Every company and organization has an interesting story to tell. Finding news and honing it into a finely crafted pitch is the first challenge. You want to make sure you’re “selling” the best “product” that you can. Here are a few factors to consider when it comes to what makes news, well, ‘news’. Once you’ve got your story down, the next step is to convince a reporter or editor that it has a place on a newspaper page as opposed to remaining lonely and forgotten on your organization’s blog.There are many ways to do this. If you have a good relationship with a reporter or editor, a simple email will suffice. But if you’re like the vast majority of professional (or amateur) media pitchers out there, even the best written media prose will often get lost amid the torrent of emailed story ideas, news releases, and general mishmash that editors and reporters are constantly bombarded with.
Consider this – on an average day,a local newspaper editor will receive roughly 200 pitch emails from communications people. Unless you happen to work for a big shot (like the Premier, the Prime Minister or Snoop Doggy Dog), your email address and subject line are unlikely to stand out.
So how do large media relations outfits still manage to get score media coverage for their clients? I chalk it up to pluck and persistence.
The pluck comes from the willingness to pick up the phone, dial the number of the assignment editor or beat reporter to convince them of how interesting, dynamic and unique your story is. It helps when the story has the news components discussed earlier, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is to keep your pitch, your client and your story front and centre while you give your pitch .
Many people (including some reporters) will warn that phoning is an annoyance and that you should avoid doing it. Some will be rude to you when making this point. But if you are brief, polite and enthusiastic, more often than not your pitch will be respectfully received. They might not decide to do your story, but they will at least consider it. Also, keep in mind that by calling, you also give yourself an opportunity to begin developing a relationship with the journalist. The more you call with (good) ideas, the more that relationship can blossom and the more likely the editor or reporter will feel inclined to run one of your stories.
With the pluck to pick up a phone comes the persistence to keep calling till you get through. Often (especially in the middle of the day) it is very difficult to connect directly with the editor or producer you need to speak with. The temptation is always to leave a message. Resist that temptation! Messages are rarely, if ever, acted on (unless you have a really hot story). By leaving a message, you might as well wave the white flag. Call early in the morning when reporters are starting their shift and before they have a chance to get their marching orders. And if you miss them? Consider calling back later in the afternoon or even the evening (if they are a night reporter). I once called a reporter at the National Post five times in a day until I got through. The persistence paid off with a long column featuring my client.
Ultimately if you have both pluck and persistence with your pitching, combined with a BIG big dash of politeness and expediency, you’re bound to have more success than ceaselessly banging out emails into the what is, more often than not, the void.