I've been working in PR for the past 20 years, both in-house and agency side. My Number 1 Rule has always been 'know your audience', and this applies to journalists as an audience. Whether you're an entrepreneur or work in PR and marketing, at some point you'll have to pitch your story, company, product or service to the media. Here are my top tips to help shape the odds in your favour and ensure your story gets covered.
Before even considering pitching your story, company, product or service to a journalist, research into the media you need to target. You need to know exactly which journalists to pitch to and how they prefer to receive information and in what format. Do they prefer attachments? Maybe they prefer a link to an online press pack?
2. Making contact, best practise
In today's competitive publishing world journalists are very busy, so it's important to keep your pitch brief, relevant and to the point. If you've done the proper research you know you'll be relevant.
Most journalists prefer to receive information by email. You can often research into journalists and find their direct email address via Twitter, especially for English-speaking markets. You can also research a publisher's website or pay to access a media database, depending on the country you're targeting. Some people pay a media company to circulate press releases, but this has never been my preferred option, as I believe the personal touch goes further.
Remember that if you don't get a journalist's attention by email you're unlikely to succeed by phone. If you do choose to call, and there are some journalists who still like to chat because they can find out additional information fast, then keep the calls to an afternoon for digital titles, as the journalists will be on deadline in the mornings. For print titles it's best to call in the morning.
Make sure the subject of your email will grab their attention, but be sure it doesn't sound gimmicky. If you have a first, an exclusive, or something new, then say so in the subject.
Don't be over familiar and pretend you know them when you don't. Just get straight to the point. No small talk.
3. Give journalists access all areas
For many journalists, the human angle of a story is often the most interesting. How was your product made? Who made it and what's their story? If you can help a journalist find a different way of looking at things they'll appreciate it.
Be sure that you have all key information including statistics (with sources), times, dates, locations and images in a high resolution are available.
Provide access to the spokesperson (generally the CEO or another director level decision maker).
4. Know what exclusivity means
Titles love the idea of an exclusive, but exclusivity means different things to different titles. To some it might mean that your story only appears in their title and nowhere else, ever. In the digital world, exclusivity might mean that a particular title runs your story first, even if it's just minutes before a competitor title. Always be honest about exclusivity when pitching. You'll lose the trust and respect of a journalist if you're not honest about exclusivity and they'll be unlikely to work with you again.If you can't offer exclusivity then offer a fresh angle and images.
5. Respond fast
Once a journalist is working on publishing your story be ready to respond with any additional information they might need such as statistics, images, quotes. Be sure that all information you submit is accurate. Always make sure your appointed spokesperson is available for comment. If you can't respond swiftly you're likely to lose out on the opportunity and the journalist will be unlikely to come back to you, unless you've got something very meaty. Speed and accuracy are of the essence.
6. Remember the 'relationship' aspect of PR
Journalists receive 100s of emails every day and they're most likely to respond to emails from contacts they already know and trust. It takes time to build relationships and trust. Journalists need to trust that you will be consistent. If you ever have the opportunity to meet journalists in person at trade fairs, exhibitions, conferences and any other events then do so. Whilst emails are the preferred method of contact, there's still nothing like face-to-face to cement a relationship.
Be confident when you pitch and make sure you don't come across like you're begging the journalist to publish your material. That's very off putting. Your content should be merit worthy and by sending it to the relevant journalists you're helping them with their job of publishing quality stories. It's a two-way street; you're helping each other.
7. No sloppiness
Always ensure that whatever material you send out is error free. That means not only accurate, but well written and with no spelling mistakes. Images must correspond to the story, product or person and not be too 'heavy' in MB and they must be properly labelled with the name of your organisation, and the full product or person's name. Any hint of sloppiness is a real turn off.
Working with the media is a great way to gain exposure and endorsement for your company. By following these tips there's no need to be afraid. Enjoy the process and enjoy seeing your company in the media. Happy pitching!