Survey results published this week showed that the biggest annoyance to journalists when people try to pitch for coverage is that the pitch is, in fact, irrelevant. The study ranks the top ten worst PR tactics and, in essence, provides a list of things not to do when pitching to a journalist.
In a very lovely coincidence, we attended a Guardian Masterclass this week with Suzanne Bearne (@sbearne) about the best ways to secure coverage with a top media pitch. Suzanne has worked for the BBC, the Guardian, the Telegraph, Retail Week, and Refinery 29 among many more top publications, so it’s safe to say she knows her stuff.
We’ve picked out our best bits from the masterclass and curated some top tips on how to pitch to a journalist and secure the coverage you are looking for.
What Not To Do
Let’s revisit the aforementioned study results for a moment.
Within the top four most frustrating pitching tactics were self-promotion without a story, excessive follow-ups, and lack of research about the publication being pitched to.
Let’s keep these pet peeves in mind whilst we examine what Suzanne’s Guardian Masterclass taught us.
Creating Your Media Pitch
First and foremost, find the right person to contact. You can do this by researching the publications you are looking to pitch for, and then finding out the appropriate person to contact.
Check that your story hasn’t recently been covered in that publication. It is unlikely that a publication will run similar stories or features within at least six months of one another.
All too often, brand managers or PR professionals will spot a feature in a magazine from a competitor and then try to get their own brand or client’s brand a story the following month.
Don’t wait until somebody else gets in there first. Be proactive and always be looking for opportunities.
If you find that a publication has already featured something similar, think about looking at related publications in that field and checking if they are yet to cover a story like yours. If not, go for it.
Should you find that a story similar to yours is covered across a range of outlets, it might be time to think about approaching your story from a different angle.
A Different Angle
Is there a golden nugget within your media pitch that you could use as a different angle to your story?
For example, is there an interesting point about how the business began, the people behind the business, or some unique values? This could be a stance you take, which will then still be able to provide information and news about the brand, but in a slightly different light.
Help the Journalist Out
Providing as much information as you can in your initial media pitch will make things easier for the journalist, and quicker for you to secure the coverage. The more thorough you can be with the information you provide, the better your relationship with the journalist will become, and they will be more likely to approach you the next time as you have delivered.
Most journalists prefer to be contacted by email, as you can contain all of the important information there. Plus, they’d never be off the phone if people kept ringing up. They will get to your email when they have time.
Please, please, please tailor your email to the publication.
If you don’t get a response the first time, feel free to try again in a couple of days, as it may have just been missed in a sea of pitches crashing into their inbox every day.
This point ties in with the annoyance of excessive follow-ups. If there is no response after the second attempt, either review your pitch and try to take a new and exciting angle or try another publication. A relevant publication, though!
Don’t use puns in the email header. As tempting as it may seem, a journalist wants to know exactly what you can offer in the smallest possible amount of time, without having to work out jokes.
The Press Release
Most of the time, when you are sending your media pitch to journalists, you should have a press release ready. If you have specific news, then you should include a press release. If, however, you are submitting something for a particular feature which requires more insight to an individual, then just give plenty of detail.
Make sure you include quotes and any relevant information as well as additional elements which may help the context of the story.
Highlight why your story is important. Is a product the first of its kind? Will the service help combat various difficulties or issues in a particular environment? Whatever the USP is of the product or service, make sure it is included in the press release as well as the media pitch email.
Here are some final things to remember when constructing your media pitch.
- Make sure there are easy to find press contact details on websites
- Know your target, does your journalist only work certain days? Don’t email them in their free time.
- Have new tech and opportunities on your radar at all times, look beyond just print
- Don’t over-promise what you can do, be honest
- Don’t ask for copy approval, leave it to the editors
- Don’t hold conference calls when the journalist just needs to speak to one person, it ruins the tone
- Don’t ask for a copy of the article, they probably won’t get a free copy, so buy it yourself or find it online
- Don’t email first thing in the morning, it will be manic!
The Ideal Pitch to Media and Journalists
This brings us to the end of our summary of the PR pitching masterclass.
We certainly learnt a lot of invaluable things from it and are happy to share some of these with you.
To summarise, pitch a story that is worth reading. Audiences want engaging stories, not random marketing. Provide the journalists with as much information as you have, tailor your media pitch to the publication and respect that they are permanently inundated with requests. Make yours stand out.
If you want to keep up to date with the latest journalist requests, search for #journorequest and #prrequest on Twitter to get you started. If you would like to talk about all things marketing, get in touch, we’d love to chat.