“If you’ve had success pitching the media before and if you know your client intimately, chances are your story idea is a good one. Don’t second guess yourself. It’s from the germ of an idea that most great stories grow.”
As newsrooms shrink, the main stories of the day and time necessarily demand the most coverage. Increasingly, even beat reporters in environment, tech and other specialties must peg their stories to the day/week/year’s news and news trends.
This makes effective media pitching all the more challenging and calls for an increasingly precise approach when reaching out to journalists. Here are some tips we have put together for more effective media pitching:
1. Shrink your list.
If you are going for national news media, there could be less than a couple dozen reporters who are truly interested in what your client does. So, read up on those reporters. Know their stories, their style, their interests. This can be garnered by looking at their social media, of course. But going deep into their text will reveal patterns in what they care about. Find a reporter’s passion and use that as your lede in pitching them.
2. If you aren’t a newsmaker, don’t blanket pitch.
In other words, if your story is what we call a lovely evergreen, it should be treated as such. Don’t jam something so breathtaking as your perfect pitch through a listserv, especially if that listserv is generated by a company which relies on reporters to answer queries about their habits. Journalists ignore those queries even more frequently than they ignore bad pitches. Listserv and other mass pitching approaches can have repercussions far beyond just leaving you ignored. You risk actually annoying a reporter, causing that working professional to have a bad taste in his/her mouth regarding your client and potentially blocking your firm’s future correspondence.
3. Go for the gold.
5 to 10 top stories a year, covered by well-respected reporters, are worth the precision work it takes to get them. Apply Coco Chanel’s cliché about fashion, “Less is More.” Clichés become clichés for good reason.
4. Find unique ways of saying the same old thing.
The above paragraph notwithstanding, this means don’t use clichés in story pitching! Writers often say that there aren’t but a few real stories out there … it’s the telling of them that makes them different. Brainstorm on ways to help a reporter tell a story a bit more creatively. How do you do this? It goes back to knowing the reporter you pitch, finding his/her passion and helping them to a new way of communicating that passion…all while simultaneously serving your client.
5. Tell your client the truth.
This is tricky because you don’t want to deliver bad news to the company that’s paying your light bill. But you are serving them best and with the most integrity if you push back if they push you to send inappropriate pitches. Your clients do important things. Don’t threaten the positive perception of those things by sending pitches that aren’t fully story worthy. And don’t fool yourself into thinking that a reporter wants to hear from you occasionally under the auspices of “keeping in touch.” A reporter wants to hear from you when you have a story.
6. Be brave with your pitches.
If you’ve had success pitching the media before and if you know your client intimately, chances are your story idea is a good one. Don’t second guess yourself. It’s from the germ of an idea that most great stories grow.