“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about” – Benjamin Franklin
Here’s the thing. The 24/7 news cycle is relentless and some journalists are publishing ten stories a day, and maybe more. The good news is that this means they’re desperate for content and new material. But on the flip side, they don’t have time to do the work for you. You need to make it easy for them to say yes.
As the owner of a business that gets pitched to a lot (we publish Latte magazine and bunch of online content on our Stories page) I get to see the challenge from the point of view of our journalists and editors, and I’ve also sat on the side of wanting to get the attention of these journalists for our businesses.
These experiences have taught me some valuable lessons on how to deal with the media, and of course, what not to do.
Find your hook
When you’re pitching to the media, you really need to hand the story to the journalist on a platter (and maybe even feed it to them). This means giving them the angle of the story, the contact details of the people who can be interviewed and maybe even some good quality pictures or video if you have them at hand.
The biggest mistakes we see people making is that they don’t see the story from anyone else’s perspective but their own. The fact that you’ve started a business or you’ve launched a new product isn’t enough. What problem are you solving? Try to come up with a bigger picture that you can tie it back to. What trend are you leveraging off? Has there been a recent study done that you can use as the overarching reason for the publicity?
Business Chicks member Justine Teggelove is a building industry veteran, having built her company Rodine into one of Australia’s largest construction firms. Acutely aware of the lack of confidence, resources and networks for would-be female property developers and renovators, Justine decided to do something about it. She launched a second business Build In Common to address this and aims to equip women with the skills and mindset they need in order to level the playing field in this space. Now, what she could have done is just told the media about the new platform she was launching, but instead she gifted the journalists with an armful of information about the cause and what was actually happening in the market to inspire her new movement. Go Jub.
If you need help finding your hook, think seasonally (or three months ahead if you’re pitching to a magazine.) If you’re donating gifts to a local shelter at Christmas, get a good photo of you and your team in action and share the story, including an angle about how more companies are seeing business as a force for good. If you’re getting into the Halloween spirit and dressing up with your team and going trick or treating, then tell that story, piggybacking off an angle that Halloween is catching on in Australia. It helps to also back up your point with another case study (ie xyz company is also getting into the spirit by making donations instead of giving gifts this year) so always think of your clients here and use them in your pitch. They’ll love you for it!
Also think about the slow news times – for example journalists are looking for content between Christmas and New Years because, just like you and me, they need a break. Taking a break doesn’t mean their world stops though – they still need to publish content and you can be the one to provide it to them.
Follow the news and be across what’s happening in your industry. Set up google alerts so you can see when a story drops and then contribute a relevant comment or feature based on the news piece. So for example, a news feature was recently published about how Australia is a great place for entrepreneurs to live and scale their businesses. Our public relations team jumped on that one and we pitched a story to a number of journalists, agreeing with the piece and providing a case study on the success of a few of our entrepreneurial members.
Be mindful that a journo will receive hundreds of clichéd press releases so come up with a quirky angle, have fun with your copy and think of the other person on the end of the email. Great email subject lines can help here too. The name of the game is to get their attention and stand out.
Before you do your pitching give your piece the ‘so what?’ test. Imagine the journalist receiving the pitch. If they’re going to respond with a ‘so what?’ then you haven’t quite nailed it. Give them the reasons to want to take it a step further, and if it’s not quite interesting enough then hold off until you’ve got something better to say.
Get to the point
Very few people love a press release (apart from the people writing them!) If you feel you really have to write a press release, write it first and then cut it in half. And in half again. If emailing, I wouldn’t even attach it as a document. Just say what you want to say in the email, get to your point, make it interesting and hit send.
I know journalists who say they won’t even open an email if the subject line isn’t compelling enough. And once they’re in, you’ve got just a few seconds to grab their attention.
Find out who you’re pitching to
The only thing worst than a long boring media release, is an email addressed to ‘Hi there’. Take the time to get to know a few journalists well and always use their names when you contact them. Addressing a pitch with a ‘Hi there’ shows you haven’t taken the time to care enough about them so why should they now care about you?
Do a deep dive of the publication or section you want to be featured in and find out which journalist covers that patch. Take the time to find out their email address (yes, this might mean you have to pick up the phone and call the switch!)
Don’t be annoying
If you’ve sent a journalist your story and they want to cover it, they’ll be in touch. It’s that simple.
If you’re lucky enough to get a piece of press published, always be sure to thank the journalist (keep it brief though, they’re busy remember!)