Worried about pitching journalists because you don’t know what you’re doing? Or, are you caught in that vicious cycle – you keep pitching journalists and bloggers but you’re not getting any response? No response at all.
Media and online exposure can greatly boost your business – get you profile, build your reputation, help you build your list. It would be a shame to give up on something that could make such a huge difference to your business, don’t you think?
And, whether you’re not getting the response to your pitches that you want or you’re simply too scared to put yourself out there then it all comes down to one core issue. And, truth is, you simply can’t move forward until you know what that is.
The crux of it all is not understanding what journalists want, how they think or how they work. Once you have that cracked then you have a much better chance of getting your ideas and stories picked up. Not every pitch will be successful but you’ll set yourself apart from very many small business owners and entrepreneurs who just email blast journalists in the hope that something sticks.
The good news is that there are a number of things you can do that will get you unstuck and put you in the driving seat with pitching to journalists. And, to give you a helping hand here’s a free ‘how to pitch journalists’ checklist that you can refer back to when you are putting together your next email pitch, just click the button below.Click here to access your'How To Pitch Journalsts' checklist
But, it’s also important to understand some principles that will ensure your pitching gets off on the right foot.
1. Put yourself in their shoes
First, you need to think about how you like, and dislike, to be pitched. I say this because we all, I think, hate the blanket pitch which is clearly just a copy and paste job. You know the pitches I’m talking about ‘Dear website owner’. That just drives me bonkers. If you can’t take the time to find out a bit about me then don’t waste my time. Of course, that’s just one example and when pitching to journalists you may well find you can only get a generic email address. But, that shouldn’t stop you from trying to at least make an effort to find a named person if at all possible.
So, list down what it is about the pitches you do get that you like or dislike. The chances are that you can refine your pitching in a way that will be more personal and authentic. What do I hate – pitches that are inpersonal, clearly just out to get a link, copy and paste, from people who have, clearly, never ever read anything on the blog – now, that’s just silly, and rude. And, the same applies to journalists and bloggers – they can spot those blanket pitches a mile off and they just don’t work. In fact, you’ll be damaging your reputation rather than enhancing it.
2. Understand what journalists want
A key part of improving the success rate of your pitching is to gain a better understanding of exactly what journalists want from you. There are key ingredients to a news story that journalists look for. So, you need to know those if you are pitching your news. In fact, you need to know them to grasp whether you actually have a news story or not. Simply testing your story against the key ingredients will give you a good indicator as to whether you should spend any more time on it as a news story or look for a different approach. Human interest is key but there are other elements you need to build in to your story too.
And, if you are pitching to try and secure an article, opinion piece or interview then you need to understand exactly what space the journalist needs to fill.
3. Narrow down your focus
Instead of looking at a long list of media outlet targets focus on a few and look at them in detail. It’s much better to take 15 min or half an hour to really get to know what will interest a particular website or publication. You then have a much greater chance of putting together a pitch that will meet with success.
4. Dig deep with your research
Pitching an article idea ‘Ten ways to boost your SEO’ is no good if the outlet you are pitching isn’t interested in SEO or doesn’t run those type of articles or that topic was done last week, or done to death. If you haven’t done your research then you simply won’t know and you’ll look stupid. Much better to come at it from a position of knowledge and understanding.
So, dig deep with your research to find out exactly what the media outlet you are targeting likes to cover/feature. Read them, analyse them, map out the types of articles, the balance between news and opinion, identify any regular slots that appear, look at whether articles are written by staff or contributors, look at the style and length, analyse the most popular articles/posts and those that receive the most comments and shares. Look for themes and commonalities.
Does that sound like a lot of work? Well, yes it does if you are working your way through a list of 50 media outlets. But, if you can spare about 15 minutes to focus on one specific website or publication then you can dig pretty deep to get a good idea of what will appeal to them most and fit with what their audience wants. A more targeted pitch will give you a better chance of success and when you get a ‘yes’ then that 15 minutes is well worth the effort. It will actually take you less time than blasting out an email to loads of media contacts and then beating your head on the table when you get no response.
5. Understand and get to know the journalist you are targeting
It’s not just about the website, publication or programme you want to pitch. It’s also about getting to know the individual journalist and ‘being of service’ where possible. If you are looking at getting featured in the press and media then it should be about having a long term focus and building relations. On the plus side, building relations with individual journalists takes time, you need to give first and not expect anything in return, and that forces you to be highly targeted.
Social media gives you a great way to connect and engage with journalists – but you have to do it in the right way. Social networks can be used for pitching too but you need to take care about how this is done. They are certainly very useful for highlighting to a journalist that you have sent an email pitch. For tips on pitching using Twitter then check out the guest post on Vuelio How to pitch journalists on Twitter by Jim Hawker.
When it comes to pitching, nothing quite beats hearing it straight from the editors and journalists themselves. Check out this blog by Jessica Reed – How to pitch to this editor. It’s a witty piece and one that gives useful insight about how Jessica works and what she wants from pitches. I hope it helps you to start to get inside the heads of journalists because that is the best way to give them what they want.
6. Understand the time pressure
Be prepared too that some of your pitches might still not hit the mark. It takes time to get into your stride and journalists receive so many pitches, and are under such time pressure, that it is still tough to cut through. But, that does not mean you shouldn’t try.
I was reading a useful blog post by Matthew Barby on matthewbarby.com. In his post Crafting the perfect email pitch he quotes some research by iAcquire and Buzzstream on content placement. The long and the short of it is that journalists receive a huge number of pitches and accept one in every 21 or 22 (between 4% and 5%). So, that gives you an idea of what you are up against. But, it can be done – so you should try, and keep on trying.
In a nutshell: if you want your pitches to journalists to be successful then you need to narrrow down your focus and get to know what they want. That will set you apart from the competition and give you a good starting point for putting together succesful pitches.
What’s been your experience of pitching to the media, and what tips would you add?