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Pitching your story to the media

By Dave 14 Dec 2017

Pitching image 1000x500

So, you’ve got something exciting happening in your business, and you want people to know about it. Firstly, read our prequel to this blog post for the top points you'll need to consider before pitching your story.

Now here’s a basic guide to reaching out to media and helping them tell your story that the WREDA communications team uses in daily contact with all types of media.

A good method is to write an email with a sharp pitch to a selected journalist or journalists telling them why they should cover the story. Before hitting send, phone the journalist/s and pitch the story directly to them. After the verbal pitch, send an email with all the information they’ll need. You can do this in reverse order but ensure you follow-up the initial email with a phone call to the journalist in a timely manner.

Here's our pitching checklist to get you started:

Good headline in the subject line

Subject lines should read like headlines, for example, “Beerdrona, the mile-high beer delivery service app raises $200k in seed funding”.

Be direct in your opening

Use the journalist’s name and spell it correctly but get straight to the point with the pitch. You’re trying to get a story covered, not make friends and be invited to dinner.

The opening line of the email from above should read: “Journo’s name, with the news that craft beer’s popularity continues to bubble, I bring you a start-up that is going to revolutionise beer delivery and this is EXCLUSIVE for you.”

Offers of exclusivity

If you offer an exclusive then make sure it is exclusive. If the story somehow appears elsewhere before the promised exclusive, get hold of the journalist NOW and apologise. It’s the professional thing to do.

Is it something new?

If you say it’s new then make sure it is (new to a journalist means never being published before).

The tantalising executive summary

Write a good short summary. Make it short enough to write on the back of a business card, or thereabouts. This is what is in the body of your email pitch.

Remember: if your short summary sucks, the rest of the release doesn’t get read.

Write a 400-600 word news release

A release needs to have lots of information. It probably won’t all get used but put it there anyway. Attach it to the pitch email. Remember to keep superlatives to a minimum, and avoid using exclamation marks.

Cover the Five W’s, plus how

This is the basis of news stories. Always include.

Write in third person

Write well. Journalists commonly cut and paste from releases so make it easy for them.

Include quotes from a number of people

Make it so journalists don’t have to phone people for comment (although all people quoted in the release should be available for interview as required). Remember to include job titles and spell names correctly.

The date media can publish your story

Give a journalist time (think days if possible) so they can pitch the story to their newsroom bosses and schedule in time to cover it. Always remember, time is a big deal for journalists.

Include company (or other related) background

For example, where and when a company was founded, the founders, how it’s funded, other products made by the company etc. As a journalist writes a story they often find themselves scrambling around for background filler and this sort of stuff is gold.

Include at least two photos and video

We are getting to a stage (we might even be there) where in some instances no photo/s equals no story. In today’s online world, including a short, sharp video enhances the chances of a story being published.

Include your firm’s contact info

A name and mobile number are essential.

Top tips

  • Do reference someone else’s data to back up your claims. If possible, use a third party source
  • Do personalise your pitch to individual journalists
  • Do be respectful that a journalist has the right to make the decision on whether your story is covered or not
  • Do remember that the best and fastest way to follow up a pitch is to get on the phone and talk it through. This allows you to instil urgency in the process
  • Don’t include in your pitch to a journalist already published coverage of your story. You are essentially saying to the journalist that they can have second-hand news
  • Don’t rely on the shotgun approach of widespread media releases. This works if you have an incredibly significant story but is otherwise impersonal and easily ignored
  • Don’t pitch to a journalist in public – Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin, for example. Broadcasting a story idea where everyone can see it, including a journalist’s competition, is not savvy

Goodluck! If you have any questions regarding pitching to the media, leave a comment below.

Please note - This information is intended as free introductory advice for business leaders looking to manage some promotional publicity directly. It is in no way a replacement for the valuable advice and assistance of skilled communications/PR professionals either internal or external. Professional advice and support is recommended for any media relations where an element of reputational risk exists.

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