Thursday August 23, 2018

How to Pitch to the Media

pitching the media

If you’re looking to increase awareness of your organization, then one of the most effective tactics you can put to use is pitching the media. 

Whether your business has accomplished something noteworthy, has a new service you’d like to promote or you’re just generally interested in seeing what attention the press can bring to your company, follow our steps below to put together a successful pitch.

Know Who You’re Pitching To

Before we go any further, it’s essential that you actually take the time to learn a little bit about who you’re pitching to first. This goes for both the publication and the writer you’re targeting.

You’ve probably received a few of those very generic spam emails from someone at some company who can “really help you with X.” Occasionally the sender will bother to include your name, but more often than not you’re clearly aware the sender just wrote a one-size-fits-all email template and blasted it out to a list.

That won’t work if you’re pitching a story idea.

Pitching to a publication is a lot like applying for a job. Each pitch, like a cover letter, needs to be specifically targeted toward that specific organization. So, how do you do this?

Follow these steps:

  • Make a list of 5-10 publications you like that also runs stories you think would be a good fit for your business (i.e. publications that cover news related to your services, business spotlights, trade magazines dealing specifically with your industry). Keep in mind that whatever publications you target should reach an audience that aligns with your business and marketing goals
  • Read articles in each publication to familiarize yourself with their style and make a list of the author names you see popping up again and again on articles similar to your pitch topic
  • Check the reporters or writers out on Twitter. See if you can find their work email address if it isn’t included in their byline, and if they openly request pitches or story ideas
  • If you can, whittle your list of publications down to your top options — these will be who you contact first

From here it’s time to move on to a very important step — actually crafting your pitch.

What to Pitch

You might be asking yourself, why didn’t we come up with the topic we’re going to pitch first? Well, as previously mentioned, your odds of actually getting a piece on your organization published will be considerably increased if you take the time to craft it to the publication you’re pitching.

After reading through these publications, getting familiar with the kinds of articles they publish and gaining a feel for what stories they seem to be looking for, you’ll be able to craft your story to fit their needs. 

For example, let’s say you’ve settled on pitching a popular local business magazine after you’ve determined there are still prospects in your local community you’re not reaching. In your research, you notice that once a year they release an issue focusing exclusively on promoting family-run businesses, and, as it happens, you’re a second generation owner of a family business.

By contacting this publication, you’ll be able to show knowledge of their publishing schedule by mentioning this issue and fulfill a specific need for them — presenting yourself as a potential profile.

This will take so much work off their plate and make their jobs a whole lot easier. Trust me, I once interned at a publication similar to the one described above and had a whale of a time trying to find organizations to profile.

Keep in mind that this is just one example – odds are if you’re trying to reach a larger, nationwide audience your pitch will likely need to be news-based. Again, the research you did on each publication should dictate whatever form your pitch takes.

How to Pitch 

So, now that you know what you’re going to pitch, how do you present it to your chosen publication or author?

Your best bets are to either email a writer or editor or direct message them on Twitter. While both will require slightly different approaches, as a general rule you always want to send your pitch to a person, not a generic company email address or company Twitter handle.

For emails, stick to the following outline:

  • Introduction – Who you are and why you’re emailing (“I saw your family business issue is coming out in a couple months and wanted to see if you’d be interested in profiling our family-owned organization”)
  • Body — Why you’re contacting them. What is the story you want to promote? Provide supporting evidence for why this article would be a good fit for the publication, either referencing past articles the author wrote (“I saw your article on [blank] and thought we might have something to add to this topic”) or a theme
  • Conclusion — Thank them for their time then provide all relevant contact information 

Your pitch doesn’t have to be long — in fact, the shorter the better — but it should effectively make your argument for why an article should be written about your organization. You don’t want the editor to read this email and have to connect any dots themselves; again, make it as easy as possible for them to see the value in your pitch and greenlight the article.

When messaging over Twitter you should treat your pitch as more of a conversation. Ideally, you’d like to move the conversation to another platform (you’re probably only contacting via direct message if you can’t find their email) so don’t lead off with one long message. 

A conversation might play out like this:

You: Hey (name), I saw your article on (blank) and thought it was great! I’m the owner of a business that is very involved in this field and had an idea for another article if you’d be interested in hearing more.

Them: Hi (name), thanks, I appreciate it! Sure, I’d love to hear your idea, what are you thinking?

You: Great! Do you have an email address that I could send you my full pitch?

Them: No problem, here you go (address).

Then you’d follow up with an email similar to the outlined message above, only omitting the introduction portion and clarifying you were the person who contacted them on Twitter.

Handling Rejection 

You’ve whittled down your list of publications to contact, finely crafted your pitch and sent it out, only to hear “Sorry, I don’t think is right for us right now,” or something similar.

It can be a deflating experience, but know that this doesn’t mean your pitch was necessarily bad. Publications, whether digital or print, tend to have editorial calendars built out months in advance. Maybe they have a piece similar to the one you pitched already in development or you missed a similar article they recently ran. It happens. 

If your pitch does get rejected, go back to your initial list of publications and see if one you didn’t contact might be a good fit. You’ll likely have to make some slight changes, but just because one organization turned down your idea doesn’t mean someone else will.

And if you do have to go back to the well and come up with new ideas, don’t despair. Making contact and reaching out to an editor or writer is a good thing. Like I said, they all need more ideas and topics. Even if they did reject your first pitch, I’ll bet they’ll still ask you send them any other future ideas you have. Don’t feel like this is a consolation prize — they mean it!

If you follow the steps outlined above, you’ll have a good chance of eventually getting an article published. If you just can’t seem to get an article greenlit, then consider working with a public relations professional who already has existing media contacts in your field and can guarantee that their phone calls and emails won’t go unanswered.

Once you do get an article published, let everyone you know hear about it — promote it on social, add it your website, send emails — the works. If you picked the right publication, you should see awareness about your organization take a leap.

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