I have successfully pitched to local and national media outlets, ranging from the Albany Times Union, where I blog, to The Christian Science Monitor, MSNBC.com, E! Online, Newsweek, The LA Times, and others.
Working as a blogger and journalist for the past eight years provided me with insight on how to pitch successfully. Proceed with the knowledge that you will only succeed in pitching if you persist. If you do not, these tips are useless.
If you can’t tell a reporter who you are and what you’re pitching in less than a paragraph, they’re moving on.
How Do I Contact You?
I mumble, so it is important that I tell journalists to contact me through email to ensure clarity.
Clearly state in your email how the reporter can contact you. Your email signature is useless.
What’s The Hook?
Find a relevant local hook:
“Albany Man Sets Self On Fire!” Lucky you, you sell micro fire extinguishers for such occasions. Your brief email should:
1) Establish the connection. The advantage always goes to the local connection.
2) Who you are (and why we should care). There are too many “experts” today, why are you different?
Fact: For every ten emails you send, you will yield (maybe) one reply. Just keep going.
No All Purpose Emails, Please
When I first started pitching, I used to copy and paste press releases. Boy was that stupid. Although time consuming, your emails need to be personalized.
Also: Don’t bother with the “blind” press release. Have one ready, but do not send the press release with your initial contact.
Is The Content Appropriate?
Business stories go to business editors. Do not cross the streams.
Also: Do not contact reporters if there is a designated editor for the area you are pitching. The editors give the assignments to the reporters (in most cases.) If you pitch to a reporter, they have to pitch the story to the editor anyway.
Only contact the reporter if contact information is not available for the editor.
No, I will Not Click On Your Link
Do not send links. Your email must be self contained. If there is interest, you can provide further information later. Linking out says you’re lazy and didn’t care enough to pitch yourself.
Don’t Lose The Opportunity
You may have an opportunity to pitch your story in a different way depending on the reporter’s reply. So if they say they can’t use your story as pitched but leave the door open, you can (briefly) re-pitch.
Be Polite. Even If The Reporter Is Not.
Some reporters are asses. If you are rejected or if you receive a nasty rejection, brush it off.
What’s that saying about arguing on the Internet?
After a week, you may send one brief note to inquire about your pitch. If you do not hear anything, the second week you may call. Do not call until you’ve waited the appropriate amount of time.
If you are unsuccessful, move on.
Contact Us Sparingly
Do not contact reporters for every announcement. Wait until you have something groundbreaking. How do you know if you have one? Talk to your friends beyond the world of blogging and ask for their opinion. If they’re interested, you may proceed. Think about the average person, not techies.
Networking & Growth
Make friends with reporters. This may be the difference between getting your story covered and getting ignored. How? Make friends. There is no secret to networking. I am embarrassingly shy in person, but I’ve managed to make contacts with different newspaper reporters because of my field of work. You just need to keep your eyes and ears open for an opportunity to make friends.
Media Breeds Media
Media coverage breeds media coverage. Once you have an outlet reporting what you’re doing, it lends you credibility to advance to the next level.
For example, this is my current plan for promoting my Twitter Novel: Glens Falls Post Star (Small), Albany Times Union (Medium), New York Times (Large.) The media outlets higher on the ladder are more interested in items when they were previously covered.
Also: Once you’ve established media credibility, you can leverage it to approach other outlets. Hold off on television and radio until you’ve hit the newspapers.
News directors at other media outlets follow the newspaper and may contact you if they like what they see.
Always let them make the first contact. It’s an ego thing.
Punchy Email Headlines
Seven words or less. Catch their interest.
Make It Personal For You
Sometimes your story makes what you’re pitching more interesting. If you can’t find a tie within the news, what from your background ties you to the outlet or community?
I am a former Alfred State College student. When I contact media outlets in Western New York, I mention this to help build a connection.
If you went to college, start with the media market that covers your school. Everyone loves “Alumni Doing Awesome” stories.
Make it Personal For Them
Do not email the general email accounts.
Find out who covers what, look at their previous stories, and if you can’t tie in your pitch or find a local connection, make a pitch about how what you’re doing ties into their area of coverage.
This is not a perfect list. Far from it; however, my intention here is to be helpful to my fellow bloggers and relieve some of the stress headaches induced by bloggers for my fellow journalists. Pitch well.