Got loads of good ideas about getting your business featured in the media, but no idea how to approach journalists and editors? As a PR agency we’re used to shaping stories and ‘selling in’ ideas to the media. And, its fair to say it takes time, skill and decent planning to achieve the best results. Starting to ‘sell in’ your ideas like this can be daunting at first, but help is at hand if you follow some basic rules …
We recently went along to an event run by freelance journalist Suzanne Bearne to hear how she likes to work. Suzanne writes for many national titles, so she has plenty of experience to draw upon and lots of first-hand insights and tips to help steer you in the right direction.
If you’re still at the ideas stage, make sure you read part one: Getting media coverage for your business – what to pitch and when to help you think about unique ideas and creative angles.
Do your research
First and foremost, make sure you’re pitching to the right person! Sending lots of pitches to irrelevant journalists is a waste of your time, and could even put you on their black list in future. Find the right journalist to pitch to by searching:
- Bylines – these are the name credits on articles. Read the titles of relevant publications and try to find the contact of the direct person who writes the section or column you’re pitching to.
- Google – a simple keyword search for news in your industry will help you to see who writes on the given subject. If you already know the name of the journalist you want to contact, it’s likely you can find their contact details with a quick search.
- Twitter – many journalists use Twitter, so it’s a good way to find them, and many list contact details on their bio. Also use Twitter to keep abreast of articles they are researching – many journalists post on Twitter if they need experts or case studies.
- LinkedIn – the search function on LinkedIn is a useful way to find people working in a certain profession. Search for journalists and spend some time refining your list.
New magazines and columns are being launched all the time so it’s worth spending time keeping abreast of what titles are out there. Look through titles in newsagents and the library and build up your own personal library at home to refer back to. Analyse them for:
- What sections and columns they include
- How you/your client could fit in
- The tone and style, including imagery and photography
Once you’ve done this research, you’ll be better placed to tell the journalist which section you are pitching for, and why it fits.
How to pitch to a journalist – top tips
Do try to be:
- Personal – write to them personally and use their name.
- Tailored – explain why it is right for them and the publications/columns they write for.
- Selective – approach the most relevant journalists for your story.
- Specific – include the five w’s: who, what, where, when, why?
Things to avoid:
- Obvious marketing – telling a journalist that your product or business is great isn’t enough. Pitch a story worth telling.
- Too many niceties – steer clear of kisses and talking about the weather! Get straight to the point – remember that they’re busy.
- Contacting them by phone – unless it’s genuinely urgent or breaking news, most journalists prefer to be contacted by email.
What to include: the basics
Always include a phone number and make sure your client is able to talk in the next couple of days. Add relevant links (such as other press coverage or award wins) at the end. If you don’t hear anything for a few days feel free to resend.
What to include: a press release
It can be worthwhile to attach a press release, especially if you are launching something new or different.
Stick to around five paragraphs and avoid bullet points. Paste it into the email so the journalist can easily scan it, and attach it as a Word doc – avoid PDFs as they can be hard to open and copy and paste from.
What to include: a great subject line
This is the first thing that the editor or journalist will see, so it needs to catch their attention and make them open the email.
- Word the subject line in a similar style to headings in the publication you’re pitching to.
- Avoid trying to be funny or using puns.
- Be clear – you could try a format such as ‘Press release: county’s first-ever vegan restaurant opens in Somerset’ / ‘Story pitch: how my whole family turned vegan’ / ‘Idea for Comment is Free: why I believe eating meat should be taxed’.
What to include: images
Images can make or break a piece, so always attach a few low res images with the pitch if you can – and say if you have more hi res versions. If the editor asks for more, select the best and send via We Transfer or a Dropbox link, but don’t overload them with too much choice – they don’t want to wade through hundreds of images.
Take advantage of digital tools
- Social media channels – these can be a great way to find contacts in the first instance, but always try and contact by email if you don’t know them. Avoid contacting via Facebook as this is a more personal platform. Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are a good way to find people as mentioned earlier.
- #journorequest – the #journorequest Twitter hashtag is a great way to see what journalists are looking for, but only respond if you are exactly what they’re looking for – don’t try and change their brief!
- Top tip – Be alert on evenings and weekends when journalists are often more desperately looking for experts and case studies at the last minute and there’s less competition.
Ensuring you get a mention
Sometimes, after all the hard work pitching and securing interviews, the clients’ mention will be edited out. This is usually outside of the journalist’s control, but always be upfront from the start if you are doing it for a mention of a business or product – this will give you the best chance of being credited properly.
Be realistic about your expectations and be aware that it’s not always possible to include a link – look at whether these are usually included. If not, it’s unlikely they will include one for you or your client.
Journalists rarely give you copy approval, however if the topic is sensitive then they may be more inclined to show you the copy before they file it. Just remember it might still be changed by the editors.
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.