Your boots are laced and your media release is ready to go. Sitting at your laptop, you begin to craft the perfect email to send to a journalist. It’s ready. No, wait, you just want to tweak one thing, then two, and all of a sudden, the reality of the task at hand hits you. You’re about to tell your story to a journalist, who in turn might just re-tell it to a potentially massive audience.
Your knees get weak and the sweat starts beading on your forehead. How can you be sure you are approaching the journalist correctly?
Soon you are typing, ‘how do I approach a journalist’ into your search bar.
At I Do My Own PR, we show startups and small businesses the easy and right way to pitch to the media. With more than 20 years of PR experience under my belt, I’ve learned a few things about how best to approach journalists in my time.
Here are my top five tips.
1. Read, watch, listen
First up, you need to get to know the publications, TV programs and radio stations you want to get onto. Look at the kind of stories they run and figure out how a story about your business could fit. Think about it from the perspective of the audience and what they would want to hear about – it’s unlikely to be a detailed story about your new features but rather about how your new product is changing people’s lives.
2. Research the journalist
Once you’re familiar with the titles, look for which journalists are writing those stories and then look at the stories they’ve run in the past.
Today, it’s easier than ever to do your research and to learn what journalists like to write about. If for example, you submit a story about a beauty product to a motoring journalist, they’re just going to hit delete.
However, if you spend some time looking at journalists who write about beauty products, and read a few of their stories, you’ll give yourself the best chance of your story getting a good run.
3. Tailor your pitch
So now you know the outlet and the name of the journalist you want to target, you must tailor your approach to them specifically. Most media like to be emailed rather than called these days but you can’t just email a media release and say, ‘Please find attached’. The release is just to back up your story and provide the information they need easily. You need to persuade the journalist to open your email and you do that through your pitch email.
Take a few moments to adapt the pitch to the publication, and then, personally address the pitch email to the journalist. Never just blast the same email out to your list of contacts, they will know it’s not just for them and they won’t look at it.
A great tip is to reference a story they ran recently and say why yours is similar or what you enjoyed about it; it will give you a greater advantage over the other pitches that come through.
4. Build relationships with the media
Being personable and developing a good rapport with a journalist will go a long way to making you memorable and you’ll find it easier to pitch to them in the future.
If they call you back, be available to chat. If you miss their call, return it straight away, and if they send you an email back, answer it promptly.
You’ll be surprised at just how putting that extra effort into communicating effectively will serve you. And you never know, if you build a good relationship with a journalist, they might even reach out to you for your expert opinion when they next write a story on your area.
5. Follow up, don’t give up
Follow up is crucial to securing coverage. This is when you call or email the journalist again to check they have everything they need and whether they plan to run your story.
As journalists are inundated with information and pitches from PR companies and brands, it can be difficult to get through to them. Try not to be disheartened and keep going.
But there is a big difference between being persistent and being a pain. Try not to overdo it. Never send more than three emails and definitely don’t send three emails in one day! Generally, you should wait at least 48 hours between emails. If you haven’t heard back after that, you can assume they are not interested and you need to move on.
So, now you’ve read my tips, it’s time tighten your laces, wipe the sweat from your forehead, and pitch, pitch, pitch.
Jocelyne Simpson is the co-founder of I Do My Own PR, an online tool that launches startups and helps to keep small businesses in the media. You follow their simple process and get 1:1 access to an expert. They’ll tell you what to say, check everything and give you the right media contacts. Over 20 million people have seen a business that’s used their kits. Users have appeared on everything from Sunrise to The SMH and The Age to the BBC.
Jocelyne has 20 years PR experience advising and running PR accounts for some of the world’s most loved brands like Coca-Cola, American Express, LEGO as well as countless startups and small businesses. Connect with her here.