Like any other form of communication, successful media outreach hinges on building relationships, and– not simply dumping information in reporter inboxes or Twitter feeds. Media outreach fails when approached through the Prism of Me – “I have something I want to tell you.” Instead, apply a Prism of Value – “Here is something that might be interesting or valuable to you.”
Shaping your pitch based on what you add to the conversation and how it’s most valuable to a reader, viewer, or listener can make all the difference in whether and how you garner media attention. Here are a few tips for Prism of Value Media Pitching.
Determine if your potential pitch is newsworthy.
News is groundbreaking. It affects many people. It shapes the world and our communities. News lives at the edges—man bites dog, woman discovers cancer cure, nonprofit aids millions. News is about the “ests”—biggest, newest, first, etc. Giving an employee an outstanding service award is news within your organization, but not outside it – unless the reason for the award is that the employee rescued a baby from a burning building. Similarly, your organization’s 25th anniversary is not news, unless in that quarter-century your enterprise created a new industry, boosted the employment rate, or revived a community.
Target reporters carefully.
There is a tendency to go for quantity rather than quality. It’s likely that only about a dozen or so reporters and outlets really matter in your industry. Figure out who they are and build relationships with them. A number of companies offer media databases for purchase on a subscription basis. These databases can be very helpful in getting you started, but don’t rely only on what you find there. Spend time getting to know the publications, blogs, and radio and television outlets you want to engage. Read or follow them every day. Examine the stories your targeted reporters have written for the past six to nine months to understand their interests and how they cover your issues and competitors. Then make sure the reporter is still there, working on the same kind of stories (turnover in journalism can be rapid and unpredictable). Building media lists in this way is time-consuming, but the investment is worth it.
Write a great subject line.
Just as newspaper headlines draw readers in, so will a good email subject line catch a reporter’s attention. Reporters may get 50 pitches a day and ignore 49 of them. Write a headline that clearly spells out why the reporter should read it. Let’s say you were announcing the invention of the compass. Which headline would grab your attention: “Cutco Announces the Compass” or “New Tool Means You’ll Never Get Lost Again?”
Tell the story from the outside in.
When creating a pitch to a reporter, answer the question “So What?” Why would anyone else care? If an association gives an award to an auto dealer in South Dakota, unless you are from that dealer’s hometown, you couldn’t care less. But if the manager of that dealership rescued a baby from a burning building at great risk to herself, then the recognition might be more interesting to a larger audience. The strongest pitch is not about what you want to tell people, but how it’s relevant to them, inspires them, or moves them.
Get to the point quickly.
Reporters face beastly deadlines and have limited time. You must hook them in two sentences or less. Don’t start your pitch, “Jane Smith has received the Acme Auto Dealers Association Award, an award given annually to outstanding employees.” Say instead, “Without Jane Smith, Baby Mary would have perished. For her bravery and commitment to our community, Acme Auto Dealers Association has awarded Smith its highest honor. Would you be interested in a feature about Jane Smith and her heroism?”
Time-tested, but good advice still holds. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes – in this case, the footwear belonging to a reporter or their reader/viewer/listener. What will capture their attention? What holds value for them? What makes their life easier or more fascinating?
Move beyond the Prism of Me to refract true value for the reader in every pitch you write.