10 Tips on How Your Business Can Make The News
Reporters are bombarded every day with hundreds of news pitches from businesses, public relations agencies, and entrepreneurs all looking to make headlines. But why do certain stories get chosen for coverage while others are declined or ignored?
Here are some insider tips shared with us by media professionals in television, newspaper, radio, and other print and online publications.
COMING SOON TO A THEATER NEAR YOU
First, let’s put you in a reporter’s frame of mind — whenever you go to the movie theater you are being pitched. Studios, like people making news pitches, try to build hype for upcoming films by showing previews prior to the main attraction. It is up to the studios to create riveting teasers that pique interest and makes viewers want to find out more. After each preview, you ultimately decide if each film will “get coverage” from you or not.
Studios know their audiences and tailor what previews they show to create an opportunity for maximum effectiveness. So when you make a pitch to reporters, you are essentially trying to get them to “see your movie.” With that in mind, media professionals shared their tips for pitching news effectively.
1) Why Does Your News Matter?
You may think your business or product is the greatest thing to ever exist, but why would someone who has nothing to do with it be interested in your news? You need a hook/angle that catches fire. What kinds of stories make you stop and take notice?
2) Know The Audience
Read up on the media outlet and reporter you are pitching. What stories have they already done? Is the audience more conservative? Older? Younger? Topic-specific? Is it a visual medium (like TV news) that needs an interesting video to accompany the story or is it text heavy (print news) and still pictures will do? Every media outlet has a specific demographic they cater to and most reporters have certain topics they cover. If you’re looking to pitch a story about a new medical device your business has created, target a reporter who typically covers medical-related stories. Review what the media outlet has previously published to get a sense of what they accept.
3) Flesh It Out
Do not leave your pitch half-baked and be ready to answer questions. Have the pitch ready to go as if the reporter will want to run it immediately. The less groundwork a reporter has the do for your story the more likely they are to use it.
4) Check The Calendar
Keep in mind what else may be going on in the local, national, and international news scene when you go to make your pitch. If a major story is breaking you will not get coverage. Reporters are typically tied up on the most pressing stories at hand, such as a hurricane approaching, and the focus goes along with it. Also, check the media outlet’s website to see if they have an editorial calendar.
5) Be Concise
A reporter’s inbox is flooded with several hundred emails a day and often have only a few seconds to scan your pitch and look for key points to catch their attention. Put the most important points at the beginning of the email (Who, What, When, Where, Why) and highlight key points with bold fonts (not the entire email!). If you can’t fit the main point of what makes your news interesting into one sentence you may need to rethink your pitch. Lastly, don’t bury the lead like this: Edit, re-edit, and then edit some more.
6) Name Big Names
Are you going to have someone with a notable name, like a celebrity or government official on hand for your grand opening, press conference, or other types of events? Be sure to mention it in your pitch. Big names usually draw news coverage.
7) Customize Your Pitches
Mass emails are as irritating to reporters as they are to you – so don’t do it! When emailing a reporter, address it to him or her specifically and make sure it is customized for their media outlet’s audience. Why is your news important to their viewers/readers? Pitch to the person, not at them. Also, avoid sending email attachments, especially large files.
8) Reach Out Through Social Media
The news industry has shifted to where the latest breaking information often is found first online. Almost every reporter these days can be found on Twitter and often prefer you contact them there as opposed to email… just be sure to Direct Message them so their competition doesn’t catch wind of your pitch!
9) Do Not Call
Reporters are rarely at their desks, and if they are they are frantically working on something. Phone calls interrupt their flow. Unless they asked you to call or you already have a relationship with them, calling can put your pitch at peril.
10) Follow Up
Reporters have hectic jobs that pull them every which way, so it’s easy to have your email slip their minds. If you pitched a story and you haven’t heard back from them in a few days, follow up with a cordial email with a reminder. If you still don’t hear back, consider your pitch declined.