Reporters receive tons of pitches about the “who,” “what” and “where.”
As a former reporter who transitioned to public relations after a decade in news, I’ve made and received countless pitches. Pitching can be very successful when done well, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Mass emails can be impersonal and get lost in the shuffle, and emailing anything to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com is the kiss of death. Taking the time to tailor a personal email or (gasp) picking up the phone and talking to someone has a profound way of dramatically increasing your odds of gaining news coverage.
Here are a five tips to boosting your odds of coverage:
- Be prepared
This sounds simple, but I can’t begin to describe the number of pitches I’ve gotten where the caller couldn’t tell me basic info, like the time or location of the press conference. Be concise, know the details and think through an elevator speech.
- Ask for someone you know
My husband and I have worked in every television market in Michigan except for Alpena and Detroit. That means we have a lot of contacts, but if you don’t have a network of contacts in newsrooms, start small. Create a spreadsheet detailing people’s names and personal information, and bring that information up the next time you call. Or add that information to the electronic contacts card you have on each person. You’d be surprised how far it can take you to remember a personal tidbit, like an assignment editor’s dog’s name, or details about their children.
- Talk to the right person
Ask for a reporter whose beat includes the topic of your pitch. For instance, an education reporter would be the best person to pitch a story about college tuition rates. If you’re working with an outlet or aren’t sure which reporter to connect with, then ask for the assignment editor. The assignment editor dictates logistics and staffing, such as which reporters and photographers are covering which stories.
- Lead with the news hook
Newsrooms are busy places. Think a beehive of activity and chaos. If you can’t deliver details or articulate the “who cares” factor in 15 seconds or less, you’re doing it wrong.
- Be transparent
Own that you work for a public relations firm and which client you’re calling on behalf of, because that honesty goes a long way. It’s also a great opportunity to work in a quick sell on why your client’s efforts/press conference/attempts to improve the world are so vital.
Pitching reporters can seem like an overwhelming or tedious task, but it’s a vital way to make and grow your network of connections and deliver results to your client.
Go beyond the basics of “who,” “what” and “where” by making your press contacts care about “why.”