How to Pitch the Media

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Press Release Content  |  New Rules of Marketing and PR  |  Public Relations  |  Marketing  |  Media Relations  |  Online Media Room  |  Best Practices

As marketers know, having your company, product, or executive appear in an appropriate publication is great marketing. That's why billions of dollars are spent on PR each year (though much of it is wasted I'm afraid). When your organization appears in a story, not only do you reach the publication’s audience directly, you also can point your prospects to the piece later, using reprints or Web links. Media coverage means legitimacy.

As I've said on this blog, broadcast email spamming of the media doesn't work. But sometimes you really want to target a specific publication (your hometown paper perhaps). So what should you?

Target one reporter at a time. Taking the time to read a publication and then crafting a unique pitch to a particular journalist can work wonders. Mention a specific article he wrote and then explain why your company or product would be interesting for the journalist to look at. Make certain to target the subject line of the e-mail to help ensure that it gets opened. Recently I got a perfectly positioned pitch crafted especially for me from a company that provides a Web based sales lead qualification and management system. The PR Person had read my blog and knew what I was interested in so I emailed back within minutes to set up an interview with the company’s CEO.

Help the journalist to understand the big picture. Often it's difficult to understand how some widget or service or organization actually fits into a wider trend. You make a journalist's job much easier if you describe the big picture of why your particular product or service is interesting. Often this helps you get mentioned in the reporter’s future articles or columns about trends in your space.

Explain how customers use your product or work with your organization. Reporters hear hundreds of pitches from company spokespeople about how products work. But it’s much more useful to hear about a product in action from someone who actually uses it. If you can set up interviews with customers or provide written case studies of your products or services, it will be much easier for journalists to write about your company.

Don't send e-mail attachments unless asked. These days, it is a rare journalist indeed who opens an unexpected e-mail attachment, even from a recognized company. Yet many PR people still distribute news releases as e-mail attachments. Don't. Send plain text e-mails instead. If you're asked for other information, you can follow up with attachments, but be sure to clearly reference in the e-mail what you’re sending and why, so the journalist will remember asking for it.

Follow up promptly with potential contacts. Recently I agreed to interview a senior executive at a large company. An eager PR person set it up, and we agreed on date and time. But I never got the promised follow-up information via email, which was supposed to include the telephone number to reach the executive. Duh. Needless to say, the interview didn't happen. Make certain you follow up as promised.

Don't forget, it's a two-way street – journalists need you to pitch them! The bottom line is that reporters want to know what you have to say. It sucks that the spam problem in PR is as big as it is, because it makes journalists’ jobs more difficult. Recently, a company executive I met at a conference made a comment on a new trend that gave me a brilliant idea for my column in EContent Magazine. I was delighted, because it made my life easier. Thinking of column subjects is hard work, and I need all the help I can get. The executive’s company fit in perfectly with the column idea, and I’ll use his product as the example of the trend he told me about. Without the conversation, the column would never have been written—but a straight product pitch wouldn’t have worked. We reporters need smart ideas to do our job. Please.