A story in the media is one of the best ways to raise awareness about a company, individual, news topic—or really anything. It’s not any easy thing to get, though; any reporter at an accredited publication has no shortage of people pitching them stories. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle.
There are a couple different ways to get media attention, but I’ve found the best way to stand out is to be brief. Get to the point. Reporters have deadlines; anything you can do to make their job easier will only help you. The process I outline below has proved very effective for me.
Develop a strategy.
You’ve finished your material—now, it’s time to map out your approach. What state or city is your story relevant to? If you’re looking to place an op-ed on current legislation for wildlife protection in Minnesota, obviously don’t pitch to Arizona. Research the major outlets in Minnesota. If it’s a state-wide issue, make sure the outlet doesn’t cover just local news.
Take advantage of breaking news.
It’s usually beneficial to leverage a news hook. Look for anything cropping up that’s related to the story you are trying to create. New app just released? Perfect. Election season? Even better. No matter the topic, look for the stories already written around it. It usually won't be too difficult to find something.
Find the right reporters.
If you don’t have access to software like Cision or LexisNexis, use Google News. Find out who is writing about your subject. Once you’ve identified a promising reporter, look at their previous stories. Identify their beat. If you think they’re a good target, add them to your media list. And make note of a recent story; it’s helpful to comment on a previous story in your pitch. Don’t overdo it here. You don’t want to send out 100 pitches. Do your due diligence and find a few reporters you know are the right people. Otherwise, you're wasting your own time and the reporter's time.
A common practice is to develop a media list. It's essentially a one-stop-shop to reference as you're customizing your pitches. The concept is simple, but it can take a while to build an effective one. It's worth it in the end.
Keep your pitches short.
Reporters are busy. They don’t have time to read an elaborate email about the content you’re pitching. Keep it concise and deliberate. Tell them what is happening, why it’s important, and give two, maybe three quick bullet points on the content.
I really enjoyed your latest article about what Colorado households can do to reduce energy consumption—particularly your personal habit to remeber to turn the light off when you leave a room. I have a related story that may be of interest. Here's the news:
(1) A non-profit I work with found that household energy consumption is actually 4x higher than what the average consumer thinks.
(2) They also discovered that if Colorado keeps up its current pace, it's emissions will match that of Texas in eight years—a state with more than 5x the population.
This data lends additional credence to your latest series of articles, and might be worth a standalone story on the dangers of ignoring the warning signs.
I'm happy to provide more backgroud. You can reach me at (555) 555-5555.
The easier you can make this project for them, the better.
I usually get more responses on my follow up than on the initial email. Again, it’s important to keep this short. If they’re interested, they’ll respond. This email should be no more than three sentences.
If you’ve been thorough with your research, it will show through in your pitches. Likewise, if you’re concise, it will show that you respect that journalist's time. Reporters are ordinary (and smart) people trying to do their jobs; if you approach them with that mindset, you’ll find more success.