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How to pitch a story to the media

Posted: 2012-05-14 in How To    |   Tagged: b2b pr, journalist relations, media pitch, media relations

 

If you want your B2B PR campaign to succeed, you need to be able to pitch your stories to the media. This guide talks you through the process.

Pitching to the media is a key element of any PR role, and the most successful people in this industry are those that can place a good story. Many PR agencies simply send a media release out on a newswire and hope for as many online hits as they can get. While this approach might work in terms of generating quantity of coverage, the quality is low (do YOU ever browse TMCNet for your news updates?) and the results tend to have little impact. Your PR team should be aiming high, going for quality stories in the publications that people read. There are a number of steps you can follow to be successful at this:

Know your story

 

As with anything else, you simply cannot pitch a story unless you know what it is about (may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how often a PR is asked to pitch a story they know nothing about). Read up on the company, the product, the service or the issue to get a real overview of how it all fits together. Ask your PR team what they know about it and even go to the client (if you’re agency-based) for clarification on any issues.

Identify your target media

 

Build a list of publications to target. For each publication, visit the website / browse the magazine and see which journalists have written on similar subjects recently. Then look them up so you have a really good overview of them and their interests - it is much easier to pitch a real person.

Remember that any media databases only cover some publications and you need to be comprehensive in your targeting. So the next step is to run a Google News and Google Blog search to find out who else on the web is interested in the subject. Search under general terms relating to the story, then search for company names and spokespeople names (we do this because a journalist who has already written about the subject is an easy hit).

For each publication, look for sections that might be relevant. Do they take byliners? Would the story fit in their news section? Or do they do product reviews etc? Then you know exactly who you are going to target.

Plan your pitch

 

Develop and write down exactly what your angle will be for pitching this publication. What is the hook? Why would they want it (i.e. what does it offer their readers)? How does it relate to the current news agenda? Why now? Why them?

Run through it with your team and use the opportunity to gather feedback and adjust your pitch accordingly.

Draft a follow-up email to send through after your initial pitch. Try something like this:

Dear Journalist

Thanks for the chat earlier. As I mentioned, I thought your readers would be interested in <this story> because it is <useful to them in this way> (keep it brief and relevant). I thought it would be a good fit for the xx section on the site... I can offer a case study, a review or a ... Alternately, I know <my client / my MD> would be delighted to meet you and talk you through the issue. I will give you a ring in a couple of days to follow up... etc

Start pitching

 

Ring people on your list and talk them through the story. Remember:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Define what you have to offer – “We have a news story we thought you might be interested in. It’s on XX do you have a minute to discuss it?” 
  • Don’t read a script to them.
  • Don’t try to make small talk – people are busy and they don’t care.
  • Don’t email them first – if you email first and they don’t respond (which will almost certainly happen) then you’ve backed yourself into a corner. That’s because a phone call saying ‘did you get my email?’ is annoying. A call in which you say ‘I have a great story for you’ is not.
  • Get the three most important points of the story down the phone first.
  • Make a note of who you have spoken to, when you spoke to them and what the follow up action is in the media spreadsheet.
  • Set a task for yourself to do the follow-up action.
  • If you cannot get hold of someone, keep trying every hour until you can. Not being able to get hold of someone is never an excuse for not placing the story with them (at least it’s not an excuse I would readily accept myself).
  • If you still cannot get them on the phone, then send a carefully worded, very brief pitch by email. 

Remember that journalists can be difficult and if someone is rude to you, then don’t get upset. Think of it as character building – every time a rude and arrogant journalist (and you’ll find quite a few of those) takes their neuroses out on you, you become a better person. Also keep in mind that they are just people (they poo too) and they need PRs to help them find good stories.

Help them

 

Once a journalist has agreed to run your story, make it as easy as possible for them to do so. That means:

  • Arrange an interview and make sure it happens (send detailed meeting requests and confirm before hand).
  • Make sure they have the correct spellings of the names of people involved.
  • Ask what they need and help them get it (pictures, research, case studies).

 

Thank them

 

Success! Your story’s been published! Congratulations! Before your pop the champagne, drop the journo a line to say thanks – again, they’re just people and most people like to feel appreciated.  

Connect with me on Google+

 

Comments

Does this post make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Or are you fuming? Either way, let us know by posting your comment below. This week, our favourite comment wins its author a £20 Amazon voucher.

 

Simon Ellinas

Thu 21st June, 2012

Thanks for this sound advice. I have often wondered about the advantages of the 'old' way against modern mass-emailing and 'Press Release Sites'. Basically, there's no such thing as a free meal.

Muhammad Qaiser

Sat 1st September, 2012

thanks for this good advice. this could really worth a fortune, if someone dares to be reprimanded by the journalists :)

 


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