Pitch to the media - it sounds so simple, right? Just shoot out a few emails. Sadly, the act of pitching stories to the media is frequently an afterthought within the PR strategy despite requiring extensive planning, strategy, and creativity.
According to the 2021 State of the Media Report by Cision, 25% of journalists report receiving over 100 pitches per week – with most ending up in the virtual trash due to irrelevance. A media contact of ours shared that they have approximately 30,000 unread emails in their inbox at any given time. Youch.
These stats are not meant to scare you off, but to help you appreciate what you’re up against. Remember how we said that the media landscape had changed? Well so has pitching. In a world of seemingly endless terrible news, click bait-y headlines, and the deafening 24-hour news cycle, journalists tell us they are excited to hear pitches about:
Feel good, positive news
Ways that a company, community, or technology is helping the world
Diversity and inclusion
Researched-based thought leadership content
Local community news
Customer stories and end-user accounts
Not surprising, the things they don’t want to deal with are:
Lack of transparency
Pitches that sound like marketing brochures
More than one follow up
With those do’s and don’ts in mind, here are three pitching best practices:
1. Do Your Homework
Pitching a reporter without ever reading one of their stories is a PR faux pas. If you pitch a story that is irrelevant to the reporter or outlet, the best case scenario is that your pitch ends up in the trash. Worst case scenario is that your email address ends up on their “blocked” list.
Besides annoying important influencers, you are wasting your precious time pitching to outlets that simply don’t care. Do your homework by researching the media outlet and the reporter. Take the time to read their recent news articles, content, and social media to ensure they are a good fit before reaching out.
Pro Tip: Start your pitch by mentioning a reporter’s recent story and describing what you liked about it. They appreciate that you took the time to read their story (the whole thing!) and had something thoughtful to say about it. This kind of personalization goes a long way when it comes to establishing the relationship.
2. Make the Reporter’s Job Easier
Good pitching is a two-way street that benefits both your company and the journalist. You need journalists to cover your brand, and journalists need expert sources and unique intel to produce good stories.
According to Cision, nearly half of reporters file seven or more stories per week. That’s a lot. Each article takes a tremendous amount of research - that’s where you come in. When you ask a reporter to cover your story, provide the data, infographics, and expert commentary they’ll need to get started.
3. Develop News Sense
What’s the most basic daily practice of a savvy PR professional? Wake up, and read the news!
The more news you consume, the more you’ll be aware of the types of conversations that are happening and the things that are relevant to readers. It helps you develop pitches that readers will actually care about and that journalists are more likely to cover. Being an avid consumer of industry news also positions you to contribute something relevant and meaningful on your company’s behalf when the time is right.
As a PR professional, you’ll frequently be acting as your CEO’s conduit. You had better know what is going on in the industry so that you’ll be able to bring them opportunities worth their time and help them craft their message if they do make a statement.
Imagine that your startup is a cyber security company and that a major hack occurred somewhere in the industry overnight. Especially since you’ve already done the work to build relationships with reporters in this space, it’s a timely opportunity to put your CEO in a position to comment as a trusted source. This helps the reporter build out their story, and makes your company look like an industry expert. Win-win!
It’s also crucial for you to be in-the-know about trends and current events so that you can make sure your company doesn’t come across as insensitive. Increasingly, companies are under pressure to speak out on social and political issues. According to Harvard Business Review, 53% of consumers agree that every brand has a responsibility to get involved in at least one social issue that does not directly impact its business.
So how do you know when your company should take a public stand, or say nothing at all? You’ve certainly seen (and cringed) at companies “woke washing” hot button issues to try to gain public favor. When faced with the question of whether your company should take a public stand or not, we recommend asking yourself if the issue aligns with your core strategy and values. If so, you might have grounds to speak out, whether that be an acknowledging tweet or an active pitch. But if the issue is irrelevant to your business and you won’t have much influence on the topic, silence is often the best approach.
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