Several business owners asked lately how to get press. I’m glad that they asked me because I want entrepreneurs to avoid costly mistakes that I see businesses and their PR agencies do over and over. To be fair to PR agencies, some agencies know better but they have failed to convince their clients that the old way doesn’t work anymore. I hope that my article will reiterate that spamming our inbox with press releases is not the way to get press coverage.

What I’m sharing here is how to pitch established bloggers, freelance writers and journalists. But I need to warm you: it takes time, patience and work. This is why most businesses don’t do it.  You’ll yield a definite advantage if you do it the right way.

The Ground Work

Start by looking at why do you need press coverage, what are you trying to accomplish. Based on your goals, determine who do you want to reach  Once you know who is your audience, compile a small list of publications and journalists (print, radio, TV, digital) that you will follow and engage with. You need a list made of relevant specialists that include some big names and many smaller media professionals who are well-established in their niche.

Creating the list will take you some time. Look at their editorial mission. You’ll need to analyze the type of stories they produce, who is their audience, what topics they are interested in, what are their angles. If you aim for earned media, and even with native advertising, know that publications produce content that appeal to their core audience.

When I produced At Home with Kim Vallee, I wrote for affluent design-savvy women who seek stylish living and entertaining ideas. It’s obvious that a story about how to design or live on a dime will never interest my readers. Nonetheless, my inbox is filled with badly targeted pitches. My advice: focus on getting to know journalists and bloggers with whom there is an affinity for who you serve, what you’re doing, how you do it and why you do it.

Wait before you pitch them one story. Instead, be useful to the publications and the journalists who can best put your stories in front of the right people for your business. Promote their work, introduce them to new researches, discoveries, trends, any type of information or people (outside yourself) that fit their interest, connect with them as someone who appreciates their work. Your first goal should be to build a relationship.

Here is a little reality check. You need to be on the good side of journalists and bloggers more than they need you. The best journalists and bloggers are never short of story ideas. Be helpful to them before you ask them anything.

The Pitch

The first rule is ditch your press release about your latest product or service. Instead focus on how it benefits people. Talk about trends or new habits that are changing how people act, work, live, play or consume. There might be a good story behind what inspired you to develop a product or service. Think about lessons that you learned, the struggles that you faced as an entrepreneur. Do you wish to spread an idea?

Always send your pitch by email. Never, never call. Introduce who you are and why you are reaching them. Your introduction is almost unnecessary since you already built a relationship with them. The most effective way to introduce yourself is inside your pitch, it’s to make it a part of your pitch.

A pitch should be short. Rewrite it until you get your pitch to be one or two paragraphs long. It should tell the journalist what’s in it for their audience. Think about how interviewing you would educate their readers, raise awareness for an issue or improve the life of their readers.

Instead of sending the exact same words to everyone on your list, try to tailor your pitch for the audience of that journalist or blogger. Offer your top choice an exclusive, a scoop.

Provide them access to a photographer and a unique photo shoot. Having the right pictures for their article, photos that capture the essence of their story, photos that nobody else have goes a long way to get press.

Regardless of whether you can afford to send a photograph or not, include a link to download media materials. Journalists and bloggers often work on tight schedules and during off-business hours. Having access to high-resolution photos, videos and additional information might be the difference between getting press coverage or not.

Save time for the journalist or blogger by including a clickable link to the new product/service, the initiative, the company website and all the contact information. You’ll be surprised by how many pitches don’t have a link to the company website, campaign or product they pitched.

The Follow up

The publications make their own editorial schedule. Each one works around their own production time. Even if they like your story, they might want to keep it for later.

Generally speaking, don’t expect a reply to your email unless the journalist or blogger needs additional information or wants to book an interview. You’re welcome to remind us of your pitch once. After that, use good judgement to determine if you should pursuit it or move on. Frankly, it depends on many factors. Be honest in assessing whether your story is a good fit before you remind us more than once.

Act fast when a journalist or blogger asks for additional information. Typically, when we ask for something it’s because we want it now. If we don’t receive it by a certain time, we’ll look for alternatives which might get you a lesser coverage or, in the worst case, no coverage at all.

If you get press coverage, regardless of how big or small it is, promote it over your digital presence. Putting the spotlight on the journalist or the blogger shows appreciation for the work they did for you.

That’s my approach when it comes to pitching journalists and established bloggers. Do you have things to add or other views? I like to hear it.

photo credits: Jon S