or on television. Pay attention to current events and you may find your story ties in.It may be anything from a pop culture trend to a new regulation. People care about what’s in the news – what value can your client’s story add. With that said, when “newsjacking” (coined by David Meerman Scott) you must be quick, but careful; not all news stories are appropriate to leverage.
Be proactive. Nothing in the news currently relates to your pitch. Now what? Do some research – it’s as simple as going on Google. You may find that a topic hasn’t been reported on in several years. If the landscape has changed since then, let the reporter know it’s time for an update. Dig deep to find statistics and facts that make your story stronger.
Don’t forget your audience. The first step is to know the journalist and outlet you’re pitching. Is it a consumer publication? Do they cover the food scene in your city? They’d be perfect to pitch a profile with the new chef at a restaurant downtown. Equally as important is what audience you’re trying to reach with the story. Securing a story is great for visibility, but if you aren’t reaching your target audience the value is diminished. If you’re trying to entice business professionals to try the restaurant, you may be better off pitching a more business-focused outlet with an angle to the story such as business booming at restaurants downtown, or the perfect way to close the work day.
Personalize. Not only does no one like receiving a mass email pitch, but different journalists may be interested in a story for different reasons or from different angles. Personalize pitches to your top reporters at the very least. As Michael Smart of Smart PR says, spend 80% of your time on the top 20% of your contacts. Focus on why their readers will care and what you can offer them, but make sure your pitch is still short and sweet.
Call-to-action. What are you asking the reporter to do? Be clear and concise with your call-to-action. It’s common to lock down the pitch hook and the vision of the story, but overlook the next steps. Be sure to point out particulars such as an expert is available for interviews, you have photographs to offer or you’d like to submit an article.
Journalists are bombarded with hundreds of pitches each day, so it’s critical to make yours thoughtful and unique. Before you hit send on that email or pick up the phone, consider these tips to get heard and make it count.
— by Jillian Kanter, Broadreach Account Executive & Client Operations Coordinator