With those easy summer months just around the corner, inVocus decided to ask some PR pros to provide some fast tips on pitching journalists during the warm time of the year. While the old rules always still apply: target your pitch, provide value to the journalist, fact check and proofread, and support the journalists on multiple platforms, here are a few more insights as we head into June. The final comments come from our resident newspaper guy, David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content. Coates is a former newspaper editor who has worked for major U.S. dailies and was able to lend the other side’s perspective to the topic.
Cathy O’ Neal, Communications Director at The Levitt Pavilion Arlington (Texas)
My best time for pitches is summer! We run free outdoor concerts in the summer and the fall, and hands down, I get MUCH more coverage in the summer.
In the summer, journalists seem to be looking for stories that are lighter, especially if there is a family activity aspect to them. Family stay-cations are still popular, so I use that angle for here’s what to do with the whole family that’s right here in your own backyard and FREE. Usually one or two of our artists who perform in a concert season has a story that’s feature worthy, so I look for those early on and start alerting the reporters whom I have a close relationship with… I got great coverage one summer by casually talking to a reporter about one of our regular concert goers, which led to talking about several of our “regulars” and turned into a feature.
As a former reporter, my number one rule with pitching is not to do it unless I have a legit story with a hook. Too many PR pros pitch “non-stories” and fluff. The journalists I have relationships with know if I have a pitch, it’s legit. I don’t bug them all the time for coverage, so they are receptive when I do send an email that says “hey, thought you might be interested in this …”
David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Visions, LLC
I have often found that summer months are some of the best ones to pitch stories. It is a slow news time, and journalists are looking for angles and ideas that stand-out. They also are interested in more in-depth pitches and consider various angles and hooks they sometime would not consider. Also I find they are more willing to consider new sources, i.e., experts in their stories
Heather Atherton, Atherton Public Relations
I have a good tip for the Summer–August is a great time to pitch morning TV. So many people are on vacation they have trouble filling segments with on-camera interviews. So if you plan ahead, it can be a great time to book morning TV when they’ll appreciate good visuals and ideas more than usual.
Joshua Kail, co-founder of Glass Lantern PR
Summer pitching at its essence is just like pitching at any other time of the year. Whatever the pitch, the emphasis should be [on] the value of the story [being] pitching…
The one key difference is that pitching may take a little more patience and a little more luck in that timing. This is only because, like the rest of us, journalists go on vacation over the summer and you never really know when until you get that out of office reply. But again, patience and a well thought out relevant story goes a long way in summer pitching (as well as Fall, Winter, and Spring pitching).
David Coates, managing editor of newspaper content at Vocus Media Research Group
It’s been my experience that the summer is a very good time to pitch feature story ideas to newspaper people. Some staffs are slightly depleted due to vacation time and as a result there tends to be more time and space to get feature packages written. Also summers at newspapers bring in interns who are always looking for stories from their editors. Editors might be more willing to entertain a feature story during the summer rather than the rest of the year because they have interns to either write those stories or at least pick up the slack in other areas while a veteran writes the story.