Public Relations: Perfecting Your Pitch
Media outlets are inundated with press releases and media alerts, story ideas and press invitations. Everybody wants their story to gain media coverage so their organization is noticed by the public. Newspapers and magazines can’t run every story that comes their way, so you need to make your story stand out by proving its newsworthiness. Just like singers practice their vocals off stage, running through the scales of each vowel, so do marketers need to practice perfecting their pitch to news outlets and other publications. Follow these tips to give your story a leg up on the competition!
Make sure your story is newsworthy.
It may sound obvious, but make sure your story is worth reporting on before you send your pitch to reporters. While the story may be newsworthy within your organization, who else would benefit from your news?
If you overwhelm reporters with every little thing going on around your organization, they are going to be tired of seeing your name in their inbox and disregard everything, letting the important stories you send go unnoticed. But if you stick to the good stuff, such as newly hired CEOs or a million-dollar grant for your nonprofit, the reporter will know you send eye-catching press releases that can just be dropped into a story. (Bonus points for writing your press release like a news story so the reporters don’t have to do much rewriting.)
Send it to relevant reporters at relevant publications.
Within news organizations, reporters and editors have “beats” they cover, or specific segments of news they are well-versed in covering. It is vital to research reporters at publications to ensure you are pitching your story to the right reporter. If you are pitching a story with a health and wellness angle, the sports reporter isn’t going to be interested.
Another way to make sure your targeted reporter would be interested in your story is to see what else they have reported on recently. If they have recently done a story on diversity in the workplace and you have recently won an award for having a diverse workplace, you know you’ve found the right reporter – and your pitch should mention you have read their other articles so they know you did your research.
Look at the content.
First of all, make sure your press release is free from glaring mistakes and is written in the format of a news article so the reporter can see the important information at the top, followed by supporting information and quotes.
When you’re sitting down to compose the email pitch, make sure you’re following some tech rules regarding what email servers like and don’t like. For example, your email should contain as few links as possible, and never use shortened links or you may risk going straight to spam. Avoid attachments unless absolutely necessary; add images as Dropbox links and paste your press release directly into the body of the email. Since the subject line is the first impression, make it eye-catching.
Lastly, learn from mistakes.
Did your last pitch’s open rate fail to make it to double digits? Did the story fall flat with no pickup whatsoever? Go back and try something different. Change your subject line to something more simple and direct. Swap out some of the reporters with ones you’ve done better research on. Test the time of day you send out your release or even the day of the week. If you really believe your story deserves the front page, follow up with another email or even a call and state your case, the worst they can say is “no,” so fight for your press coverage!
Emily Bettridge, Content Strategist
Plaid Swan Inc. is a female owned and operated marketing communications firm
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