How to get journalists to pick up your pitch
Every business wants positive coverage in the media. For brand awareness, building your reputation and to tell your story, there’s no sweeter thing. Although most publications, bloggers and influencers work with a commercial model (you pay for the publicity), it’s still possible to get media coverage without the rate card. It can be achieved with good PR.
Reporters and editors get hundreds of emails. Story ideas, press releases, and email pitches. Trust me, most of those end up in the bin. Many press releases get deleted, unopened, and that’s a fact. Why? Because they are simply not good enough.
I’ve worked in the newsroom long enough to know that journos are extremely quick to delete. It’s what I did myself for many years. With 20+ years’ experience working in the media and PR, I know a thing or two about getting noticed by the press.
Basically, what you need to do is this:
Write a great pitch, find relevant publications, platforms and journalists, contact them at the right time, and follow up. Yes, it takes time and effort. However, the results can be well worth it.
If you decide to work with a PR company that has great relationships with reporters and editors, you’ll have a much better chance to get the result you’re after. Here in New Zealand, we’ve had some incredible results with press releases. When my contacts see it comes from Sweet Orange, they know it’s worth a look.
Here are some steps you can take to optimise your own PR strategy to get the best possible media coverage for your brand.
- Make it new and exciting
To be considered for editorial, you’ll need a clear news angle and a great story. It doesn’t matter if you are pitching to a journalist, editor, blogger, influencer or podcaster, as they are all looking for the same thing. They all want a story that is special and exclusive. To get noticed, you need a point of difference. An example of a good news angle is being the first. If not the first, you could be the oldest/ youngest/ biggest/ smallest/ fastest/ slowest, just to give you an idea.
- Keep it short and sweet
Don’t write a novel. They won’t have time to read it all and will skim through it at best. Keep it all on one page if you can, be original, and get to the point as quickly as possible. Keep your writing simple and avoid jargon. It’ll make the write-up much easier to digest. Know that the full stop is your friend. News stories are usually written in sentences of about 20 to 25 words, and that’s what journalists are used to. If you want to say anything else, use a new sentence.
- Think like a journalist
Ditch the marketing talk, especially in the subject line, and make sure your lead-in is interesting, topical and different. Write the email like an article that they could print as is. Journalists are notoriously time deprived so if you give them a press release that’s well-written and in the correct format, they could just give it a tweak, add a quote or two, and run with it. My advice is to attach it to the email as a Word document or PDF plus post it in the email message body as well. Use a normal font. Don’t try to be fancy with your formatting as there really is no point.
- Get your timing right
There’s a right and a wrong time to send a press release, and first thing on Monday morning isn’t your best bet. Journalists receive an average of 300 emails in their inbox each day, and on Mondays that number increases to around 1000. Friday afternoon is not the right time either. Newsroom meetings are usually first thing in the morning, which means most editors and journalists check new emails between 10.00am and 2.00pm. Unless you’ve got breaking news, send your media release during the week. Research shows that Tuesday and Thursday have the best open rates.
- Deliver what they want
Journalists work under extreme time pressure and to tight deadlines. If you give them everything they need, in a format they can just tweak and run with, you’re doing it right. That means including the contact details of people they may want to get an extra quote from and adding high-res photos with captions and photo credits. If you send a media statement each time something relevant to your business or practise happens in the world (or your local community), you may become a writer’s preferred expert or authority. That’s something to aim for.
- Don’t expect miracles
PR is hard. In most cases, you won’t get a reply. Only follow up once if you think the writer is extremely relevant, and keep in mind that you cannot direct what they write about you if they do pick up your pitch. If you are being interviewed (from my experience they will want to interview you or do an email Q&A), answer their questions efficiently, honestly and as openly as you can. Keep your goal in mind. You may or may not get the opportunity to fact check before publication, that’s entirely up to them, but it’s okay to ask.
Some extras here for you and… they are important.
- Your subject line needs to be spot on. It’s the first thing they see so if it’s meh, your email will not be opened.
- You need a catchy headline. To get a news decision maker’s attention, it’s worth knowing what a professional headline looks like.
- Outside of the quotes, do not write your press release in the first person.
- Put your own email address as the recipient and make sure to BCC everyone on your list. No one likes their details shared.
- Don’t send a press release from Hotmail or a gmail address. It’s just not a good look.
- Make a plan to follow up but do not spam anyone or demand a reaction. Always be nice, polite, and helpful.
- There are no guarantees a press release will reach its target audience in the exact form you’ve intended.
- Trust in the process if you get noticed, but don’t try to influence the journalist to write what you want.
~ By Martine Pierhagen, Founder of Sweet Orange Copywriting & PR
Martine has worked as a newspaper journalist, magazine editor, and communications professional since 1999. She knows how to put together a winning press release and has a highly valuable and up-to-date NZ media contact list. She can expertly tailor your story for a specific journalist or publication. She can also make it general enough to serve as a stand-alone release.
Working with Sweet Orange will enhance your chances to get noticed. Martine has booked some great successes for her clients in the past, so feel free to contact her if it’s time to tell your story.
~ With huge thanks to the amazing photographers from around the world that generously upload their work for free sharing on unsplash.com