1. It’s sales
- Realize that pitching a story is like pitching anything else.
- Most of the sales rules and tips you already know apply.
- Most important, don’t sell journalists your product, help them solve their problem – i.e., lack of something legitimately newsworthy to write about.
2. But, think like a reporter – not a salesman
- That is, know what news is and what it isn’t (see “Man Bites Dog”).
- Only share news, don’t try to sell junk, because you’ll get a repuation for being either a boor or stupid – neither of which endear you to the media.
3. “Man Bites Dog:” Know the definition of news
- Something out of the ordinary
- First, only, newest, biggest, smallest, most expensive, least expensive, etc.
- Being “First” is best for news value.
4. Create news
- Hold an event.
- Announce a new product.
- Break ground for or open a new location.
- Start a new division, carry a new line.
- Do something no one else has done before – or hasn’t done in a long time, or the same way, etc.
- The key is to DO something – news is about things happening, not about what you are thinking.
5. Leverage existing news
- Localize national stories – ex: Here’s how this big national story is playing out in our city.
- Be a local example of a national trend.
- Be newest, best, weirdest, etc. example of local story.
6. Survey people about something in your industry
- Surveys are just about guaranteed to generate press.
- And if you do it regularly, you have a regular news opportunity – and can show trends.
- Online survey tools like Survey Monkey and Emma make it very easy.
- Partner with other organizations to give your survey more validity.
7. Share your expertise
- Create and distribute a Media Resource List and update it every six months
- Write a bylined column or guest blog entry – look for media that allow or want this
8. Get in the conversation
- Comment on blogs in your space
- Comment online on stories written by reporters you care about
- Write letters to the editor about stories you know something about
- Send a congratulatory note to a reporter about a story she wrote – and offer to provide more information.
9. Be funny, ironic, irreverent
- Because this is how reporters are.
10. Get to know journalists before you need them
- This begins by being in the conversation.
- Take them out to lunch, meet for drinks, etc. – with no agenda.
- Journalists make great friends – if you like smart, funny, honest, perceptive people.
11. Know whom you are sending your news to
- Always send your information to a specific person, not just “editor” or “news director.”
- Don’t trust the web or published lists of reporters’ names – call to make sure.
12. Give journalists news that is not about your company
- Become a “go to” source for unbiased, “inside” information about your industry.
13. Read / watch / listen to the reporters you want to pitch
- Also follow them on social media.
- Become an expert on them.
- And demonstrate that you like them and respect their work.
- Use your knowledge of their work in your pitch, i.e., “I noticed you wrote about that, how about this.”
14. Feed the media – not just information
- If the news outlet allows it (some don’t), bring food to the newsroom, take them out to lunch.
15. Always return phone calls and emails – promptly
- THE most important thing to a journalist is a trustworthy source who will respond by the deadline.
16. Always ask a reporter what her deadline is
- And make sure you get back to her before the deadline is up.
17. Ask reporters what they are looking for
- If they don’t like what you send them, ask them what they want you to send them – then do it.
18. If you can’t get a journalist what he needs, find a way for someone else to get it for him
- NEVER let down a journalist when he calls you – if you want him to keep calling you.
- If you don’t have what he needs, find a way to get it to him.
19. Treat journalists like people
- Not like aliens, that is, naturally untrustworthy people… sharks… automatons without emotions.
- The 60 Minutes syndrome is quite rare. Most journalists are not always in “gotcha” mode.
- Follow the golden rule: Treat journalists like you like to be treated.
20. Don’t go off the record – even when you go “off the record”
- Never say anything to a journalist you don’t want in the paper.
- Unless you have a deep bond of trust – and we don’t have these kinds of bonds with many people.
21. Give your story to one media outlet as an exclusive
- This is called a scoop; it is what every reporter wants.
- It will increase your chances of a larger story, but decrease your chances of your story appearing in more than one media outlet
- Don’t give an exclusive on huge stories, because it is likely to be well-covered by everyone.
22. Know the right times to pitch a story
- For example, not at 5:00 for a TV story.
- Knowing the right time means thinking about when would be the most convenient time to contact a journalist or put something into their inbox.
- Think about when you would hate talking to someone or reading an email, i.e., not on a Monday morning or right before you leave for the weekend.
23. Match your story to the media
- Visual stories to TV.
- Feature stories to long lead time publications.
- Bylined articles to trade magazines.
24. ALWAYS follow up
- Simply emailing a press release is never enough.
- Call to make sure the reporter got the release, find out if he is interested, answer any questions, etc.
25. Don’t write a press release if you don’t write them regularly
- Just send a note or letter with the facts and an explanation of what it is news.