When most people think of PR, one of the first things that comes to mind is press. Building a media buzz and securing coverage in the press is the holy grail when it comes to public relations, and a lot of our job as a media relations firm revolves around talking to journalists, reporters, editors and freelancers and trying to convince them that our news is newsworthy.
However, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Media professionals all over the world are being constantly pitched by publicists, brands and talent about their news, bombarded with information that oftentimes isn’t relevant to them. They have to sift through thousands of emails to find interesting, timely stories that relate to their beat, and it’s our jobs as publicists to help them find sources or trendy products they can write about. When it comes to pitching media, here are the most common mistakes we see brands make.
DON’T Pitch to Media Without Reading / Watching Their Work
The most common mistake brands make when pitching to the media is not knowing who they’re pitching. While you may not know a journalist’s entire portfolio, you should at least familiarize yourself with their recent work across outlets to understand their beat, writing style and areas of interest to ensure your pitch is relevant to them. Before sending that email, conduct the following checklist:
- Have they written about this topic in the last three months?
- Journalists often switch beats, or simply cover a one-off story due to editorial timelines. Be sure to check to see what they write about repeatedly, read their bios, and check their social media feeds to see if they’ve updated their calls for pitches.
- Do they still write for the outlet you’re hoping to land in?
- Today, many journalists are freelance writers who write for multiple publications. If you’re targeting a specific outlet, make sure they currently still contribute to that publication and make it clear in your pitch that you feel your story is a fit for that outlet.
- Have they already covered this story?
- Don’t double pitch. If they have already written about the exact story you’re trying to sell to them, that’s just proving to them that you aren’t familiar with their work. Journalists typically don’t cover the same headline twice – so unless you have a follow up story or something groundbreaking to contribute, move on.
DON’T Assume Your ‘News’ is Newsworthy
When something happens at your company, whether it be a product launch or new CEO, don’t assume that your news is newsworthy. As a media relations firm, we help our clients sift through their news to identify the newsworthy ones that media will grab onto. We also work to craft the right messaging and mold a story to ensure it will pique journalists interest and get the most attention. In order for media to cover your story, you should prove at least two of the following factors of newsworthiness.
The Seven Elements of Newsworthiness:
- How does your news impact the world? Does your pitch give a product that will change people’s lives? Did your company conduct a study with helpful information for the public? If your news doesn’t directly impact the media’s audiences, they likely will not care.
- Journalists are looking for stories that their community will care about, and whether the outlet is local, regional, national or international will affect whether or not they find your news ‘newsworthy’. For example, if you are a local restaurant in California, and you pitch to a food writer in New Jersey, they aren’t going to cover your story. Even though it’s the right beat, it doesn’t pertain to their audience and they won’t have a connection to it.
- The media works very quickly, so sitting on news or waiting to hop on a trend is a no-go. Don’t wait to pitch about a product launch 4 weeks after it becomes available. You need to make media pitching a timely priority in order to get timely coverage.
- Does your news involve any credible professionals or high-profile figures? Are there any product testimonials to back up your claims? Media are looking for stories that will spark the interest of their readers, so the mention of celebrity or popular culture could be newsworthy.
- Media loves a good controversy. Whether your brand is taking a stand on a risky topic or simply offering an impartial expert comment, if your news relates to a conflict, it can help land press coverage.
- Human Interest
- Does your news involve a heartwarming story or unique human experience? Media love showcasing human interest stories that evoke emotion and inspire audiences.
- Novelty / Oddity
- Sometimes, if your news is weird enough, that’s newsworthy enough to generate some buzz. Interesting or unlikely news stories are often featured in between heavier news, so a quirky, head turning story could be a great pitch.
DON’T Write Lengthy Pitches
As we mentioned above, journalists are very busy. One of the worst mistakes people make when pitching journalists is taking way too long to get to the point. Ultimately, writing short, concise and compelling pitches is the best way to get media interest. However, concise writing is not easy. As Blaise Pascal is famous for saying: ““I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” Take your time to write media pitches and trim down any unnecessary additions that don’t add value to the pitch. If they are interested in covering and need more information, they will ask you – or you can create a simple Dropbox folder and drop in any additional assets they may need. But keeping your pitch short and sweet is the best way to respect their time and prove your value quickly.
Ultimately, media pitching is an art form that takes a lot of research, planning and patience. As a media relations firm, it is our job to put in the time and expertise to identify your newsworthy angles and package them to journalists for the best coverage possible. To learn more about media relations and what makes a pitch newsworthy, click here.