If you thought you led a hectic life, try putting yourself into the shoes of a journalist or that of a television or radio producer. These are people who are constantly racing against time – press times and air dates don’t wait and often, neither do the journalists and producers who live with these deadlines.
If you’re new to doing your own public relations, one of the biggest challenges you’re going to face is tracking down these busy media professionals. Obviously, you have a story you want to tell; but always keep in mind that time is at a premium for journalists, so the number one rule is to be brief and make every word count. Do not, repeat, do not waste their time!
Journalists and others who work in print and broadcast media have overflowing inboxes. You’re hardly the only one trying to pitch as story and they have to make very quick judgment calls about what is and is not newsworthy. If it’s not, it’s in the recycling bin before you can say “Have I got a scoop for you!”
How can you give your pitches, press kits and other materials the best chance of being read and considered for use as a story? The most important thing here is to direct your pitches to the places which are the most likely to be interested in your story.
Publications, programs and websites which are focused on your industry are always your best bet. Target these media outlets with pitches which are newsworthy, informative and on topic. Get the interest of journalists and producers with your story and do it fast! They don’t have a lot of time and when it comes to making an impression on them with your pitch, neither do you! Make their job easy and you’ll always have a better chance.
The Anatomy of a Pitch
Let’s look at how you’d pitch a hypothetical story. Let’s say that you are the owner or the communications director of the XYZ Company, a producer of O-rings and other industrial seals. Your company has just developed a new and highly efficient seal which is made of a material which can withstand higher pressures and temperature extremes greater than any other on the market. This new seal has secured your company a contract as a supplier to an important player in the aviation and aerospace industry – now this is a story worth telling, right? It is and if you pitch it well, it’s a story which will get media coverage.
You’ll want to contact reporters or editors by phone and by email; remember that these are very busy people who aren’t always going to be found at their desks, so be prepared before you call. You should phone first and follow up on this contact by email.
If you’re able to get them on the phone (or get their voicemail), this is the formula to follow:
– Introduce yourself quickly: “Hi, I’m Jane Doe from XYZ industrial seals.”
– Tell them that you have a story to pitch: “We’d like to announce our new high performance seal and our partnership with ABC Aviation and Aerospace”
– Give the most important details in brief: “With a resistance to X amount of pressure and temperatures as high as X and as low as X, this seal is a solution which could allow engineers to overcome some of the current limitations in aerospace design and foster a new generation of faster, lighter aircraft. We’ve entered into a deal with ABC Aviation and Aerospace as their exclusive supplier of seals.”
– Thank them for their time and let them know that you’ll send them some further information via email.
Make your call brief – no more than a minute if your call goes to voicemail and no more than two if you get your target on the phone. The two most important rules for pitching your stories are: don’t waste journalists’ time and make their jobs easier.
By giving them everything they need to tell if yours is a story which fits their publication in as little time as possible, you do both and give your company a much better chance of getting some valuable media coverage. It can take some practice to master the art of getting your story across quickly – and it’s a valuable skill for any PR person which is well worth practicing.
Your email should follow much the same format as your phone call. Be brief; get to the point of the story right away while giving them enough information to see that there’s a story here. Let your recipient know that the email is a story pitch by including this right in the subject line – this will distinguish your email as a potential story, like so: Pitch: XYZ Industrial Seals Announces Partnership With ABC Aviation and Aerospace.
The subject line tells the journalist or editor that this is a pitch and tells them right there what the story is about without them even having to open your email. If you’ve spoken to them by phone or left them a message, they’re more likely to remember you and your story. It’s a basic marketing principle which is equally valid in public relations – repeated contacts build impressions.
Once you get your pitch read by a journalist, editor or producer it’s all up to how good of a story you have to tell. Not every pitch is going to make it into print or onto the airwaves and even the pros don’t bat a thousand – but you’ll get better at pitching your stories every time and before long you’ll find that your stories are making the news more often than not.