Why are some brands and businesses always in the news? Why are some people constantly quoted? How can you use the media to build the profile of your business?
Many of the news stories you read, watch and hear were pitched by an individual or business (or a PR agent) directly to an editor or journalist.
You can pitch your stories to the media, too. However, as news outlets receive oodles of pitches every day, you need to know how to make a winning pitch.
I asked PR practitioners and working journalists to join with me in each sharing one tip on how to successfully pitch a story to the media.
If your business has news to share, or you have something newsworthy to say, you’ll appreciate this practical advice. You can read more great tips in Part 1 of this article.
Avoid unintelligible jargon
Leo D’Angelo Fisher, Freelance Journalist
Businesses pitching a story make the mistake of thinking it’s only about them rather than considering the story from the perspective of the journalist and the journalist’s readers. They focus their pitch on positioning themselves as “global”, “leading”, “passionate”, “unique”, the “first” and the “only” before they even get to the story idea. And often there’s a lot of unintelligible jargon and buzz phrases that might sound impressive to them but only prompt journalists to press ‘delete’.
Journalists are only interested in what businesses have done or have to say that will be of interest to readers. A pitch should get to the point, be presented in plain English and be genuinely topical and informative. Before pitching a story idea, ask yourself, ‘What will readers get out of this story? Am I making a worthwhile contribution to this issue or topic? Is this a story I would want to read myself?’
Have something to say
Adrian Thirsk, Senior Consultant, P&L Corporate Communications
You would be surprised at how many firms believe they can magically appear in print just because they want to. Some think that being who they are or doing what they do is sufficient for a journalist to take an avid interest. It is not. The media want stories, yes, but not just any stories. A story needs to have appeal, relevance, importance to, or impact on, the widest possible readership or audience. Over the years of a career, a journalist hones what is referred to as a “news sense”. It is what allows them to judge the extent to which a potential story meets those criteria. The successful pitch to a journalist will tap into that need for a compelling angle or news hook. Hook your own key messages to that and you have given yourself the best chance of successful media coverage.
Paul McKeon, Group Account Director, Mave
I love media relations. But no matter how good you are at it, you must be comfortable accepting rejection. Even the entertainment reporter for Horse & Hound would receive a steady stream of releases and pitches each day. That any editor or journalist takes the time to reply with a ’thanks but no’ is a small miracle. You might be lucky to get a positive response to one in ten of your emails.
One of the pet hates of most reporters is PR people calling up to say, “did you get my press release?”. But that doesn’t mean you should assume it is job done once you’ve pressed send on your first approach.
The sheer number of emails journalists receive means that sometimes good opportunities get missed. I have a rule of three: I follow-up three times using three different methods. If I’ve not heard back after the third, I cut my losses and move on.
Add value with visual assets
Jacqueline (Jaci) Burns, Chief Marketing Officer, Market Expertise
Pre-COVID, news outlets world over were already tightening their belts in response to media fragmentation and diminishing ad revenue. The pandemic has accelerated and further amplified the cost cutting.
Consequently, many news outlets and publishers run on tight budgets. Small, niche and industry publications tend to have particularly limited resources.
Everyone’s trying to do more with less.
When you make a pitch, let the editor or journalist know if you’re able to provide visuals to accompany the story. This might include high resolution headshots, location photos, illustrations, maps, infographics, charts, and even videos.
Visuals not only aid comprehension and the retention of information, they also dramatically boost readership and engagement.