Pitching to the media
Pitching to the media is a key element of any PR role yet it’s becoming harder to get through and get noticed. But before you bash out a quick email or pick up the ‘phone – STOP. Successful pitches start with reading.
Read the publication from cover to cover or scroll through the main website sections. There is no shortcut to getting a story told editorially and when I’m pushed for time, I’ll focus on the ten most important media outlets. I’ll try to get to know those publications or news outlets inside out and only then will I pitch to media.
1. Play sleuth
I’ll look at the bylines. Who is writing what? Are they staff or freelance? Who makes the decisions? I’ll check out their Twitter feeds. I’ll find out what they are interested in. If they have a blog, I’ll find out what they don’t like, what they do. Where they go. How best to reach them and when.
2. Pick out themes
I’ll read the news section and look for common themes. Very few PR stories are strong enough for editorial news (unless you have a good business to business story). But if I have some strong statistics that reveal trends or a story that I can link into a topical news item, I might be able to interest a journalist. So I’ll search for who is writing about related themes. I’ll see what they’ve written before. What angle they have taken. What they appear to look for. Then I’ll consider if/how my story might fit in.
3. Add ons
When I’m reading the media, I’ll look for add on opportunities. Stories are heightened with commentary, photography and video content. They bring stories alive and are essential when pitching story ideas to journalists.
4. Evoke emotions
Journalists look for stories that connect emotionally and you often find lots of stories that evoke strong emotions such as curiosity or fear. I’ll often look at the most interesting news stories on the BBC news home page to see what stories connect with emotions. Then instead of pitching a story of ‘look at my brand, aren’t I wonderful’, I’ll consider if I can tell a story about my client’s visions and values. I’ll find who is writing stories that might appeal to people’s aspirations or fears. The key to compelling stories is to get people talking and to do that, a PR story has to evoke emotions.
5. Pitch the human interest
Journalists want to write stories about one thing – people. So, I’ll search out the feature sections where there is an opportunity to place case histories. I’ll consider what spokespeople I can provide, what quotes. I’ll look for the sections which feature compelling people pictures. And I’ll consider what type of feature I might be able to place and who writes it – a day in the life of, a hero overcomes a challenge, this happened to me, David versus Goliath or a then and now type feature. Then I’m ready to pitch to the media.
6. Lists, facts and other ‘quirkies’
In this Buzz Feed era, there is always room for filler content that entertains, intrigues and informs. This is often put together after the main feature and news articles have been written so it can be dropped in later. The key is to link it to relevant, topical articles.
I hope that this helps give you some tips on how to pitch a story. Good luck with your next pitch and if you are ready to pitch by telephone, read this blog too.
If you are a CIPR member, you can watch my webinar for free on Pitching to journalists by clicking on this link.