Pitching the Media: It’s not what it used to be

Life was so simple back when I was a reporter all those years ago. A pen, pad and a mic were all I needed to report the news of the day.

There were really only two ways someone could pitch a story idea to me for the television station I worked for.

Calling the newsroom was by far the most popular pitching method. My assignment editor was the gatekeeper of all incoming calls.  Amazing guy. He could juggle the phone lines, monitor the police scanner and fax machine all to the steady hum of news alerts spewing from the AP printer in the background. You had to get pass him before you could get to me.

If you couldn’t get through by phone, PR folks simply dropped their release in the mail.  That’s right, good ole snail mail!  A batch of releases and letters were neatly stacked on a designated corner of my assignment editor’s desk waiting to be weeded through daily.

It’s a lot different today. We have email and social media to thank for that. PR folks have a multitude of new tools they can now use to deliver their message to the media.

But some pitching rules hold fast.

“Know what the reporter is looking for,” says JJ Ramberg, host of MSNBC’s Your Business. This is #1 on every journalist’s list I’ve come across as a media relations manager with PR Newswire so let’s start there.

  • Do your research: A journalists can tell right away how much you know about their publication or show. JJ says the tip off for her is when people pitch companies.

“We don’t profile companies or people. We feature lessons in small business. That’s what PR folks should pitch to my show.”  Make a good first impression by learning what the media point specifically covers; who their audience is and the various platforms they report on.

  • Personalize your pitch:  A canned pitch is not an effective pitch. Target your pitch to appeal to the media org’s readers/viewers. Be flexible and willing to change your strategy to fit the needs of the publication you’re pitching. Your objective may be to get coverage of an event, but the publication may be interested in another angle of the story. Be open to switching it up to accommodate the journalist.
  • Keep it simple:  Stay away from industry jargon.  “Journalists are not venture capitalists. Our eyes roll when we hear words like “synergy” or “next-generation” or other management-speak buzzwords,” says Colleen DeBaise, former special projects director of Entrepreneur.com and current digital media director at The Story Exchange.  Colorful words don’t make the story more attractive. In fact, it can be a total turn-off.
  • Be available:  Remember, you are on their time. Though you may not grab their attention at first, they may need you later down the road. And when that happens,  be ready.  When they call, answer. Whatever they need, get it. Believe me, they will be forever grateful that you helped them out at crunch time.

The art of pitching the media is forever evolving and changing depending on the nature of your story and the type of media you’re pitching. This Wednesday, I will be moderating a “Pitch the Media Live” panel at the Woman Entrepreneurs Conference in NY. Attendees will have the opportunity to pitch a panel of journalists on the spot and get their honest feedback.  Here are the conference details, agenda and the place you can register.

Work smarter!  Hone your pitches and streamline your workflow with Agility, the PR Newswire platform that enables you to target, monitor and engage with traditional and social media, all in one place.

Author Brett Savage-Simon is a senior manager of media relations for PR Newswire. 

2 responses to “Pitching the Media: It’s not what it used to be

  1. Thank you for the good insight. I sent out my very first PR on Sept. 2, 2013 with your company ShopForStudents.com a 5 year old unique fundraising program for schools, youth
    teams and non profits. I received a report do you have a webinar or class to help me better understand it and how can I find a way to better direct my next PR to the right audience? Thanks,
    Laura Shifrin
    Founder
    info@shopforstudents.com

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