Not too long ago, I was an insider and it was not uncommon for me to receive, review and often decline really good (and countless not-so-good!) story pitches. Usually though, I was the one doing the pitching to media outlets big and small and it’s still the case today.
Smaller staffs, tighter deadlines and multi-media platforms means that finding, connecting and selling your story is a skill that continues to transform as our methods of news consumption and sharing shift. Reaching the “big guys” (aka—an influencer with strong reach) is still what it’s all about.
6 Helpful Hints for Reaching the ‘Big Guys’
#1: Pay Attention! In most newsrooms, a breaking news situation means all hands on deck. If there’s a tornado approaching your city, the assignment desk doesn’t care about your event a week from Saturday. Be smart, pay attention to what’s happening and time your contact accordingly.
#2: Strong Subject Lines – I can’t stress this enough. Powerful, informative and clear subject lines can make or break your ability to connect with a reporter. Make it creative but to the point. Tell her what/who you are offering and, if applicable, how you were referred. Writing a strong subject line takes time and creativity.
#3: Don’t Always Be Asking for Something – Some of the best and most effective correspondence I have had with writers and reporters was when I was simply reacting to a story. Comment on blog posts, retweet inspirational articles and make personal contact with a reporter if the story touched you. Also, don’t be hesitant to share story ideas you discover in your daily life, even if it’s not about your company or a paying client.
#4: Pay Attention! Yes, I’m saying it again because it’s that important. Paying attention to the news cycle is key. If you have a client who can comment as an expert on breaking news or a developing story, get on it ASAP but first make sure your client is available. Producers are much more likely to respond to a pitch when the topic is among the stories they are currently covering.
#5: Keep it Short and Simple – You know how busy you are, right? That news producer is busy too, and on deadline and getting countless calls and emails just like yours. A strongly written, concise pitch is key. Don’t include attachments or photos with your initial correspondence (although note in the email if photos and broll are available). Additional documents and visual components can be sent later if there is interest in the story.
#6: Know the Audience: I know you learned this lesson in high school, but it seems to be the one most often forgotten. Study up and understand the audience the media outlet reaches. If it’s your idea doesn’t clearly fit, then move on somewhere else. At the same time, if you know idea is a homerun, clearly explain why your story is one that will resonate with the audience.
Want to learn more about connecting with the media? Visit Elizabeth online at http://www.ea-communications.com/ or on Twitter @ESA17!