A high-level view of this important media tactic.
As any baseball player will tell you, there’s an art to pitching. Learning to throw at just the right speed and curve takes practice, patience, and perseverance. The same principles apply to the classic media relations tactic that PR Practitioners lovingly refer to as media pitching. Whether you’re standing on the mound ready to strike or dialing into the news desk with the “perfect” story, you have to be prepared.
Here’s a simple list that will help you put your best foot forward on your next call.
Be Informed – The best way to get a story picked up is to call or email the right person about the right topic, at the right outlet, at the right time. Do your research!
- What media are your target audiences watching, reading and listening to?
- Which reporters typically write stories about the topic you’re pitching?
- If you can’t identify the right reporter, reach out to the assignment desk and ask them who would be best to contact with your story idea.
Once you’ve found the right reporter, get to know them. Read stories they’ve written, confirm how long they’ve been at that media outlet, research where they were previously, etc. Reporters appreciate when publicists do their homework.
Be Attentive – It’s important when pitching a story to be attentive to the reporter’s needs.
- Always be available via email or phone to answer questions about your story.
- Respond right away even if you don’t have an answer yet.
- Just a quick “We’re working on that for you and should have an answer by the end of the day,” lets them know what’s going on so they don’t have to stress or seek the answer from someone else.
- Ask them every relevant question you can think of while you have them on the phone so you don’t have to keep calling back.
- When is your deadline?
- Would you like pictures to go with that story?
- Can I set up an interview for you with a spokesperson?
- When’s the best time to follow up with you on this?
- Do you prefer I call or send you an email?
Be Creative – Reporters, and everyone else in the world, can tell when you’re reading from a script. So, get crafty with your pitch by throwing in a curve ball, like a comment or compliment on a recent story they’ve written. It’s also important to listen for signs that a reporter isn’t in the right frame of mind or is busy with something else when you call. If you think they’re distracted, ask them when a better time would be to connect.
Be Distinctive – Media receive hundreds of emails every day, so before picking up the phone or hitting send, think about what makes your story unique.
Once you have this down, just take a moment to make sure your talking points are in order. Grasping the reporter’s attention in the first few moments is critical; otherwise, you might lose their interest.
To catch their attention right off the bat, try front-loading all the best, quick-hitting, juicy facts, then offer up an interview with your spokesperson to get more details.
You might not hit a home run every time, but using these tips will help you get into scoring position. Practice makes perfect.