Newsrooms – and any other editorial desk for that matter – live and breathe stories. They need content to feed their audience. Journalists are typically on the lookout for expert sources and voices on the street. Some news desks have guest bookers who are on the lookout for experts. In essence, newsrooms are always putting out their feelers for great stories.
Pitching to journalists, writers and editors is basically the selling of story ideas to this news desk, with the goal of getting them to write about your brand story, product, or service.
From the eyes of the pitcher, it is essentially free product placement, with 3rd party credentials. This is because the coverage is from an independent organisation writing about your brand, product or service.
Genuine positive coverage builds awareness and trust with customers. For startups, it attracts the right attention from investors. The flip side is that there could be neutral or negative coverage, and that could be harmful to the brand. Hence, media pitching should be done by practitioners who are well versed with the media landscape, to avoid such pitfalls.
The 6-steps to pitching to journalists
While pitching to journalists is usually seen as a relationship-based activity, the connection only really helps with opening the doors. A strong written pitch is what seals the deal.
When pitching, the most important thing to take note of is the media outlets’ audience. Is that the target audience for your brand, product or service? If, yes, then the media outlet can be included into the media distribution list. Here is a step-by-step guide:
Step 1: Identify media outlets and build up a distribution list
This requires research into target media outlets and their audience. For specific journalists, one should look at their beats and past work. Goes without saying: the more relevant the media outlet and journalist, the higher the rate of success when pitching.
Step 2: For each email pitch, it should be tailored with specific story ideas, at most three
The ‘rule of three’ can be loosely adapted here – the idea that people tend to best consume information in threes. Some examples of story ideas could be to delve into the business side, human interest, or novelty aspects of the topic.
Find out more about news values in the book: Navigating Disruption: Media Relations in the Digital Age
Step 3: Like a job interview, the pitch needs to answer the question: “Why should I cover this story?”
Other questions to consider answering are “why is this important?” and “why now?”
Step 4: Include visuals such as photos &/or video/s
If there’s a media release, this can be attached and copied after the pitch email.
Step 5: Wrap up the email with a specific call-to-action (CTA) for journalists/editors
A good call-to-action could be to ask if the journalist is interested in receiving more information (press kit or product sample) as well as interview opportunities i.e. speaking to a spokesperson that you could arrange for.
Step 6: You may also add a note to ask “What other stories are you working on?”, “What stories can I help you with?”
This is so that the journalist can make a mental note to keep you in mind, for future projects.
PR can be a cost-effective way to advertise products and services, as well as tell the brand story. For small businesses, it can be valuable when you have a limited budget to publicise your products or services. For PR professionals, the end goal of the engaging journalists would be to form a partnership where you are a reliable source of information that the journalist can turn to for stories on specific topics. Building up that network of journalists is the long-term goal, and it goes beyond that one pitch. In the book, Navigating Disruption: Media Relations in the Digital Age, the author shares more media pitching tactics to adopt. Get your copy today.