Let’s face it, just like the rest of us, journalists are busy people with tight deadlines. They don’t have the time to sit around and read through the vast array of emais they receive on a day to day basis. Over the past decade or so, the competition for being the golden ticket in the eye of the reporter skyrocketed. Social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter have become a real-time source of breaking news and headline stories for journalism. What does this mean for that pitch you emailed to your perspective gatekeeper? This means not only is that pitch competing with other emails and phone calls the journalist may be receiving, but now you’re competing with anyone and everyone that has the ability to live tweet or post on other social media platforms. This leaves the hanging question, “How do you get a journalist to tell your story?”
Getting a Journalist to Tell your Story
There are a number of methods for capturing the attention of a journalist. Some popular methods include sending out media kits or calling them directly. Although media kits are great tools, they may not be the best tool when simply wanting to pitch a story. What about calling the journalist directly? Stop for a second and imagine getting endless phone calls from individuals trying to convince you to take up their story; not to mention the phone calls from your work and personal life as well. Journalists are people too. Most likely, a cold call is at the bottom of their priority list. As a rule of thumb it’s better to reach out by email prior to making that call. In many cases a follow-up email is prefered before calling as well.
When sending out an email there are few things to consider before reaching out to a journalist.
Get a head start!
Make sure to give plenty of time for the journalist to see your pitch and get back to you.
Research, research research!
Take the time to read their articles before you send them yours. Make sure that what you are trying to pitch is relevant to their subject area, and can be useful for them.
Tell your worth!
Journalists are busy people. Don’t make them dig for your value; instead, tell them who you are and why you are worth their valuable time.
Creating Media Friendly Stories
There is no precise formula for creating the perfect story that will make every journalist leap for your pitch, which is why researching your target journalist or journalists is so important. Every industry has a different angle they are looking for, and knowing both the industry and the audience that will be reading your story are the first steps to creating media friendly content. According to the American Press Institute, “A good story is about something the audience decides is interesting or important. A great story often does both by using storytelling to make important news interesting.” Here are a few tips on building media friendly stories:
Add value to the topic
Make sure to tell why your story is important and to give it a unique angle. Every topic you could ever think about has probably been written, so instead of pitching a duplicate story add a unique insight or angle.
Make sure the story is timely
No one cares about old news. Make sure the story you are about to pitch is relevant to the present.
Appeal to human interests
If the story is something the journalist or readers cannot relate to, they will quickly bounce to the next story.
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The Pitch Itself
Pitching a story is half the battle. The pitch is going to make or break your shot at the gold. Even if you have the award winning news story, a poor pitch means the likelihood of your story being reviewed is quite low. Keeping in mind the limited time journalists have, it’s important to consider a few things when constructing the game changing pitch.
Keep it short!
Don’t waste their time. A long length pitch versus a short pitch that gets to the point is not something they will likely spend their time on.
Show that you know who they are
Address the journalist professionally and add a comment in about some of their past work. Knowing a little about the journalist shows that you have done your research.
Be a problem solver
They might not even know they have a problem, so it is your job to inform them about the problem, as well as solve it.
Make the company identity clear
Don’t make them guess who you are, just tell them! Establish your credibility right away. A source that is not credible can damage the journalist and most are not willing to risk that.
Ultimately, working with journalists requires establishing a long-term relationship that is based on credibility and trust. Once the foundation is in place, it will be much easier to pitch any future stories you may have.
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