Tuesday’s Tips: How To Get Reporters To Read Your Pitch
You Don’t Say? Reporters Aren’t Reading Your Releases?
Let’s face it – the media as we know it has changed. The news cycle is shorter than ever, the press release is dying, and reporters, bookers, and producers find themselves overwhelmed by pitches from every “subject matter expert” and their mom begging for three to five minutes of air time on “this” or “that” topic.
During my time in the federal government, we rarely had to pitch for coverage. Instead, we’d just pop in a media release to Cision, fight their formatting tools a little (admittedly, they’re much better now), click on the selected audience we wanted to distribute to, and boom – inquiries galore!
That said, after leaving the federal space, I found myself at a crossroads. I was distributing media releases and my clients weren’t getting coverage. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why the system I had down to a science just wasn’t working anymore.
Then, it dawned on me. My clients weren’t federal agencies with budgets the size of the United Kingdom’s economy. Instead, I was pitching mostly local reporters and the occasional national publication for small and medium sized organizations.
What I realized was this – mass distribution just wasn’t going to cut it. Instead, I employed these 3 steps
1. Target Reporters Who Care
Let’s pretend I’m working for an automobile company and I’m trying to acquire coverage for our newly released pickup truck. Instead of jumping into Meltwater or Cision and simply targeting every reporter you can find who covers automobiles, take the time to look at profiles for reporters and determine those who cover the release of new vehicles. Perhaps there are reporters who cover your brand regularly.
Whatever it may be, don’t case a wide net. Instead, target reporters. Make sure what you’re sending them is even applicable to them. If the reporter covered only automobile accidents or perhaps solely your competitor, you’ve now wasted their time and discredited yourself.
Do your research. Take the time to look up reporters who will cover the information you’re looking to acquire coverage for. It’ll get you a lot further than casting a wide net.
2. Personalize Your Pitch
Say I’m working for the same automobile company and I’ve selected a group of reporters I want to get the information to. Before you do anything else – don’t click send on your standard media release.
Instead, personalize your pitch. And by personalize I don’t mean pop into Meltwater and utilize their “Insert First Name Here” feature.
What I mean by this is really personalize your pitch. Rely on a personal sentiment, such as how their new dog is or congratulating them on their recent engagement. If you can’t rely on a personal sentiment, do some digging into their recent works and reference a recent article they wrote or show they produced.
This, often, can be the hardest step – but trust me, it’s worth it.
3. Get to the Point:
Pitches are too long these days. Sure, feel free to forward a media release you’ve prepared to a reporter – but also prepare yourself to be ignored 9 times out of 10.
Instead, take that pitch and condense it down into a 150-200 word pitch. After which, you can either include the full media release as an attachment or offer it to the individual you’re e-mailing should they like to see it.
Everyone has their own style of writing pitches, but I prefer bullets. I open up with a very short personal or professional sentiment, and then get right to the point.
Very rarely do I ever use more than three bullets, and I never write paragraphs. The less a booker or reporter has to read to understand our pitch – the better.
Less is more – remember that.
Pitching Is An Art.
Pitching is an art, truthfully. It’s all about giving the reporter or booker something interesting, easy to understand, and quick to read. If you can do that, you’re 100 times more likely to get the coverage you desire.
Other things I’d recommend, that we’ll address in more detail in the future, is building personal relationships with members of the media. You don’t always have to pitch them to reach out. Offer an off-the-record coffee or zoom-meeting. Ask mutual friends to introduce you or make the connection. Whatever it may be – personal relationships work.
Lastly, always be honest with reporters. The minute you even slightly stretch the truth with a reporter, just know, your integrity is compromised and that, therefore, has jeopardized the integrity of their reporting. One should never question the importance of telling the truth, as ultimately, the truth always prevails.