There is no doubt that a great media story can do wonders for a company’s reputation and revenues. But generating such stories is harder than it used to be. Thanks to the faltering economics of the news business, the days of schmoozing friendly reporters over lunch and being paid back in ink, or blanketing reporters with self-serving press releases and waiting for the pile of clippings to roll in, are long gone.
With employment in U.S. newsrooms down 26% since the last recession, reporters today need to crank out more stories in less time to keep up with consumers’ insatiable appetite for content. Getting a reporter’s attention is hard. Holding it long enough to convince them to add your story to their already overwhelming to-do list is even harder.
So, what can you do to stand out from the pack and boost your chances of success? Having a timely and compelling story to tell is as essential as ever, but it’s no longer enough. The trick lies in how you package and deliver it.
Here are six strategies to make your next media pitch—and you—stand out.
Remember That It’s Not About You
A reporter’s job is to deliver information that their audience wants, not to promote your product or service or help attract workers to your company. In fact, few things turn a reporter off faster than the feeling that they’re doing some corporate communication department’s bidding. Resist the urge to sell your story and concentrate instead on how you can help the reporter do their job and bring value to their readers or viewers. They will be much more motivated to help you do yours without your having to ask.
A feature story on a complicated topic requires more time and effort than a quick news piece about a new executive or corporate acquisition. Yours is one of many stories the reporter has to work on, and the fact that it’s your priority doesn’t automatically make it theirs. Reporters have enough deadlines of their own to worry about, so dictating yours if your story is not legitimately time-sensitive will only hurt your cause. The more flexibility and respect you show for the reporter’s ever-changing workload and competing obligations, the more pleased you are likely to be with their final product.
Make It Personal
Nothing dampens a reporter’s interest like the feeling that you’re pitching the same story to all their competitors. Taking time to make your pitch personal shows the reporter that you’ve done your homework and have good reason to believe they will care about what you have to say.
Start by reading what the reporter has already written to get a sense of what they cover, the topics they are currently focused on, and their writing style. Check out their social media profiles for tweets and posts that offer clues to the stories they are working on and the next ones on their agenda and tailor your pitch accordingly. Do they sprinkle colorful quotes or anecdotes into their copy? If so, help whet their appetite for your story by including a juicy one in your pitch.
Don’t Be a Stranger
You wouldn’t walk up to a complete stranger on the street and ask them to do you a time-consuming favor, would you? Of course not. But that’s essentially what you’re doing when you call or email a reporter out of the blue to pitch a story. Anything you can do to make yourself visible to the reporter and create a positive impression beforehand will improve your chances of success considerably.
Start by following your target reporter on Twitter and the other social media platforms they frequent. Look for opportunities to share thoughts on something they’ve written or tweet a reply with your own point of view or a bit of data they might find interesting. Ask engaging questions that show you appreciate their work and may have more to offer them. Keep your interactions brief, positive and on-point. Your goal is to build the reporter’s trust by simply being helpful without asking for anything in return—at least not yet.
Make it Easy
Successful media relations is not about who you know. It’s about delivering a story so fresh and compelling that a reporter can’t help but want to write it. But sometimes even that’s not enough. One way to help seal the deal with a busy reporter is by handing them everything they need to write the story on a proverbial silver platter.
Sharing contact information for expert sources both inside and outside your organization will save them time and reinforce that you’re out to help them do their job, not just to maximize the visibility of your own executives. Offer up some provocative quotes, anecdotes and examples to stoke their curiosity and guide their questions. Finally, be generous in providing background information and data to help the reporter understand and frame the story. Just be careful not to overwhelm them with reams of information. Curate carefully and let the reporter know there’s more if they want it.
Sweat the Details
Now, you need to make sure all the hard work you’ve put in isn’t rendered moot by careless errors like misspelling the reporter’s name, getting the publication’s name wrong or complimenting an article written by their colleague or, even worse, their competitor. Be sensitive as well to what’s happening in the world as well as in your sector. Offering up an evergreen story on a day when national or international news is breaking and newsrooms are in all-hands-on-deck mode will at best earn your pitch a one-way ticket to the circular file, and could get you and your company publicly ridiculed for carelessness or insensitivity.
Using these six strategies will help improve your chances of getting noticed by the right reporters. Now, coming up with a compelling story angle for them to share is up to you.