Pitching to the media can be a little daunting. It’s a skill that requires creative thinking, persuasive communication skills, and knowing when and how your story benefits the media and its target readership. In short, you have to be able to persuade editors that your story ideas are worth the read.
Social media, no doubt, has made it easier to connect directly with journalists but it takes a lot more than proposing a good news angle. The key to media relations is really about building good human relations, and like any relationship, it takes patience and nurturing. Always be professional, courteous, respectful and mindful of their time and space.
Media folk are generally very busy, so guard against crossing the line or becoming too pushy.
If you’re looking to nail that next pitch, we’ve got some pointers to help you along.
Social Media, Faithfully Yours
Social media is the go-to tool (duh!) to establish connections and staying relevant. Just scroll through your media feeds, and you’ll find that many businesses, if not all, have already adapted to this new age of instant exposure. Emails and phone calls are no longer the standard. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn – just a sampling of some of the popular platforms used by brands and PR professionals to cast a wider net to capture followers and reel in prospects.
Following a hashtag or doing a quick search online can help you discover new contacts to connect with. Information on publishers are available on social media, so it’s easy to pick up areas of interest, ideas for story angles, and identify specific journalist(s). It also helps to find out how wide the journalist’s reach is, i.e. if they’re on one or social media platforms. This information can come in handy when targeting the right media to tell your story.
If you’re on a tight deadline, a direct message (DM) to a journalist can take your request further.
Follow specific journalists on topics of mutual interest and keep up with your own online content. Don’t be surprised if a journalist “DM’s” you after reading your blogpost. Some may even send out tweets requesting sources for their own stories.
Hint: Check out the explore option on your Instagram search page – you’re will find a list of related tags to match your search. Remember, connect their problem with solutions you’re only too willing to share!
No Research, No Talk
According to the State of the Media Report, 75% of journalists surveyed felt like fewer than 25% of the pitches they receive were relevant. So, pitch with purpose. Start by researching a publication’s “About” page or media kit, you can find information about its readership and the content it publishes. With this information in mind, review your own content strategy to determine whether your expertise aligns with that of the publication or journalist, and how your story would add value to benefit the readers.
When pitching to the media, draw on your own expertise and knowledge about the industry and its trends, so much so that you become a valuable resource. Maintain your presence as an advisor, and you’ll find a more receptive editor to this approach. Be aware, though, that your pitch is up against a flood of emails – so avoid going off on a tangent.
Hint: Use social media as your superpower to analyze and optimize your online presence for social growth. Check out Hootsuite, Buzzsumo, HowSociable, TweetDeck.
First Impressions Count
If you think the subject line of an email isn’t going to change the outcome much, you’re dead wrong!
The subject line is the first thing a journalist sees in an email pitch, making it an extremely powerful tool. Afterall, it is the first impression!
The subject line of your pitch is the hook that will give a sneak peek into a story that’s unique and/or ground-breaking.
Hint: Keep it concise, compelling and accurate – no longer than 8 words. An email with a subject line that tells the editor what to expect from the content is likely to prompt action.
Before you hit send, check your pitch and content carefully. Did you spell the editor’s name correctly?
Did you include a simple opening greeting like “How are you today?’” This simple courtesy will open doors to building a good relationship with the editor.
Make sure your emails end on a useful note such as “Feel free to contact me if you require additional information.” You do want to provide as much information as you can to make the editor’s life a whole lot easier, don’t you?
On a final note: Strive to build a strong rapport with editors. Always share stories that are relevant and are likely to interest their readers. Aim to become a valuable member of all your media connections.
As social selling expert Jill Rowley puts it, “Think ‘jab, jab, jab, right hook’ as ‘give, give, give, ask.'”
Written by Sarah Begum, Corporate Media