Knowing how to successfully pitch a story to the media is a fundamental skill that public relations professionals must develop. However, it seems that young professionals are often not as educated about the subject, which makes them fairly anxious the day they have to do it themselves.
Break your fear and pitch your way to success with these tips:
Is It Newsworthy?
Before considering the rest of these steps, ask yourself this question first: “Is my story newsworthy?” How does it affect the greater audience? Does it follow a trending subject of news? The story has to find its fit, so do your research. If it does not, then this story may be better suited for your organization’s social media outlets and/or website.
After this is completed, assemble your media list. Make sure the reporters you are targeting actually cover the topics you want them to write about. The last thing a reporter wants to read is a generic email about something that doesn’t interest them.
Although every publication has its own way of accepting pitches, the most-accepted form is email. Your email should be concise and to the point. Always address the journalist by name and highlight the essence of the story in the first sentence.
“Email is a terrific way to reach out,” said Jason Mollica, president of JRM Comm. “For reporters, they aren’t sitting at their desks waiting for a phone call, so by emailing you can allow him/her to read and get a better idea of what you are pitching. The bottom line is that in this day and age, it’s not just calling a reporter. You need to catch them where they are.”
Also include a backgrounder – a one-page fact sheet about the meticulous details of the story, its significance and some information about your organization – and the news release.
The Follow Up
You may get a timely response from the editor redirecting you to a reporter or asking for more details. If you have not heard back within one or two days, send a polite follow-up email that asks if they have had a chance to review your email. Oftentimes, this is where you get a response of some kind. You may also want to try a phone call.
“If it has been a day since you’ve heard from a reporter, this is where you can follow up with a phone call,” Mollica said.
Mind Your Manners
Treat a reporter just like you would treat any other human being – politely and respectfully. Do anything you can to make their job easier. Don’t forget to thank everyone involved – including editors, reporters and any photo/film crew.
Help with Other Projects
After the story is published, put your networking abilities to work and keep up the relationship with the reporter. Ask how you can help him or her with other stories and leads.
Overall: Be knowledgeable, be thick-skinned, be courteous and be sure to pitch with confidence.
Have you had a successful pitching experience? Tell us in the comments below.
This is a guest post by PRSSA vice president of public relations Ben Butler. Follow him on Twitter @BenButlerPR.
Want to learn more about media pitching? Make a point to attend “The New Secrets of Media Pitching Success” professional development session with expert Michael Smart at the PRSSA 2013 National Conference.