Every business and organization wants to increase their earned media placement and gain exposure to the community. The question is, with all of the competition vying for attention from media, how do you get your news noticed and picked up by the press?
The Chamber’s Communications Council recently hosted “Back to Basics: How to Pitch to the Media” where four local journalists provided their advice for pitching. Attendees absorbed valuable information from Scott Brodbeck, Founder and Editor of ARLnow.com, Greg Hamilton, Founder and Publisher of Arlington Magazine, Gregg Micklos, News Director for CBS Radio All News 99.1 WNEW, and Jennifer Nycz-Conner, Assistant Managing Editor for The Washington Business Journal. Below are some of the key takeaways the panelists provided for businesses and nonprofits who have news to share with the media.
12 Tips for Pitching to the Media
- Do your homework. Take the time to understand the media outlet you are pitching. Know what type of stories they typically cover, who their audience is, how often they publish/broadcast, etc. Also make sure you know what type of media outlet you are pitching to. Don’t say the story will make great visuals when you’re pitching to a radio station.
- Find out if the outlet serves a specific geographic area. The story may be interesting, but if it is outside an outlet's circulation area, they are not going to cover it.
- Know who to approach. Take the time to find out whom to pitch your story to. With larger media outlets, there will often be beat reporters who focus on a specific topic. For broadcast, a news director or assignment editor is typically the best contact.
- Ask about lead or cycle times. Is there a better time of the day, week, month, etc. to approach a media outlet with a story idea? It's ok to call and ask. Keep in mind that monthly publications have longer lead times, so they will need your news further in advance than weekly/daily news outlets.
- Be timely. Don’t wait to send your news until you’ve hired a PR firm, created an 18-page press release, etc. Get them the news quickly and succinctly.
- Why will readers care? Before making the pitch, think about why the readers/listeners/viewers will care about the story. Make sure you’re pitching a story that will interest their audience.
- Email first. A follow up call is okay, just be aware it can get busy during breaking news or near publication time. An editor/reporter may have a very short period of time to talk, so be concise.
- Skip the attachments and formal releases. A few simple paragraphs about what’s happening and why they should care along with good contact information works best. Attached press releases might not be opened.
- Include interesting tidbits. What makes your story unique? Include facts, stats, trends, figures, quotes, etc. that will help make your story interesting, credible, and stand out from others.
- Offer sources. If approaching a media outlet with a well-developed story idea, make sure to offer contacts to provide sources for the story. More importantly, make sure those contacts will be available when the reporter reaches out to you.
- Don't waste a reporter or editor's time. Editorial staff are often working under tight deadlines, so be as prepared as possible when making a pitch.
- Most importantly, remember that the job of a media outlet is to serve their audience, not the businesses/organizations who want their news published. The press wants to know what is going on in the community and they want to hear from you, but the news they cover is for the benefit of their readers/listeners/viewers. Present your news to media contacts in a way that shows how relevant and interesting your story will be for their audience.