Reporters are your strongest allies as a PR specialist, but building and keeping relationships with them can get tricky. You should be careful not to put every reporter into a box; they each have their own personalities, preferences and pet peeves. It’s also important to make sure that your employees have proper media training to avoid damaging connections, which can be easier to accidentally do than you may think.
Here are 5 tips you should always consider for successful pitching to reporters:
1. Reporters are people, too
Always personalize your emails; write “Dear [reporter’s name].” Make sure NOT to accidentally leave whatever placeholder you’re using in the headline at risk of being the laughingstock of the entire newspaper that day. No reporter wants to receive an email titled “Dear [Reporter]” or “Dear [Name].” Double and triple check it to make sure you are sending your pitch to the correct reporter.
2. Keep content relevant
Don’t send a story about a new business opening to a reporter for the lifestyle section, and vice versa. Your content should be tailored to whichever reporter you are going for. If they are an old-school newspaper, keep the email formal. If they are a casual events page, then make your client sound as fun and cool as possible. You’re going to have a better response if the reporter is interested in your client’s area of expertise.
3. Keep it short and sweet
You don’t need to go on and on about yourself and your client. Keep your intro as your name and position at your agency, then another sentence or two about your client. Then, move into the story idea. Don’t tell your reporter why your client is newsworthy; show them!
4. We are a visual species
Speaking of showing, press releases that include a photo receive a 92 percent increase in visibility, and even more, a shocking 90 percent of press releases do not include any images at all.* Photos are crucial to grabbing the attention of a reporter that has been reading all day. They can also help people remember your pitch, because photos can become a visual imprint based on the words that go with them. For example, the words “the Great Depression” likely bring the same couple photos to the minds of most Americans. No offense, but photos may be able to sell your client’s story better than you can, so always include a couple if they’re relevant. (Emphasis on “a couple.”) You don’t need to attach 20 event photos to an email! If you think they all are valuable enough for the reporter to see, you can include a link to a DropBox file.
5. We are in the digital age
Don’t confine yourself to email when we have so many other online forms of communication! While 90 percent of journalists prefer to be pitched stories through email,** there’s no need to wait around for them to reply after you hit send. You can branch out and use other online forms of communication. For example, if the reporter is not responding, take to Twitter to check out what they’re doing. Maybe tweet them a pic from the client and remind them that you think they would find it interesting. It’s creative, personal and persistent. Be careful though-- you definitely don’t want to come off like a crazy ex.
These tips will keep your media relations skills in top shape, helping you best promote your brand. The art of communication is not lost in the digital age, where so many interactions occur behind a screen, even though it’s easy to forget the basic practices. Journalists are and will always be attracted to the basics of newsworthiness: timeliness, impact, proximity, prominence, unusualness and conflict. Many reporters nowadays have too many stories and not enough time on their hands, but you can keep your content and approach fresh on a reporter’s mind with these simple and timeless tips for pitching to reporters.
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* Piombino, Kristin. “Increase Your Press Release's Visibility up to 5,000 Percent.” Ragan's PR Daily, Ragan, 18 June 2014, www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/Increase_your_press_releases_visibility_up_to_5000_16843.aspx.
**“The Cision 2017 State of the Media Report.” Cision, 2017, www.cision.com/us/resources/white-papers/the-cision-2017-state-of-the-media-report/.