Do Your Homework: Media Pitching Basic Essentials – Part 1 of 2

September 14th, 2009
by Tressa Robbins
image courtesy of weeklyreader.com

www.weeklyreader.com

My first blog post here (ever) was entitled, “Doing Your Homework, Key to Journalist and Blogger Outreach.” As part of that post, I made a few points on what “doing your homework” means.  If you missed it, here’s a recap:

…“What exactly does ‘do your homework’ mean? That simple phrase actually means a multitude of things: research the outlet, research the journalist, know your story (inside and out), if you’re pitching an expert – be sure that person is available, if you’re pitching a story – be sure it’s fresh, and finally, be more than just a “pitcher.” Build relationships and be there for the reporter when he/she needs something – not just when you need to get a client some ink.”

 

It has bothered me ever since that I didn’t go into more detail, so I want to circle back and elaborate on these three key points when pitching journalists. (My next post will address blogger outreach.)

 

1. Research the outlet/journalist – Research means not only using a media database service, like BurrellesLuce Media Contacts, to pull a list. It  means digging deeper – looking at past stories, reading the journalists’ or outlets’ blogs. In other words, virtually getting to know the person so that you are sure your news is a good fit.  I’m not saying that you can’t include general or features reporters as long as you tailor your pitch to their interests. The more familiar you are with a writer’s work, the better your chance of success.

2. Know your story – Of course, you say, “I know my story.” But do you, really? Are you capable of presenting it in 30 seconds? It’s not a bad idea to practice your pitch with colleagues or friends. And, ask yourself: why is this story newsworthy? Be able to explain the significance of the story, the unique angle, the connection to their readers, and its relevance. Have facts, statistics, photos, quotes, back-up stories, and experts where you need them. I’ve been told that an old writers’ rule is “show the story, don’t tell the story” – remember that when pitching. One final note – never, never, ever lie or make-up an answer. It’s always better to admit that you don’t know, as you can then find out and get back to the reporter ASAP rather than to risk yours (and your client’s) reputation.

3. Be available (but be patient) – Be prepared when you’re ready AND when the journalist is ready. It goes without saying these days that you should include your cell number, email address, Twitter handle or any other way the reporter can reach you instantly. Journalists are often working on tight deadlines and may need you on the spur of the moment. However, keep in mind that it’s just as likely that your pitch may “sit and stew” for days, weeks or months. Remember, you are not likely to get a promise of coverage so don’t alienate the reporter by being a pest.

 

What would you add to the basic media pitching essentials? Looking forward to the conversation.

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7 Responses to “Do Your Homework: Media Pitching Basic Essentials – Part 1 of 2”

  1. Gina Cuclis says:

    Any seasoned PR pro should know these steps. But It’s good to be reminded about what matters.

  2. I agree, Gina, thanks for your comment. I realized (after the original post); however, many of our readers are young PR pros and/or folks coming back to PR after a hiatus or via a career change. And, even for those seasoned pros, it never hurts to re-familiarize yourself with the basics.

  3. Efrain Ayala says:

    Tressa – I agree with the above comment. Basics are extremely important for any PR pro and this post is a great, concise reminder. Remember, the most innovative strategies are grounded in the basics.

  4. What a great quote, Efrain, “…the most innovative strategies are grounded in the basics.” That should be in a PR textbook!

  5. [...] would make an online media room more international-user-friendly. This reminds me of a post on the Burrelles-Luce blog Fresh Ideas, stating that it’s important to do research before pitching media outlets. While a media room [...]

  6. [...] strategy and why it was successful. The takeaways include some of the same items I included in a recent blog post, along with some great [...]

  7. [...] Do your homework to make your pitch as relevant to them as possible. Read journalists’ work to better understand their coverage area and audience. Personalize your outreach as much as possible, and find out the best way of contacting them in order to break through all of the noise flooding their email inboxes. Is social media a better alternative for engaging the influencer you are trying to reach, for instance? [...]

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