Gaining great media coverage rarely happens quickly or easily. On the contrary, it often takes time, planning and strategy. If you follow the steps outlined here, you’ll dramatically increase the odds your brand or client will be “in the news” more frequently than the competition.
1. Media Research: Lay the Groundwork for Success
In order to have success with media relations pitching, you need to do some detective work. This starts with researching the media options available, and the journalists to target.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to name a few trusted and influential outlets prior to your research. But don’t stop at what comes to mind right away.
There are advanced media databases, such as Cision. You can also conduct your own research using Google searches and social media searches.
Sometimes, the smaller media are where you’ll find more success. Journalists at these outlets aren’t as buried in media pitches as some of the larger ones.
As you do your research, determine which media are likely to reach the audience that overlaps yours. If you’re working for a business-to-business (B2B) company, do certain outlets reach your buyers? If so, put them on your list to target.
Prioritize your list from the most important on down.
In thinking this list through, remember that although a larger audience is nice, it may be more important to prioritize media that are more trusted by your audience and who often influence their readers to action. If you’re not sure about this, ask some of your customers for their preferences.
2. Invest in Media Relationship Building
Determine who the journalist is that you will need to work with to get coverage. Begin investing regular time to learn about the person and what topics and stories he or she covers. To do this, consume every story the journalist publishes. Make sure that you understand the journalists and how they think.
Now that you’ve developed your list of journalists that you want to pitch, it’s time to introduce yourself.
Ultimately, journalists evaluate your pitch on its overall value to them and their audiences. Human nature is, however, that we give more consideration to those we know and trust. So spending time getting on a journalist’s radar is time well spent.
Here are some tips for becoming more known to journalists you’re targeting:
- Thoughtfully comment on their stories.
- Carefully engage them on Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites. Don’t come on too strong though.
- Attend an event they may be speaking at and introduce yourself. Follow up after the event with a note of thanks.
- If you have their email address, send a quick note that you liked one of their recent stories and why you did.
- Tradeshows usually attract journalists. Try to obtain the show’s media list in advance and introduce yourself or request a meeting.
By following these ideas, you’ll start to become more known by the journalist. This will increase the chances of your ideas being heard.
3. Develop a Winning Story Idea
As I’ve developed media pitches through the years, it’s been tempting to be overly promotional. But too much product or service promotion, I’ve learned, decreases the chances of a successful media pitch.
Instead, come up with a strong, objective news angle that benefits the journalist. To do this, you have to think about what the audience wants. What they want is interesting, insightful and helpful information that is not an advertisement.
Assuming your pitch is accepted, you, your brand or your client will benefit from being included in the final story. That’s a great third-party endorsement and reputation enhancer that advertising can’t provide.
4. Deliver Your Pitch
You’ve done your research, built your relationship(s), developed a strong idea, now it’s time to deliver your pitch.
Here are some points to keep in mind as you do:
- Use the journalist’s preferred method of contact. For many it’s email, some allow or even prefer social media. Phone pitches are rarely preferred these days.
- Pitch one journalist at a time (no batch and blast).
- Address the journalist by name.
- Journalists usually prefer (or in some cases require) exclusives. Let him/her know they’re the only one who has the media pitch right now.
- Don’t send any attachments. Use only the body of the email to make your pitch.
- Keep it short and to the point. Explain what your idea is, why you’re a good partner or source to develop the story, thank them and let them know when you’ll follow-up for a decision.
The power of a strong media pitch and successful story placement is well established. Unlike advertising, we give up control over some of the process and the final piece. If you consistently follow the steps above, you’ll greatly increase your chances of PR success through media pitching.
Author: Steve Sonn
Steve Sonn is the Principal of S2 Marketing Communications. He has more than 25 years of marketing and PR experience with health care and business-to-business companies.