Pitching to journalists can be a daunting undertaking for even the most experienced PRs, let alone those new to the trade, but learning to sell into the media is perhaps the single most important tick box for any PR consultant.
With today’s 24/7 news agenda you can only imagine the sheer number of comments, hooks and leads journalists must filter through every minute of every day. So, how do you make sure your pitch piques interest?
1. Know your audience and tailor your pitch
Rule number one of successfully selling in a story is knowing who you are pitching to. Tailoring your pitch to your publications target audience is essential. Take the time to understand the publication's readership and familiarise yourself with the kind of stories they run. Learning the specifics of a reporter’s beat will massively help you in the long run and save you from taking a shot in the dark.
2. Don’t get caught up in the technical detail
It is easy to get bogged down by technical jargon and the complexities that come with certain news stories, and it can be tempting to over-explain in the body of your email.
It is important to recognise that journalists are interested in something that moves the story on. For example, a quote that explains the impact or significance of a case/event. A brief two-three-line overview followed by a short-pithy quote should do the job.
3. Communicate with your client and offer feedback
A two-way dialogue is essential. When approaching clients for reactive comments let them know what the media is looking for. It can be tempting for clients to re-explain and regurgitate the news story, offering a balanced viewpoint.
Often the best comments are those with a strong opinion that go against the grain. If your client has a particularly strong view or something new to add try your best to tease this out of them.
Be mindful of journalists’ lead-in times and the pace at which the news agenda runs. It is useful to be up to speed with the media timetable and have a vague idea of national/trade deadlines. For example, pitching to the weekend press on a Friday afternoon is very unlikely to result in media pick-up.
5. Don’t be afraid to follow up on a story that has already run
If the story has legs, 9 times out of 10 journalists will write a follow up piece. If your client is able to offer a new angle or an opposing comment, journalists are normally all ears. Sending a quick follow up email citing their last piece cannot do no harm and if you are lucky journalists will update their piece with your comment.
6. Building relationships is key
Perhaps the most important tip for junior PR’s is to build relationships with journalists early on. This isn’t easy and can take some time to nurture but investing time into this can help you out in the long run and create a mutually beneficial relationship. Journalists may even approach you in the first instance for a quote on a story they are writing. There are many ways to build a relationship: being reliable, delivering quotes on time, and ensuring your client has a fresh angle are all good ways to start.