The concept of media and what constitutes as journalism is constantly evolving. New technology, the rise of social media and people’s shrinking dependence on print and broadcast news have forced newsrooms to innovate and go digital to survive, oftentimes shrinking in the process. In the Seattle market alone in recent years, layoffs and restructures have hit major news outlets that have struggled to maintain revenue amidst the digital boom.
All this is to say, media relations is not the same as it has traditionally been, just as the media landscape is not the same. Now more than ever, how you craft your pitch matters. Sure, the information you are pitching might be compelling, but is it packaged in a way that will stand out to a short-staffed editor in an inbox full of hundreds of other pitches?
Recently, I attended the Media Relations Pitch Clinic with Ragan Communications in New York City to learn tools for pitching in this ever-changing media environment. Here are my top five takeaways to help you improve your pitch:
1. Relationships are important.
The strongest media relationships aren’t developed overnight; just like any good relationship, they require a courtship. Become a dedicated reader of the work of your local reporters and get to know their beat and style. When you read a story you like, let the reporter know. See something they might be interested in? Send them a tip. Help your local reporters tell their stories – even those stories that have nothing to do with you.
2. Be conversational.
In pitches and press releases, don’t bore reporters with jargon and abstract statements. Tell them about your story as if you were talking to them about it face-to-face. Avoid the over-use of vague adjectives and fluff to try to describe how great the story is. Instead, show the reporter why it’s so great with examples, visuals, statistics and evidence.
3. Don’t make pitches all about you.
What’s the issue at play or bigger picture? How do you fit into that? Rather than bragging about what you have to offer, make your pitch audience-centric. Illustrate why it matters to the readers and why the reporter should care to cover it.
4. Be concise, be clear.
Know what your story is and put that news peg up top. Think of a pitch as an inverted pyramid – the most important information should be at the very beginning with the least essential at the bottom. Reporters are working fast and simply don’t have time to dig through excess fluff to uncover a buried lede. Every comma or parentheses is a speed bump, so use them sparingly and be quick and to the point.
5. Exclusivity can go a long way. Don’t underestimate it!
All reporters want to be the first to tell a story. Consider offering your news as an exclusive to your top target before shopping it around to other outlets. Make sure to make it obvious that you are offering an exclusive on the news in your subject line and lede.
The success of pitches in landing interest from a reporter depends on a lot of factors, like the news cycles that day or the reporter’s bandwidth to cover your story, that you can’t always control. But what you can control is how you craft your pitch. With these tips, you’ll increase the likelihood that your pitch will grab a reporter’s attention.