When we develop storylines for our clients, we take a dual-purpose point of view; we want to please the client with solid media placements and court our media contacts, as we would like to be courted.
Below we give you five tips to help your media pitch turn into a home run. If you package the story using these tips, you’ll likely see greater success.
1. Do your research
The public relations world uses several industry tools to create our media lists and gather up-to-date contact information for our target media outlets and representatives. But we caution our public relations peers to not trust these resources as gospel. Do your own digging ─ nothing is worse than calling a features editor to pitch a human interest or health story to find out that the contact actually covers high school basketball. Do your own news gathering and research and make sure that contact is in fact at the outlet you are pitching and that they are the best person to cover your topic. You can do this by simply browsing the outlet’s website. Perhaps most importantly, do your research and read the contact’s bylines. This will provide insight on their style of reporting and topics of interest. It also allows for a nice introduction for your phone or email pitch.
2. Be timely and be concise
In today’s 24/7 news cycle world, reporters, editors and producers are busier than ever. It’s best to inform them of your story idea in a concise manner. If you are lucky enough reach a media contact on the phone, don’t launch into a canned phone script. Introduce yourself on a first-name basis, compliment them on a recent byline and then relate your story idea to their beat or area of focus. Don’t hound them and don’t oversell. It’s always important to make it a two-way conversation, not a lengthy sales pitch.
You will have greater success if you can relate your story idea to the local audience that your media outlet reaches. For instance, don’t pitch a Denver-based expert to a Dallas-based newspaper. People in Dallas like to read about their neighbors, and the media is their source for local happenings. This can work for national stories too, but you must relate it to the target outlet’s demographics.
4. Be a resource, not a peddler
Have you ever bought a used car? If you have, then you probably know how it feels to be sold something that you don’t really need. This is not how you want to approach the media. You want to be a resource, not a salesperson. I have found success in offering them a human-interest story package. For instance, our recent placement for COHN client Way to Go about Schoolpool, a carpooling program for school-aged children and their families. We found a local family that was participating in the program, vetted the family with a pre-interview to make sure they were comfortable sharing their story, then arranged for photo opportunities with the local school and Schoolpool participants. The result was a localized story encouraging smarter commuting solutions. Read all about it here.
5. Follow through
At COHN, we don’t see our media relationships as flings, but rather, mutually beneficial long-term connections. Part of this commitment includes a personal thank you note for the coverage. We prefer handwritten notes whenever possible (yes, people still do that) and the receiver is generally surprised and appreciative. This shows that you’re not just calling on the media when you want something. We follow our contacts’ bylines and check in every now and then to compliment them on a job well done, even if it doesn’t relate to the client’s topic. This not only solidifies the relationship but also keeps you and your client’s expertise or spokespeople top of mind. You can even take it one step further and arrange get-togethers after work, coffee or happy hour meetings that don’t include any pitching on your end.
Many people think that pitching stories to the media involves a secret recipe, but really it’s quite simple: Just think of your relationship with the media as a long-term engagement, not a one-time transaction.