4 Steps to Pitching a Journalist
If you’re new to the world of DIY public relations, let’s take a look at one of the essential components of your PR strategy: pitching the media.
Know this: journalists don’t magically find your company online and decide to write about you. It takes carefully cultivating a relationship with the media until you reach a point where they trust and like you. Only then will they write about you.
How do you build that trust? It starts long before the pitch. But let’s start at the beginning:
Step 1: Identify the Journalists Who Cover Your Industry
I had someone comment on my blog recently, asking “how do I find the journalists who cover my industry?” It’s simple, though not always easy.
You research them. If you already read industry publications, pay attention to the byline to find out who’s writing the content you’re reading. And don’t forget about bloggers! They’re a great PR connection for you to have.
You can also go to the About Us or Contact Us page, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, there will be a list of journalists, what they write about and their email addresses. If not, dig some more.
If you find a journalist but not an email address, see if you can find any other email addresses that will clue you in to what email address you should send to. For example, many organizations use first initial, last name @thecompanywebsite.com. Use this formula for your contact, and you’ll probably hit on the right combination.
Set up a spreadsheet with the information you care about:
- Journalist’s name
- Contact information (email, phone and social media profiles)
- Notes on specifics they cover in their articles
Step 2: Get on Their Radar
Now comes the networking fun. Start by reading more of a given journalist’s articles. This will help you understand what they like writing about.
You may find that one doesn’t like reporting straight news, but rather covering the stories of the business owner. Good to know.
Comment on stories, but don’t do it just to do it. Write intelligent comments that show you actually read the article. Then share the stories via social media, tagging the journalist with her social handle. At this point, you’re not trying to do anything more than show you’re paying attention.
You can also connect via LinkedIn. Personalize your connection message with something like:
I read your article on the future of the car industry, and really enjoyed it. Can we connect here?
Step 3: Make the Pitch at the Right Time
- Lead with the benefit for their readers, not features of your brand
- Make some personal connection (“we chatted on Twitter about your recent article”)
- NOT have a press release attached (just include a link to the online version)
- NOT provide everything, just be a teaser so the journalist will contact you
Step 4: Follow Up
Don’t expect a journalist to immediately respond to your email. They get hundreds a day, and it’s easy for yours to get lost. If you don’t hear back in a week, follow up.
I like to change the subject of my email to “Re: previous email” to get their attention. In your follow-up, simply ask if they received your email, and whether they’re interested in covering your news.
If they respond then, great. If not, move on. You won’t benefit from bugging a journalist!
With some practice, pitching your news will get easier, and you’ll start to achieve great success in the form of journalists covering your company.
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