If you run a business or have a product or service to sell then you’ve probably thought of ways to getting media coverage and being featured in the press – online, broadcast or in print. But what exactly are journalists looking for – and how do they want to be approached?
We recently went along to an event run by seasoned journalist Suzanne Bearne to hear her ideas. As a freelance journalist, Suzanne writes for several regular columns, from The Guardian and The Observer to the Times Education Supplement and Vogue, so she has plenty of experience to draw upon. Here are some of our top takeaways from the event…
Approaching journalists & editors – top dos and don’ts
- remember that editors are very busy! Suzanne cites an editor who had over 2,700 unread emails in her inbox after a few days’ off. Make sure you send relevant emails or they may block you completely.
- look at the magazine or publication first. See which section it would fit into and get familiar with the structure and content of it. Pitch the information that fits this. For example, a profile piece might include the challenges and struggles that people have faced setting up their business, so include these examples in your pitch.
- remember to consider all forms of media, including radio, TV and podcasts – there are often opportunities for speakers etc on panels, roundtables and events.
- always go straight to the editor – nurture relationships with juniors too as they will rise, and look at who writes the actual column and contact them directly.
- just approach asking for coverage – give a reason why they should feature your idea and tell them what the story is.
- pitch something that’s been featured recently – if they have just featured a new food business, they won’t want another one for at least a few months.
What to pitch: topical angles
Find ways to make your business or client topical, giving you a stronger reason to pitch. For example, if you are a fitness instructor, pitch it around the London Marathon. Or, is there something topical in the news to hook it to? For example, if you run a wedding dress business you could pitch when a big celebrity is getting married.
- Set up Google Alerts for the keywords in your industry so you can pounce on topical stories like this.
- Get the timing right – monthly magazines work about three months in advance and newspaper features usually need around two weeks’ notice.
What to pitch: unique angles
Think of unique things to say about your business – have you done something different to raise funds for charity or implemented a shorter working day? If it’s something new and different, it will be newsworthy! It’s always great if you can say you are the first to do something, such as setting up the vegan restaurant in your county.
- Consider inviting journalists in to try or see something. Are you developing new technology? Having an unusual event? Do you offer an unusual service, such as foraging workshops, that a journalist could try out?
- Think creatively and find different ways that your company could be mentioned. For example, homes columns always need to be filled. While it’s not primarily about your business, it’s an indirect way of getting exposure as your company will get a mention at some point.
What to pitch: expert commentary
Journalists always need experts to provide comments in articles. If you have at least five years’ experience, set yourself up as the ‘go to’ voice in your industry.
Build this up by blogging and tweeting on your chosen topic. Make sure you come across as an expert on your Twitter and LinkedIn profile as journalists search on these platforms to find people. If your profile is too personal they won’t see you as a credible source.
- Include a strong biography about your profession or business on your social accounts, with strong keywords and hashtags so journalists can find you.
- Include an email address on your profile and website so it’s easy to be contacted.
- Enter awards – this will give you credibility as an expert and a hook for press coverage. Plus, the sponsors will often PR it too.
What to pitch: opinion pieces
Opinion pieces are a brilliant way to position yourself as an expert on a certain topic, and are another example of being timely and topical, by writing about something that’s been big in the news.
- There are lots of opportunities for opinion pieces in all kinds of media – even Guardian Comment is Free sometimes use unknown writers when they have a strong opinion on a relevant subject.
- Writing letters is a great way to get mentioned while airing your opinion. Publications are always keen to get letters, and they often spark interest for a longer feature, so they can be a good route in to the features’ section.
What to include: great case studies
The people who use your services or buy your products are the best voices to tell your brand story. This helps to focus in on the people behind the product or service.
- Always brief the case studies first and get their permission to be involved – if you pitch the idea and then no one is willing to talk to the journalist you risk looking that connection.
- It’s best if case studies are happy to photographed, although this isn’t always necessary, especially if it’s a sensitive subject. But be clear whether you can offer pictures when you’re pitching.
What to include: great pictures
In addition to pictures of case studies, let the editor know if you have great images of anything else. This can be a real selling point.
- Attach a couple of low res example, explaining that you have high res versions available too.
- Select the best images (not too many) and save them into a Dropbox folder that you can easily direct journalists to if they need them.
Find out more about how AMBITIOUS can help your business with media, influencer and blogger relations and read some of our success stories of building meaningful media coverage for our clients.