Last week I shared several ways to NOT get your pitch automatically deleted from a media person’s inbox. If you missed it, you’ll find it here.
Because of that post, I spoke to some of my journalist friends who wanted to offer some additional advice for those looking for coverage for their books.
But before I go into that, I just want to share a personal “Ah Ha” I had years ago when I made the switch from media insider to PR person. As a media insider (on-air radio host), I was invited to speak at conferences to share with attendees about how to pitch media, and I had lots to say on the subject.
I had no idea at the time that I was sharing how I wanted to be pitched and generalized it to mean that’s how other media people want to be pitched too. Then, when I made the career switch to become a PR pro, I discovered that different media pros want to be pitched differently. I had no idea. When you start working with hundreds of contacts all around the country, and now all around the world, you discover they want things done in their own way. Surprise! Well, it was to me, and it makes me laugh now when I hear so many media pros saying the same thing I was saying: “This is how media wants to be pitched.”
What they are really telling you is how THEY want to be pitched. Everyone is different. My advice? Take good notes when you talk to someone in the media and then approach them specifically the way they say. You will be far more successful if you do.
So, with that in mind, here are some more ways NOT to be deleted that I gathered not long ago when interviewing several of my media friends:
1. Please research your media contacts. They all say this one. It is the one tip shared among everyone.
In this day and age, there really is no excuse for lazy outreach. If you want to do a broad stroke and send hundreds (or even thousands) of media outlets the same pitch because it saves time, well, unless it’s breaking news it really isn’t going to help you and may actually hurt you. Pick the top twenty places where you want to be and take time to know what type of stories that journalist covers and whether you and the story you are pursuing would fit that outlet.
2. Understand journalists’ workflow and then be sure to adjust your own expectations. From the time you pitch an idea until the time it appears publicly, it can be anywhere from a week to six months–sometimes longer. A lot of work goes into landing media coverage and the uncertain nature of changing news cycles. It’s good to be aware of this for yourself and if you’re working with a publicist.
Another harsh reality is that not every interview leads to a story. I know this is hard to hear, and it can happen with podcasts too. Part of the reason may be performance (another reason for media training), or the interview isn’t quite what was expected, or the outlet’s plans and priorities have changed. Breaking news may bump everything aside. It happens. Your job is to know this, understand it, and follow up if it happens, and manage your feelings about it.
A story is never promised, it is just hoped for by all parties concerned.
3. Know how to offer new angles to current events. When there is a story unfolding, watch the coverage. What angles are they covering? Can you offer a new perspective, one that makes the story even more impactful?
If so, and your idea is interesting and compelling, it says volumes about you. It shows you understand how media works and may likely get you the coverage you want. If you can suggest additional guests and story angles, then you become even more valuable. It isn’t only about you. It’s about how you can help media do a better job. This is another way to become a Media Darling.
Those who can support coverage and are attuned to the daily news flow have much greater success and will have an open line on future stories. According to the journalists I recently spoke to, there is nothing worse than getting a call under deadline on a story pitch that would not have a chance of making air that day or that week due to ongoing coverage of a major story.
For example, if there has been (god forbid) a terrorist attack or a school shooting, this is not the time to pitch a story on how to keep your significant relationship strong. You don’t want to appear completely out of touch.
4. Don’t pitch the same outlet the same story angle multiple times, and don’t pitch the same story angle to multiple reporters or journalists or producers at the same outlet. One exception is if you uncovered the best contact after you’ve done some pitching. If that happens, let them know who else you pitched and why you’re now coming to them.
One journalist told me that many times PR pros double and triple pitch a publication by sending the same press release to multiple reporters who work on a news team. It’s better to narrow your focus and find the reporter who covers that topic, and send them the pitch, rather than blasting it out to everyone.
5. Think about a media outlet holistically. Everything is multimedia now, and many media outlets have numerous channels and properties. Understanding where you and your story fits within that organization is critical. You must have a good story, and beyond that, you must know where to send it to find a sympathetic ear.
For example, on many occasions at CNN a story might not be of interest on the TV channel, but it could be trending strongly online. You can even go further than that with regard to CNN as they have a U.S. channel, an international channel, and even CNN Arabic and CNN Español.
A lot of work? Yes.
Easier to just send out email blasts?
A bad idea to do that?
6. Sometimes after a story is published or airs, you might want something changed. Remember, you must be judicious when asking for changes or corrections. You have to have a really solid reason for making this request. It can’t simply be, “I didn’t like my quote near the end.” That won’t fly.
Ethical publications can’t change an accurate quote without a good reason, and it really puts a strain on the future relationship between the publicity or PR pro and the publication, so be careful. If they made a mistake, then you must speak up. That is a different situation.
7. Know how a reporter wants to be contacted and what is off limits.
I find this one ever-changing. One journalist just told me this: “Everyone has a reasonable expectation of some privacy, and many reporters won’t forgive you for sending your pitch to private channels and email addresses.”
Email has been the main way to pitch media for a long time now, and truthfully, it doesn’t have the response rate that it used to have. It’s because we are all getting email all the time. Who can possibly look at everything that comes in? Phone calls are very limited, mostly because many media folks won’t answer the phone.
The journalist who offered this advice added, “Do not DM a reporter on Twitter or, even worse, their personal Facebook account. That’s unforgivable.”
Well, remember. That is his boundary. He is saying how he wants to be pitched and it is not via social media. But there are other media pros who prefer it, so back to my advice early on: Take good notes when you interact with media folks so you can approach them the way THEY each want to be approached. You will have far more success.
The landscape keeps evolving and changing. One day we may all pitch and meet in Virtual Reality, and that day may not be that far off.
To your success!
P.S. Tis the season! I love this song performed by George Winston.
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