In a typical PR classroom, media pitching is a hot topic of discussion. While you can have as many talks about it as you want, you never really get the hang of it until you do it yourself.
Reporters want newsworthy stories — but they’re not opposed to having some fun. If you’ve got a pitchable event coming up, consider these tips for generating coverage. While your first pitches aren’t likely to be a walk in the park, they don’t have to be a nightmare either.
What makes it special?
As previously mentioned, reporters only want to cover something newsworthy. The event you’re pitching needs to have an angle that makes it so. Consider the aspects of the occasion that might stand out to a reporter browsing through your pitch. Charity partnerships, off-the-wall activities or noteworthy entertainment are all great aspects to highlight. When crafting your pitch, don’t just tell a reporter your event is happening, tell them WHAT is happening there that makes it so great!
Don’t leave them out.
While you may not personally know every reporter you’re reaching out to (or any of them yet), you’re not just trying to get coverage — you’re trying to build relationships. What better way to accomplish that than a chance to socialize outside of the professional space?
Most reporters would appreciate a personal invitation to the event they’re being pitched, regardless of whether or not they’re interested. While you’re asking them if they would like to do a story about it, make sure you let them know how much you’d love to have them there (just as an attendee) as well.
Your subject will make or break you.
If your subject line is “story idea” you might as well delete the email before it even goes out. Do you know how many emails are hitting a reporter’s inbox on a daily basis?
Personalize your subject to the reporter in a way that will make them want to click. A good tip is to start it out with a greeting first and then add a short but engaging line after.
For example, if you’ll be partnering with a local animal shelter at your event:
Hi Jane! – Story on Event w/ Cute Pups + VIP Invite
Each subject should be customized to the reporter you’re pitching and the aspect of the event that would appeal to them the most. To figure this out, you’ll have to get familiar with their work so study up!
Don’t be afraid of the follow up.
Admittedly, bugging a reporter about a story after they’ve ignored your first attempt is not a very appealing concept. While you might think you’re being annoying, following up is not just accepted, it’s expected.
Sometimes an email gets missed because it gets lost in the inbox blackhole. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem interesting enough. Either way, there’s no harm in trying again. You never know if it’ll work a second or third time around.
Persistence is key but there’s a limit. If a reporter has bypassed your email after three attempts, it’s time to accept that they’re just not interested. Remember, you’re still trying to create relationships with those individuals. You don’t want to earn yourself a reputation as an overly pushy, extra annoying PR person. Your event can still be great with or without the added coverage so don’t think it’s the end of the world.
At the end of the day, pitching the media can be challenging work. You’re going to fail sometimes and that’s totally okay. If you ask any seasoned pro how many of their pitches have been vetoed, they’ll likely tell you it’s too many to count. It doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for PR or that your event is doomed. Take your failures in stride and always remember that relationships are key if you want to be successful in the PR world. Over time, it WILL get easier.
Lina Lintemuth is a public relations senior in the Ferris State University College of Business, graduating in December 2017. Currently, she works as a PR Associate at a small agency in Grand Rapids, Mich. called Richett Media. At Ferris, she served as the PRSSA 2016-17 vice president of Social Affairs, where she coordinated many social events and fundraisers for the chapter. Aside from PR, she enjoys reading, travel, and spending time with her rescue pup, Atlas.