1. Only target journalists that make sense
Always make sure that the journalist you target is a good fit for what you’re pitching. Many have specific publications they write for or topics that they cover. If your pitch isn’t relevant to what they cover, it won’t get a second glance.
2. Get to know the journalist
Do some research on the journalist. Many journalists list the publications they write for on their social media profiles or own professional websites. Do a Google News search, and try to read some of the journalist’s most recent work to get an idea of what they cover and the themes in their articles. Then look for ways your story can supplement or expand on their subject matter. Make sure to tell the writer in your pitch why your story is interesting or useful to their readers.
3. Pitch a story, not your company
Few companies have the ability to warrant press attention just by being born. And journalists are not interested in advertising your business. They’re interested in stories that are of interest or solve problems for their readers. So spend some time thinking of story ideas that are related to your business and expertise. Popular themes like comebacks, bootstrapping, and entrepreneurial journeys are a good place to start when generating story ideas.
4. Offer an angle
The more focused and unique your story angle, the better. If you sell pet food, don’t just suggest the reporter do a story on pet food safety, and use you as the expert. Create a story angle for them to use instead, for instance: the increase in pet food recalls and what pet owners can do to ensure their pet food is safe.
5. Give ‘em data
A picture is worth a thousand words, but numbers speak louder. Research and statistics are extremely useful to reporters and an essential ingredient to any fact-based story. Including relevant data from studies, surveys or industry reports to back up your story idea will make your pitch more valuable to the reporter. Just make sure you can site the source to any statistics you provide.
6. Get to the point
Be clear and concise in your pitch. Your pitch should be no more than 2-3 small paragraphs, tops. That means no fluff paragraphs or flowery language. Just be upfront about what you do, what you want them to cover, and why.
7. Answer the five W’s
This is one of the golden rules of journalism, and for good reason. Answer the “who, what, where, when, and why” of your story in your lead paragraph, and you’ll gain both the journalist’s attention and appreciation. Include your story angle and why you think it would be of interest to their audience.
8. Make it clear why your content is important to readers
Make sure the “why you care” part of you pitch is clear. You can visually highlight it with bold letters, as long as you do so sparingly. Are you launching a new product? Did you just get major funding? What about it is going to knock their readers’ socks off? Be clear and be obvious about it.
9. Don’t be pushy (or rude, or annoying)
It might be tempting to try using persuasive tactics or subtle strong arming to get your pitch covered, but this will get you nowhere. The journalist always has the right to make their own professional decision on whether to cover your story or not. Provide them with your best information and reasons TO cover it, and leave the rest up to them.
10. Don’t be dramatic
Don’t use all caps or mark your emails as high priority. This is just as annoying to the reporter as it is to you.
11. Be honest
Whether it’s an interview, pitch, or product demonstration, be honest about what you want their time for. Trying to trick them into giving you time out of their day will not bid well for you in the long run.
12. Don’t follow up multiple times
There is a reason why the reporter has not gotten back to you, and 99% of the time it’s not because they forgot to. In a perfect world, you would get a response to every single one of your pitches, whether or not the reporter chose to use it, but that’s just not the way it is. Keep in mind journalists have deadlines and hundreds of other pitches from folks (just like you) to contend with. The only thing following up multiple times will remind a journalist to do, is block your email address.
13. Don’t call them
Just don’t do it. End of story. The only exception to this rule is if you have a prior relationship with the journalist, and even then, you should tread lightly.
14. Prove that you aren’t spamming 100 other journalists
It is extremely important to make it clear that you aren’t sending your pitch out to the masses. Use the reporter’s name and customize the email. Reporters can sense boilerplate from a mile away.
15. Don’t send a press release
Forwarding your press release to a reporter is not a pitch; it’s also a waste of time. Take the time to craft a personalized pitch, and if you must, you can provide a link to your press release at the end of the email. Remember this formula: the time you spend forwarding your press release to a journalist is equal to the time they will spend reading it.
16. Include a call to action
Ask if you can set up a time to talk. Make sure the reporter knows what you have in mind, how you want to follow up, or what you can provide to support your pitch (interview with your CEO, a product sample, etc.).
17. Use the subject line to peak interest
The subject line is the first thing a journalist sees when they receive your email. It needs to grab their attention enough to make it worth opening and reading. Try crafting the subject line as if it were a headline to your story. Just keep in mind the more “salesy” or self-serving the subject line, the more likely the journalist will hit delete before reading it. Check out more pointers on crafting a compelling subject line at Hubspot.
18. Include visual content, but only if it adds value
Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be a little different. Don’t be afraid to include a picture or video that adds value to what you’re pitching. However, avoid using attachments and make sure it’s something that is worth showing and functions properly (loads quickly and mobile compatible).
19. Use bullet points to make it easier to read
Formatting is your friend. Using bullet points or even numbered lists makes it easier for a journalist to scan through your pitch quickly and pull out the important information. It saves them time versus reading through several long paragraphs to get the same information.
20. Avoid long, dense pitches
Never send a long email with dense paragraphs. Chances are if it looks like a wall of words at first glance, it won’t get read. Remember, formatting is your friend – use it to make the information easily readable. A good rule of thumb is: if they have to scroll – it’s too long.
21. Don’t be wordy
There should be absolutely no fluff or flowery language.
22. Don’t use jargon or buzz words
Avoid the use of mind-numbing industry buzz words and jargon. Instead, use words that someone outside of the industry would understand. “Our innovative, evangelistic CRM software for SMBs allows you to reach LHF whilst lowering your CAC and raising your ROI…” is an example of what will make reporters’ eyes glaze over. Here are some other examples.
23. Be a giver, not a taker
Instead of only reaching out when you need something, be a giver too. Engage in the conversations around you on social media. Be helpful. Try to solve people’s problems, even when it doesn’t mean exposure for you or your company. Connect a reporter with a source they are looking for. Chances are they will remember when you helped them out and will be more likely to return the favor in the future.
24. Follow the news
Monitor the news cycle for press opportunities by setting up a Google news/trends alert on topics that are relevant to your business. There may be a surge in stories that are directly related to your business or for which you have expertise to offer. Or you may be able to frame your expertise within other current events. Is it the start of football season? Why not demonstrate your marketing expertise by talking about 5 ways the NFL excels at branding? Is a widespread, data security breach front page news this week? Showcase your data security expertise by illustrating the top vulnerabilities in data security for small to mid-size companies.
25. Send your pitch in the a.m.
Journalist’s deadlines are typically at the end of the day. So they get busier as the day progresses and deadlines approach. You’re better off to have your email sitting in their inbox first thing in the morning.
26. Use holidays to your advantage
Many journalists still have deadlines to meet and stories to crank out over the holidays. If you’re willing to make yourself available during this time, you will have a lot less competition for the reporter’s attention.
27. Perfect your website
If a journalist decides to check you out after reading your pitch, it’s very important to have an up to date and user-friendly site. Your website should be clean, professional and easy to navigate. Also important is your “about us” page. It should contain significant information such as your company’s location, size, revenue, etc. Use terms that a reporter could actually use to describe you – not ones that leave them wondering whether you sell cars or time machines.
28. Demonstrate your expertise through social media
Your social media presence is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your credibility as an expert in your field. Don’t squander it! Use your Twitter and Linked In accounts to share valuable content such as industry developments, tips, or innovative ideas that illustrate your knowledge and industry expertise.
29. Make your contact information easy to find
You never know how the media person will want to follow up with you. It may seem like a no-brainer, but make sure all of your contact information is incredibly easy for them to find.
30. Be Human
Remember – journalists are human, and so are you. They respond to friendliness and humor just like any other human being. If you treat them as such (and not as an ends to a means i.e. your publicity), they will probably do the same.
31. Skip the sweet talk
Don’t give compliments, reference past articles you enjoyed by the reporter, or do anything else to try and butter them up. It’s a waste of space and it doesn’t work.
32. It could be them, not you
You might do everything just right, and still get no return on a pitch. It all depends on the journalist and timing. Maybe you aren’t the story they’re looking for at the time. Maybe they have already begun to cover a similar story. There are multiple reasons why a pitch may be unsuccessful, regardless of how good it is.
33. Be persistent in your efforts
With that said, most people don’t get press the first time they send out a pitch. Getting press is not easy, and you will probably be unsuccessful more than you will be successful. Don’t be afraid to strike out and keep at it. We’re not advocating sending out millions of pitches every day, but it’s important to understand that seeking press opportunities should be a consistent part of your PR and marketing strategy. If you’re worried about time costs, instead of spamming a bunch of reporters, focus your energy on a few quality pitches per week/month, that make sense for both you and the reporter.
34. Be a good source
Journalists are always looking for context on a topic. If you want to be seen as an expert in your field, you can build relationships with reporters by offering valuable expert perspective. Don’t just focus on scoring a quote, give them really good information, backed with facts and data.
35. Read relevant publications
Pick several publications that are relevant to your business and read them every day. With a little attention to detail, you will start to become familiar with what types of stories they cover, their writing style, and how they follow-up/cover big news. The more familiar you are with what the press is covering, the easier it will become to pitch the press.
36. Admit your failures
Don’t pretend to be perfect. Not only is it boring, but it’s poor form to act like being an entrepreneur is a breeze. Acknowledge any mistakes or failures along the way and use it as a way to help readers avoid those same problems (remember journalists love when you are solving their readers’ problems).
37. Don’t pitch something similar to what they just wrote about
While it’s good to be familiar with a journalist’s work, don’t assume that because they just wrote about organic farming they will want to write another story about it. Move on. The journalist already has.
38. Stop pitching solely for profile pieces
While you have probably earned the right to think your business is exciting news, most journalists have probably heard a business profile similar to yours thousands of times. Instead, pitch about what you know. Share five things you learned about financing a startup; share 10 things you took from your previous career to help start your business; share strategies you used to break into a new market. The journalist will be much more interested in this than your newest product line or the reasons why your company is transforming the industry.
39. Monitor HARO and Profnet
Sign up and monitor HARO (free) and Profnet (paid) daily. These services send out queries from journalists and allow you to pitch yourself for stories that journalists are currently writing, instead of cold pitching. Only respond to the queries that you are a good match for and make sure you can answer the questions and meet the criteria listed in the query.
40. Monitor hashtags on Twitter
Members of the media often take to twitter to get the word out on stories they’re writing and sources they need, using hashtags such as #urgharo and #journorequest. Set up a saved search for these hashtags in your Twitter account, and reach out if you’re a good fit for a request.
41. List credentials on your website
Do you have a press page? Are your clients’ logos shown on your site? Does your “About Me” include books you have written and/or awards you have won? All of these things show the reporter that you have credibility towards being an expert source.
42. Comment thoughtfully on journalists’ blogs
Instead of just mentioning that you have read a journalist’s blog or past articles, show that you have. Leaving thoughtful comments can also offer some name recognition later, as well as demonstrate your sincere interest in the subject matter (not just in getting press).
43. Use spell check and grammar check
It may seem obvious, but many a reporter could tell you that this is a step that people easily skip. Poor spelling and grammar looks unprofessional, depletes your credibility, and makes it hard for the reporter to read your pitch.
44. Keep everything in the body of the email
Keep your pitch in the body of the email, and avoid using attachments. If you want to include additional sources of information, it’s best to provide a link. Also, be aware that attachments do not go through on HARO emails.
45. Be available
If you want press, you need to work around the reporter’s schedule, and not the other way around. Reporters are always working on an editorial schedule and deadline, so do your best to make yourself available on their timeline.
46. Don’t social media stalk
While it is good to connect to journalists via social media, don’t try to add or follow them on every social media outlet. Pick one or two, and only comment or reach out when it makes sense.
47. Prepare to be quoted
Always make sure that everything in your pitch is 100% correct, because there’s a good chance the journalist might copy and paste pieces into their article. If you are stretching certain truths to make yourself sound more awesome in the pitch, it could come back to bite you. Only include info that you would want published.
48. Use twitter to reach out
Most journalists will be active on twitter and you can see what they’re doing that day or week without blowing up their email or phone. If they are on vacation or at a conference, probably not the best time to reach out. However, twitter can be a great tool to talk directly to a reporter through Direct Message or mentions. Depending on the journalist, you may get a quicker response via twitter than any other medium.
49. Start small and local
Be realistic with your press goals. Shooting for only national or mainstream press is a common mistake made by many companies seeking press. Not only are you less likely to get press with the bigger media outlets, the audience for those outlets is much less targeted. If your company is a tech startup, it’s probably much better to be quoted in a tech industry blog than The New York Times. Start with small and/or local media outlets in your niche, and build your credibility through those.
50. When in doubt, WWaJD?
Before hitting send, ask yourself: What Would a Journalist Do? Review your pitch email as if you were the person receiving it. Does your pitch offer something of value – an interesting quote or story idea? Is it quick and easy to read? Or is it self-serving, annoying and/or difficult to understand? Be honest with yourself – if you were a journalist on the receiving end of your pitch, would you care about your story?
Interested in more tips or have a question? Feel free to reach out to us @bitesizepr! Good luck, keep calm, and pitch on!