As a former reporter who spent nearly 30 years on the other end of public relations pitches, I am often asked by colleagues what’s the best way to pitch a reporter?
The other day I overheard someone in our office ask a reporter: “Did you get my press release?” When the answer she got was “Yes,” she said “Thanks” and hung up!
I turned and asked: “Did you ask if they planned to send a crew or someone to do the story?” “No,” was the reply.
When pitching reporters, it’s always good to be succinct and to the point since they are probably juggling several things at once. But it’s also important to establish enough of a rapport so that they will be more willing to take your call and talk to you long enough to gauge their interest.
While you can’t create a relationship with every reporter, there are several things you can do to ensure that your chances of getting a client in the news are more successful.
First: make sure the pitch is tailored to the medium you are pitching. I pitch a story differently to a business publication than I do to a lifestyle magazine. For a business publication, I focus on the dollars and cents aspect.
So, for example, when pitching a restaurant I might focus on its move into the marketplace, where the seed money came from, how many new people it will employ, what square footage it will take.
But if pitching to a lifestyle publication or blog I would shift my pitch to the type food served, are hamburgers and yogurt the new trend? What about the atmosphere? Who is their clientele? Are they frequented by celebrities?
While press release blasts have their place, I always follow up with the reporters who I know would be interested, just in case they missed it. It also gives me a chance to speak with them and perhaps suggest another angle they might not have thought of.
The key to that call is to listen first to how they are responding. Do they sound rushed? If they are and you keep pushing, then you are just going to irritate them. Did they simply say no, and you kept at it? The key here is, as Kenny Rogers once sang, to know when to hold them and know when to fold them.
Once my client’s news has been reported, I always tweet the story with a link to one or several of the media outlets that have written the story. It’s good for the client and gives a little shout-out to the reporter. I often do the same with LinkedIn and other social media.
Journalists may come and go, but you never know where they might land. And, more importantly, when you might need them again. Approach them with the idea that you are creating a relationship that will endure the test of time, regardless of where they, or you, might end up working one day.
Senior Account Executive