As a PR person, I’m a huge fan of working with the press. To take a given story, build out all of the assets needed to make it compelling to a journalist, and then see it through to a published piece is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
That said, it can also be one of the most challenging pieces of PR work. Oftentimes after working days, weeks and sometimes longer to build a concrete story – maybe a news announcement, a case study, data set or trend – there’s a chance that even well-researched media contacts might still turn it down.
“Thanks, but I’ll have to pass.” “This isn’t relevant to what I’m working on right now.” “I’ll keep this in mind.”
There are a range of emotions that hit after we send a pitch, but if your pitches are getting a response like this, don’t panic. It could be because you haven’t answered “why now?” and reporters don’t feel compelled to cover the story. So how do we make sure that our pitch is relevant and timely, and reporters feel they HAVE to cover it? Here are five ways:
1. Ingrain yourself in your client’s industry–When a reporter gets a pitch they’re going to ask themselves whether they have to cover it or not. Reporters are busy, and have multiple deadlines they have to hit each day. Our clients are doing amazing things but, for the most part, a reporter at the Wall Street Journal isn’t going to get fired for not covering most of them. You need to explain the bigger story – the why behind your clients’ product or service.
Read what a reporter has written over the last six months and explain how this story fits into that broader coverage.
2. Include data–A lot of companies out there have valuable data within their organization that is relevant to press. Sometimes you have the good fortune of being able to put together a third-party survey, but almost any company can mine and aggregate their customers’ data to find something interesting tied to their business.
If you don’t have data, consider pulling analyst or research data that’s already out there. It’s one of the easiest ways to add relevance to a pitch.
3. Tie your story to what’s trending–There’s a load of great tools out there to help you see what’s buzzing in the news. Try searching on Twitter or Google Trends to see what the press are talking about. Techmeme is also good source to find relevant themes in tech. See if you can tie your story to what’s already being buzzed about. It’s not as credible as data, but can help your story resonate with a given reporter.
4. Offer an exclusive–It sounds cliche, but exclusives can sometimes be the best way to drive urgency in a reporter. But they have to be done right. A good exclusive isn’t just giving one reporter a look at a story, it’s giving them access and layers to a story not typical for most announcements. For a good exclusive, make sure to beef your news up with extra sources and facts, so a reporter knows they are getting a unique piece.
5. If all else fails, find a freelancer–Staffers have a certain amount of stories they need to file every day. They’re generally not incentivized to cover a lot of the smaller startups out there. Freelancers, on the other hand, are paid per story and often need to find those stories on their own. Not only that, most will actually work with you to make your story more compelling, letting you know what they need to pitch the story to your editor.
Reporters are pitched via email, phone, social and other channels all day. Follow these tips to try stand out and answer the questions of not only “why,” but also “why now.”