Pitching the media is easy, right? Anybody can do it, right? Well, to be perfectly honest, no, it’s not always easy and not everybody can do it. When a pitch is skillfully handled and leads to an interview it may look easy, but so does basketball when you watch Michael Jordan play. As in any successful accomplishment, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make the effort successful.
Two instances come to mind that illustrate the best ways to pitch the media. In the first instance, a new PR person I worked with wanted to pitch the media and put together an e-mail pitch. This person asked me to review the pitch and it was…thorough. The pitch was about the length of a full-blown short novel and included a number of attachments, data sheets and photos. No reporter wants to receive all this in the first pitch.
In the second example, a former colleague froze once the reporter answered the phone. I’ve shared this story before, but when the reporter answered the phone my colleague panicked and told the reporter that this was his first pitch and that he didn’t know what to say. The reporter took pity on him and asked him who his client was and if they had a new product or what the news was. My colleague explained and the reporter agreed to an appointment. Rarely does this happen.
Bearing these stories in mind, here are six tips to make pitching the media successful.
- Identify the right target. Do some research and make sure you’re targeting the right reporter and the right outlet. If you’re pitching the local evening news on a new medical technology, don’t call or e-mail the weather person. Familiarize yourself with the publication and its staff to ensure that you know who coves what beats. Nothing will frustrate a reporter more than getting a call or e-mail to cover a story that’s not part of their regular coverage area. From an outlet perspective, for the same medical technology, if it has nothing to do with sports, don’t pitch ESPN.
- Only call when you have a story. Just because you know a reporters phone number or e-mail address doesn’t give you an open invitation to call them once a week to chat. If you call them, have a story idea or angle in the mind that will meet their needs. Reporters are always looking for something new. They don’t want to tell the same story or a slight variation thereof multiple times. Their editors and readers aren’t interested on that either.
- Be brief and get to the point. Reporters are busy and don’t have time to read a small novel to understand what your pitch is. An effective pitch should only be a paragraph or two and should lead with the most important or relevant details. I know one former editor who would read the first paragraph of every press release or e-mail. If at the end of the first paragraph she didn’t know what the pitch or story was she would delete it and move on.
- Clearly explain what the story is and why it’s important. If a reporter has to guess what the story is they’ll likely lose interest before ever finishing reading your e-mail. Keep in mind, reporters are busy and receive hundreds of e-mail pitches a day. Be clear and concise.
- Be clear about what you want. Don’t beat around the bush or try to drop hints about what you want. Come right out and ask or tell a reporter what you want. If a reporter has to wonder what the story is or what you want, they’ll move on to other opportunities that are clearer and provide the level of details that enables them to understand and visualize the story.
- Avoid being a “me to, me to” guy. Just because a competitor secures a story with an industry magazine doesn’t mean you should call the reporter that wrote the article and tell him that you can do the same thing or can do it better and demand or request that the reporter write a story on the same topic about you. No reporter is going to do that. If there is an important issue that was left out or missed in the article, it is appropriate to point that out. However, let your PR team handle those types of follow up pitches and issues.
Reporters are open to hearing from PR people and others that have a legitimate story. They’re busy and don’t want to waste time on superfluous and irrelevant pitches. If done right, a pitch will be well received and yield the positive results your company wants. When done right it looks easy and effortless even though it’s not all that easy. By following these six steps you’ll increase your chances for success and begin building relationships of trust with the media that will enable you to secure and enjoy ongoing success.
Jeremy Kartchner is a Partner at Snapp Conner PR and has more than 15 years experience in both technology and sports PR. In addition to his responsibilities with Snapp Conner PR, Kartchner also works with the Utah Jazz as a member of its Game Night public relations staff where he is responsible for tracking and providing game time statistics for local, national and international media and conducting pre and post game player and coach interviews. He’s a sports fan, golfer, father of three, husband to one hottie, partially bionic, cavity free, Olympics junkie and wanna be blogger.
Author: Jeremy Kartchner | Google+