Most PR firms are primarily hired to pitch media coverage. Yes, they do plenty of other important things like draft up long reports about how many media outlets are “considering” coverage or coming up with new and inventive ways to describe ROI. But the idea is that you hire a PR firm with the assumption that they’ll deliver meaningful coverage.
As an agency owner myself, I’ll be the first to tell you that’s not always the case.
Most clients enter into contracts believing the agency has exceptional media relationships that will convert into major articles, morning TV show opportunities and top-tier profile features. The truth is, though, unless you’re hiring an extremely specialized company, they often times just don’t.
That means that you, the small business owner, can save thousands each month in agency fees. With a little understanding on how to pitch the media, you can build your own relationships in a short period of time and generate more media coverage than the agency you were thinking about hiring. And once you have the fundamentals down, you can do it much quicker.
Once you have a story idea to pitch or news to announce, research the reporter’s email (their preferred method of communication) and shoot them a pitch all on your own (they actually prefer the authenticity of a message directly from a business owner vs. the spin of PR people, but you didn’t hear that from me). Once you land your first media opportunity, the floodgates will open. Keep these five tips in mind and you’ll be on your way:
- Be brief. When you’re reaching out to a member of the media, realize that they only have a few seconds to read your email, so your subject line and the opening sentence must hook them right away. Also, be as straightforward as possible and don’t editorialize your pitch. That’s the journalist’s job. Your job is to communicate why your story suggestion is worthy of coverage and why it’s relevant to the outlet’s readership as succinctly and impactfully as possible.
- Be informed. As mentioned previously, do your homework and be fully aware of whom you’re pitching, what they cover, their point of view on topics of relevance, and recent articles they’ve published or major stories they’ve written (a review of their Twitter feed is a good resource for a number of these items). Referencing a recent article or point of view in your email also helps build rapport with the person you’re communicating with.
- Individualize and personalize each communication. A lot of PR agencies blast email pitches out to reporters en masse because it’s less time consuming, even though it renders a fraction of the interest than individually-tailored emails do (and often times annoys reporters). While it might take a few more minutes of research, it’s extremely important to individualize each media email because it shows that you’re serious about placing a story. Bottom line, authentic pitches are far more effective.
- Highlight the value you are delivering to your media target. Rather than writing a pitch about how amazing something is, convey why it’s relevant to the media outlet’s audience. If you can quickly convince the journalist there is value for him/her in publishing the story, making it a no brainer, you’ll have much greater success in eliciting a positive reaction.
- Use a catchy subject line. How many emails do you get every day? If you’re busy, it probably feels like a lot. Multiply that number by 50 and that’s how many emails (many unsolicited) a busy media member gets on a daily basis. In order to break through the clutter, your subject line has to stand out – and it should be brief. For inspiration, do a Google search for newspaper covers (I find the New York Post’s front-page headlines to be quite creative) and get a sense of how the media seeks to drive eyeballs to its content.
Remember, if you believe in your pitch, and you show that it’s both timely and relevant to the media outlet’s audience, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get a response at the very least. Just respect the journalist’s time and if you’re not getting anywhere with one outlet, follow the tips above and move on to the next.