A media pitch is a brief letter, email or phone call offering a news story to a journalist or editor at a newspaper, magazine, radio or television station. The aim of the pitch is to create interest in the story and to find out if the contact is willing to use it.
If you want a journalist to interview you for a story, you are going to have to get their attention. One of the most effective ways of doing this is by sending them a media pitch. Most pitches are sent via email, but you can also choose to pick up the phone and talk to a journalist, although many prefer email contact. Writing a media pitch is different to writing an article, it is about gaining the interest of a journalist about your story in order for them to want to write an article about an issue or topic of interest you are an expert in.
An exchange with a reporter is different than an exchange with a business prospect. They are not interested in your business; they are interested in a story for their audiences. Here are some of the basic practices you should keep in mind the next time you pitch.
1. Develop a story angle
When developing angles around your business there are some key pointers to keep in mind to ensure you capture the attention of a journalist. You need to tailor your story idea to the publication you want to send it to, think about the publication’s target audience, what could they get out of the story you’re thinking of sending the journalist? Read the news every day, you need to be on top of what is happening in your industry and those industries you are trying to target.
You should also read the publications you want to be quoted in, in order to understand the style of the publication and the different journalists who write for it. Lastly, listen to your customers or clients. Is there a particular issue or question frequently coming up in your communications with them? A trend may be starting that you can pitch a story idea on. Pitching a media angle to a journalist doesn’t have to be difficult, you need to put in some time and effort into tailoring it, ensuring you have a hook that will make the journalist interested enough to give you a call.
2. Basic structure tips
The basic premise of a media pitch is to outline the issue you can talk about and explain why you are an expert in this area. There are some basic structure tips to remember while writing it. Always use the journalist’s name and make sure to double-check if it is spelt correctly. A journalist will ignore your email for getting their name wrong.
In the body of the pitch make sure to state who you are, the topic you can be interviewed on, why this topic is interesting to the journalist and explain why you are an expert. Try to make it not longer than three or four paragraphs, much longer than that and you will lose the interest of the journalist you are trying to attract, always include contact details, whether this is your email signature, or you include it at the bottom. Some journalists prefer to email and others prefer to call, always give them the option by providing these details.
3. Targeted Approach
A smarter approach is to target individual journalists, build a rapport with them first, and then pitch your idea. It takes longer, but will pay off with a much higher success rate.
Start by drawing up a list of publications you would like to be featured in. Come up with a range, from “small but achievable” to “big but harder to break in.” Also think about the full range of media: print, broadcast, and the various online options like blogs, websites, newsletters, podcasts, video channels.
Then, one by one, starting with the smallest, find individual reporters to target. If you can connect with an editor, that’s fine too, but reporters tend to be hungriest for story ideas, so try them first. Reporters tend to cover specific areas or “beats,” so it’s as simple as reading the publication or searching on the website, and finding a reporter who regularly writes stories in your field.
4. Getting in Touch
Often, online articles will include a contact email address for the reporter, but if not, there are plenty of other ways to get in touch. Social media provide useful ways for reporters to find ideas and connect with sources, so they often have profiles: LinkedIn and Twitter are particularly fruitful.
Hold off on pitching your great idea for now. It’s helpful just to establish contact first, perhaps by emailing or tweeting to comment on the reporter’s latest article. That way you can learn more about what the reporter covers and the style of his or her stories, and start building a relationship. When you do eventually send a story idea, you will immediately stand out from the crowd by being known to the reporter and having a well targeted pitch.
5. Become a Regular Source
Pitching a particular story and getting featured in the press is great, but it is even better to be featured regularly. Your goal should be to become established as an expert in your field, a reliable source that journalists call again and again.
The benefit is that you don’t have to put all that effort into contacting people and pitching ideas; the journalists call you. One thing can often lead to another. The local TV station keeps seeing your name in the local paper, so makes you a regular source on the evening news. A bigger TV network spots your interviews on the small station, and invites you for an interview. Conference organizers see you on TV, and invite you to be a keynote speaker, which makes you a more credible source for bigger newspapers.
Becoming a regular source is about following the first four steps repeatedly with multiple reporters. Be useful, friendly, reliable, knowledgeable and reader focused, and you’ll have reporters calling you again and again
If there’s nothing particular contentious or newsworthy going on in your industry that you can comment on, there are a number of ideas to keep in the back of your mind: Business milestones, that is; 10 years in business, Evergreen stories such as an accountant pitching about tax tips around June 30. Award wins Human interest, the stories behind your business.
Journalists work on tight deadlines, particularly in radio and television or daily and weekly publications. Contact your target media to find out their deadlines. If your story is tied to a specific date, make sure that you give journalists time to consider your pitch and put together a story by that date.