Like many small businesses, we are always looking to gain media coverage for our brand and the brands we represent. Writing a press release and emailing a pitch to journalists may seem easy enough, but according to our friends from Bay News 9, your pitch can be improved by following a few additional guidelines.
We learned the tricks of the trade at a two-day conference on SEO and content marketing hosted by The HOTH. The panel discussion was led by Chief Executive and founder of GMPR Gina Morales, Assignment Editor for Bay News 9 Joey West, and News Anchor for ABC7 News Jacqueline Matter. The panel gave insight into their years of experience pitching, receiving, and choosing press releases to share with the local community. We felt that it was only right to share what we learned with you.
Perform the “Who Cares” Test
When West pitches a story to his boss, the first question is always, “Who cares?” Your company obviously cares about your press release, but why should others? The only way your story will receive media coverage is if the media believes the community will respond to it. Look for the novelty of your story, the impact it has on the community, and the emotion your story conveys. These are the types of things Morales looks for when she writes a press release for a client. When pitching to the media, she recommends putting these aspects of a story at the forefront to make it stand out.
Don’t Over Pitch, Don’t Under Promise
A boring story won’t go anywhere, and that is why we try to create pitches that are as compelling as possible. But over pitching should also be avoided at all costs. If you promise an amazing story and do not deliver, it isn’t only your reputation on the line, it is the reputation of the journalist who has taken the risk to give your story media coverage. There have been instances where Matter was pitched an amazing story, only to find that the story had been exaggerated. It was up to her to turn an underwhelming story into something her viewers would enjoy, otherwise return to the newsroom with nothing to show for. This is not a situation you want to put any journalist in. It is unprofessional and an automatic guarantee that you won’t receive news coverage again.
Do Your Research
Always send personalized emails to the right journalist. Go to the news station’s website and find journalists that write stories that are similar to your own. Knowing their beat, the topic that they cover, will give you better chances of catching their attention. West claims that he is more likely to open an email that has a personalized subject that addresses him by name. For example, “Hey Joey” is much more appealing in the subject of an email than “Press Release”. Your pitch still needs to interest him, but if you can get in the door your chances of media coverage are automatically multiplied.
Timing is Everything
If you send a press release too early, your story will most likely be shelved until it is closer to the date of the event. A journalist receives hundreds of emails on a daily basis and must prioritize what to focus their attention on first. West explains that when a story is shelved, the odds of it being looked at again are slim because of all the new information that is constantly being sent in. To guarantee that your story gets the attention that it deserves, send your press pitch within the week of your event, never any earlier. Two to three days prior is recommended. It is also best to email your pitch early in the morning or later in the day to catch journalists while they aren’t in afternoon meetings.
Follow Local News Trends
Being aware of local news trends can help with the timeliness of your piece. If a journalist has recently covered something that is related to your story, they may have interest in your story simply because of its relevance, especially if it received interest from viewers. This is also a great way to pinpoint which journalist you should pitch your story to. Mention their previous piece in your pitch and explain why your story is related, yet different enough to receive media attention.
If you send a great pitch, you are going to get a follow-up requesting more information. Create a portfolio of logos, jpegs, videos, and biographies that are prepared to be sent if needed. Include low resolution files that they will be able to open. As a public relations and marketing strategist, Morales sends press releases frequently and claims that making a journalist’s job easy is a great way to build lasting relationships with them. They will look forward to working with you because you are willing to do the work for them. You may even become their go to contact.
Sending Gifts Never Hurts
Technically, journalists are not allowed to keep gifts, but sending something to their office is a great way to catch their attention. According to West, food never makes it to the trash. Sending a gift is a kind gesture that suggests you put thought into your pitch. If you do choose to send a gift, make sure that it is related to your pitch in some way.