Six tips for pitching stories to journalists

There are generally two ways to get your business covered in the media. The first is when a journalist writes about your business without any prompting (reactive), and the second is when you pitch a story to the journalist (proactive).

While most companies would love to be the subject of constant, positive, unprompted coverage, the truth is that journalists are more likely to cover your organisation in this way if your business has made a mistake, or is in crisis. Good-news stories normally rely on proactive efforts by the communications team to disseminate the information.

But you can’t just write a news release or a blog and expect journalists to come knocking at your door. For the best chance of success, you need to package your news in a way that lets journalists clearly understand why it’s important for their readers to know about it.

News releases have their place but, for the most part, it’s more effective to pitch stories directly to a journalist whose readership is likely to be interested.

Journalists receive hundreds of story pitches every day. Even assuming you have a great story (don’t bother pitching if you don’t), it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. These six tips will help maximise your chances of success.

1. Know how the journalist likes to receive pitches

Journalists get a lot of pitches, so your challenge is to make your pitch stand out. Keep track of which journalists prefer to be called and which journalists like to be emailed. When emailing, make your subject lines clear and catchy. Journalists have limited time and will decide whether or not to read your pitch, or even open your email, based on whether your subject line is attention-grabbing and sounds newsworthy.

2. If you don’t have anything relevant, hold off for a more suitable opportunity

Sometimes content simply isn’t ready to be pitched. If you pitch multiple small-scale stories to a journalist, they might be less interested in a bigger pitch later down the track. In some cases, it’s worth holding your pitches until they develop into more significant content.

3. Know the publication

Research the publication a journalist writes for. Make sure your pitch suits the publication, its coverage themes, and its audience. If your pitch is relevant, a journalist is more likely to pick it up.

4. Think big

Offer the journalist insight into your industry’s context, and relate your pitch to current trends or events. Consider how your product or service relates to contemporary industry challenges.

5. Pitch early and respect deadlines

Journalists juggle multiple competing tasks and stories every day, so your pitch won’t necessarily be the most important thing they work on. Give journalists lots of time to prepare. Don’t pitch to them on deadline day, and don’t pitch too close to a large event that you want attention for. Timing is crucial when contacting journalists about stories. The closer deadlines get, the less journalists search for new content. So, pitch early and increase your chances of success by giving journalists plenty of time to plan.

6. Be brief, be helpful, and know your topic

When you pitch to a journalist, be engaging and responsive. Answer the journalist’s questions, and ask questions yourself, so you understand the angle and what questions to expect later down the line. Make yourself accessible for further communication, and maintain a positive relationship, even after you are (hopefully) published. You never know when you’ll need to pitch to this journalist again in the future. If you have good rapport and build trust with a journalist, you’ll find it easier to work together in future.

For more information on pitching stories to journalists, or to book a media training session, contact us today.

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