Marketing, PR & Advertising

How should you pitch journalists?

November 1, 2013
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Getting publicity is a common goal. It’s a great boost for your organization to be featured by a print, radio, TV or online media outlet.

But getting to that point is daunting.

A lot of work can go into writing a good news release, one that's based on actual news and not simple marketing puffery.

But even quality news releases can be ignored. It makes one wonder about the value of putting the effort into writing news releases.

Pitching

While the news release is not dead, in many cases, it is a wiser route to pitch a story.

This could be done in person, on the phone, in an email, via social media or in a formal pitch letter.

Whatever the format, the idea is that you're offering a reporter or editor the gist of a story. If they're interested, they may ask for more, such as an interview, documentation or even a formal news release.

But just as in baseball, the pitch has to be in the strike zone — and not a wild pitch. Enough of those, and, yes, a reporter will walk.

So here are three pitching pointers likely to be in the strike zone.

1. It is generally understood that you pitch the story to one reporter or outlet at a time. It is implied that you are offering a form of exclusive. If they see competing media covering the story you pitched to them, you’ve made an enemy.

2. Because you’re offering an exclusive, you better make sure you carefully researched the reporter — what they cover, how they cover it, who their audience is — and tailor the pitch to them. Journalists need good ideas relevant to their beat or program that’s interesting and relevant to their audience. Don’t make it all about how wonderful your organization is. Make it about a wonderful opportunity for the reporter to tell a unique story to their audience.

3. Part of that opportunity is an offer, not just information. In other words, offer a hard-to-get interview with a key executive, arrange a sneak peek of an event, provide special help for getting a photo or visual. In short, offer up something special that journalists need to do their jobs well.
Sometimes pitches are rejected, too.

So keep in mind that the best way to get your organization covered is to respond to what journalists are asking for.

If the story idea originated with the journalist or a media outlet, you know they’ll cover it. The story may not be all about your organization, but you could be quoted or mentioned in a way that positions your organization as relevant and a thought leader.

Being a source

There are several easy tools to use know what reporters are looking for in terms of specific subjects, which you can monitor and respond to in order to get some publicity.

  • ProfNet has been around for a long time, dating back to the days of listservs. Now it is part of PR Newswire, the news release distribution service. Journalists can post queries when they’re looking for experts on specific subjects to interview. PR professionals and others can set up accounts and create expert profiles of people in their organization, as well as subscribe to ProfNet queries. ProfNet also has accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social sites.
  • Help A Reporter Out or HARO is similar service for sourcing. This one is connected to Vocus, another PR services company. They also have a presence on social media and offer a variety of social tools.
  • PubliSeek is another service that comes in the form of a daily newsletter to journalists, bloggers, filmmakers and others seeking to interview subjects on specific topics. They also have an account on Twitter and other social sites.
  • SourceBottle is the final service to respond to reporter queries. This one is more international and has a nice list of beats or subject topics to help you be more specific in what you monitor. As with the others, you can follow via email, social media or both.

So if you’ve been striking out with you publicity efforts, try to work on your pitch delivery or response.

Some day soon you may hit an idea out of the park.

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