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 warn 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 you need press coverage and what are you trying to accomplish. Based on your goals, determine who you want to reach. Once you know who your target audience is, compile a small list of publications and journalists (print, radio, TV, digital) that you will follow and engage with. You need a list comprising relevant specialists, including 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. Stories about designing or living on a dime didn’t align with my editorial mission. Nonetheless, my inbox is filled with poorly targeted pitches. My advice: focus on getting to know journalists and bloggers who share an affinity with your target audience, what you’re doing, how you do it, and why you do it.
Wait before you pitch them a 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’s 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 first rule is to 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 and the struggles you faced as an entrepreneur. Do you wish to spread an idea?
Always send your pitch by email. Never, never call. Introduce yourself and explain why you are reaching out to them. Your introduction is almost unnecessary if you have already built a relationship with them. The most effective way to introduce yourself is to integrate it into 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 with 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 has, goes a long way to get press.
Whether or not you can afford to send a photograph, 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 or 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 operates on its own production schedule. 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 judgment to determine if you should pursue it or move on. Frankly, this depends on many factors. Honestly assess whether your story is a good fit before reminding 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 in time, we’ll look for alternatives, which might result in 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 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’d like to hear them.
photo credits: Jon S