Story time - pitching to media
You will no doubt have heard that securing media coverage is one of the most effective ways to get your company/brand noticed.
Whether you are looking to raise profile, increase engagement with customers, launch a product, or introduce a specific campaign, the media can be your best ally. However, obtaining press coverage (as many of the companies who approach us for help know), it isn’t as simple as firing off pitches and hoping for the best. Successful media coverage is the result of hard work, careful planning and an understanding of how to communicate with press.
I think it only fair to point out at this stage that PR professionals outnumber journalists five to one meaning that there can often be many companies or brands competing for the same editorial space. If you are going to stand out you need to have a robust plan.
Here are a few tips that might help you…
Get them hooked with a story – you need to do something to get their attention. It’s a tried and tested method for celebrities and the concept is the same whether you are a start-up business or long-established brand. The media want something that will grab their readers’ attention. If you can give them this, you are more likely to secure some coverage.
Think about the story you have to tell. Make it engaging. And ask yourself, would you want to read about it? Make your copy as message as irresistible to the press as you can, and you are halfway there. Also, a personal aspect will always do wonders, so add a level of human interest. For example, if you are setting up a business, build a picture of who you are in addition to what you aim to provide with your business. Think strong and compelling. Remember, you want to be noticed.
Get to know your press – I always say that you should build a rapport with journalists long before you may actually need them. Let’s look at it this way; would you normally approach a stranger and ask for a favour?
With that in mind, reach out to journalists, say hello and perhaps even give praise occasionally on articles they have written. If you are ready to approach them then remember short and straightforward questions to writers and journalists are best. Keep it succinct. Check the journalist covers this theme beforehand to make his/her life easier, or perhaps you might need to source an alternative.
Journalists are people, too – so connect with them, engage with them, and wait at least two months before pitching a story to them. If they know you, they are more likely to read your pitch. If you are wondering about ways to connect with journalists, you can find and follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Almost 60% have a Twitter account. You can also connect with them on LinkedIn. Actually some writers do prefer LinkedIn. You can always make contact and ask them which type of stories they look for. And connect locally where you can. If they are at local events or conferences, etc. then go over and say hello.
Getting your pitch right – I know that most start-ups view any achievement as existing, and they are – but whilst you may be delighted with your own news, look at it from the media’s perspective.
If you are going to pitch, then first up look at your headline and make sure this is crafted in a way that will immediately get their attention.
By now you will have built up a rapport with your journalist contacts and will understand how they each liked to be pitched to, and this will help you in shaping the format you go with. Angle your story to suit the journalist you are pitching to. For example, if you know they typically cover business success stories, then be sure to highlight this aspect of you story in the pitch.
Don’t be pushy – yes, visions of the clichéd used car sales person spring to mind. If you are hoping to close a deal, then do not be aggressive or apply pressure. Even on a time constraint leave at least 24 hours before following up.
If they respond with a “not interested” don’t feel discouraged but use it as an opportunity to learn what you could do differently next time. The timing may have been wrong, or it might have been a poor fit for the publication.
Whatever their response, always thanks them for their consideration and ask them if you can pitch to them again in the future.
If a writer responds positively to your story, make yourself available to give them everything they need. If you are launching, for example, make sure your website is ready. If you are announcing a new product, have the imagery and specifications ready to send. If you will be providing them with an interview have available dates ready to discuss and arrange. You do not have to supply lots of imagery, information and assets – quality over quantity here.
If you make the process easy for the journalist, they will remember you next time and be more receptive to working with you again.
Good luck, everyone. We are here if you need us…