Sending story pitches to the media is a great way to get news coverage, but it’s intensely competitive. Journalists are deluged with e-mails and phone calls, so you need to do the proper homework and hone your story idea in advance. Otherwise, your pitch will be greeted with a hang-up or “delete” key.
Most journalists prefer to get story pitches by e-mail. E-mail allows them time to review a story idea when it’s convenient; it allows you to present a clear and concise idea. The best e-mail pitches are only two paragraphs in length (or less), enough to trigger the writer’s curiosity. If they’re interested, they’ll respond.
The long term goal of media relations is to build relationships with key journalists and position your company as an ongoing resource. Follow these tips and you’ll stand above the vast majority of PR people who are mired in a “dialing for dollars” mentality.
Assembling Your Press List
- Choose a manageable list of targeted journalists in your space (maybe a dozen).
- Get familiar with the publications and the coverage topics of each journalist before contacting them. Make very sure you see that your news is a fit for both.
- Read the journalist bio, know their coverage areas/beats and read some of their articles. Most journalists are on social. Follow them and if they tweet (most do) take the time to read their tweets (topics they engage with, content they share).
The Pitch – Tips
- When pitching an idea, stick to the basic details – who, what, where, when, and most importantly, why their readers should care.
- Offer up an interview — not only someone in your company but a customer who is using your product/service.
- Describe what’s new/different/unique about what you’re offering? (It’s “news” because it’s “new)”
- Relate your pitch into the bigger news picture (i.e., a background screening company might relate their pitch to the marijuana legalization story).
- Include recent research or a great statistic that supports whatever point you’re making.
- Reference a recent article written by the journalist or a national news trend and show how your idea relates. Think of yourself as a story resource rather than a pitchman who needs to make the sale.
- If you’re pitching a press release, start with a quick introduction and summarize the key news in one sentence. Don’t begin by quoting the entire opening paragraph of the release.
Sample Email Pitches
Pitch #1: This story pitch was accompanied by a press release. It resulted in the media outlet requesting a copy of the article.
Subject Line: News: [Company] Article Reveals Secret World of Diploma Mills
Hi [Journalist Name]:
I’m sure you’re familiar with the daily spam emails that promise cheap, fast, and easy college degrees. [Company] recently investigated this world of “diploma mills” and released an article today about their growing scope and popularity. The [Company] provider purchased their own degree and saw first-hand its startling accuracy.
Please email me if you’d like a copy. It’s a timely story for [Media Outlet] that addresses a genuine threat to employers in terms of financial risk, litigation and reputation. If we can help, I’d be happy to connect you with [Company] CEO.
Thanks for considering,
Pitch #2: This pitch is a standalone story idea not connected to a press release. It ultimately resulted in the vendor being featured in a cover story about the flu vaccine shortage.
Subject Line: Benefits story idea: Flu vaccine selling out early
Hi [Journalist Name]:
Hope you’re doing well! I wanted to pass along some news that might make an interesting benefits story.
One of our healthcare clients — [Company], an employee wellness & health screening provider — has run out of flu vaccines already for the season. They saw an “unprecedented flow of flu orders” during the last two weeks. Based on pending orders, they appear to have sold 325,000 flu shots. At this time they are drastically reducing the number of new orders, and are placing customers on a waitlist until pending orders are processed. It’s the earliest [Company] has ever run out of flu vaccine. I’m sure H1N1 virus fears are at the core of this. If you’d like to talk with [Company] CEO, I’d be happy to connect you. Thanks!
- Don’t call to ask the journalist if they received a press release. They hate that.
- If you are fortunate to secure an interview, ask where and when the story is expected to appear. If the piece doesn’t appear on that date, it’s fine to send your contact a brief e-mail asking when it might run. Always be polite.
Jackie Jusko, a senior media relations specialist at the human resources PR firm fisher VISTA says, “The one thing I do, and I don’t feel like it’s special so others can do it too, is to think like a reporter. They’re going to keep their jobs by their ability to uncover news or a good story.” Remember, reporters are searching for news stories too — we’re not just pushing stuff out to them. So having active blog, active social media presence and commenting on news stories/articles helps.
And finally, if you are introducing a new product that may not necessarily be a major news story, there are still a few pubs that have New Product Editors.
And of course, consider a license to HRmarketer Research which has detailed profiles for hundreds of industry press contacts and industry trade magazines – including a list of outlets that accept new product announcements.
HRmarketer Software Has The Answers
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