Council Post: Five Tips To Make It Easier For Journalists To Cover Your Public Relations Story

By Nikki Carlson, co-founder/co-president of ChicExecs Retail and Strategy Firm. She has over 21 years of experience in PR/marketing.

Who doesn’t want a high-profile news feature? While a segment on Good Morning America can transform a brand overnight, it’s easy to overlook how much work goes into pitching journalists to earn high-profile coverage. 

Even if you’ve pitched your brand in the past, the pandemic has changed how journalists cover stories. You need to approach pitching in a very specific way that makes it as easy as possible for a journalist to cover your story. The more legwork they have to do to cover you, the less likely they are to feature your brand. 

Pitching is still a must-have for PR in 2021, but you need to follow these five tips to increase your chances of scoring a coveted press feature. 

Share newsworthy information.

Journalists receive dozens of pitches every day. More than half of these pitches end up being promotion-laden spam that finds its way to the junk folder. 

If you’re taking the time to pitch, make sure you’re actually sharing something newsworthy. Is there something historic about what you’re doing? Or is there a unique or unusual angle to the situation? 

If the situation is newsworthy, make sure you research the journalist and outlet you’re pitching. Ask yourself: 

• Do they cover stories like mine? 

• Will their audience respond to this story? 

• Am I contacting the right journalist for this story? 

Journalists hate receiving irrelevant pitches. Take your story elsewhere if it isn’t a fit for your selected outlet. 

Keep your pitch short and skimmable.

The research doesn’t lie: 94% of journalists want to see pitches that are three short paragraphs, max. If you can trim it to two or three sentences, that’s even better. 

Journalists are busy and run on tight deadlines; if your email is short and easy to skim, they’re more likely to pay attention. Add bullet points to break up the text if needed. 

Include everything in your pitch email.

It’s hard writing a short pitch that contains a lot of detail, but that’s what you need to do. Journalists don’t have the time to interview every source for their stories — more often than not, a quote via email will do the trick. 

Give the reporter everything they need to write the story upfront. Don’t require them to call you for more information because they don’t have the time. Attach your press kit, data visualizations, research or any other supporting materials that will make their job easier. 

This cuts down on the number of emails the journalist has to send and makes it much easier for them to write a quality story quickly. 

Follow good pitching etiquette.

The media landscape may be evolving, but good manners never go out of style. You can maximize your chances of landing a media feature by following simple etiquette rules.

Replying quickly: If a journalist asks for clarification, don’t wait a week to get back to them. The news beat moves fast, so you need to respond ASAP to land that feature. 

Following up once: When you don’t hear back from your pitch, it’s okay to follow up. But just once. Most journalists prefer one follow-up message a week later. If you don’t hear from them after that, assume they aren’t interested. 

Proofreading: You’re trying to prove you’re an authority to this journalist, which means formulating a coherent email. Read over your pitch before sending it to catch typos or grammatical errors. 

Sticking with the right channels: Don’t be creepy. Follow the journalist’s preferred pitching protocol. Don’t harass them over their personal social media or email; that’s a surefire way to lose a journalist’s interest. 

Build a relationship with the reporter.

Over time, you’ll build a name for yourself with a handful of interested reporters. This is an easy way to score more media coverage after an initial feature, so always invest in relationships with journalists. 

This can take the form of the following: 

• Catching up in-person over coffee. 

• Sharing the latest news with them from your industry. 

• Complimenting them on a recent story. 

• Following them on social media and leaving thoughtful comments on their posts. 

The Bottom Line

Journalists are humans who are working on tight deadlines. Make it as easy as possible for them to write a story about your brand and you’ll see an uptick in media coverage. Minimize the journalist’s load by doing most of the legwork before you even send a pitch — these five handy tips will help you enjoy more time in the limelight and forge better bonds with media professionals.

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