January is almost over and although only 8 percent of Americans fulfill their resolutions, we've got a few media relations resolutions that are easy to stick to all year. So, while you may not be able to hit the gym five times a week or resist those upcoming Valentine’s Day treats, take heart in knowing that we've got five easy “resolutions” to ensure the pitch you’re working on is read. Cheers!
1. Do Your Homework
It’s been said, but it’s worth saying again: research the reporter you’re reaching out to and know not only what their beat is, but what topics and trends they tend to focus on and likely enjoy writing about. Don’t assume a reporter is the right contact because he/she wrote a story similar to one you’re pitching. Many reporters get “one-off” assignments to cover something that isn't their niche and will likely not cover again.
Give the reporter different angles. If you see they've recently written about a topic or trend you’re pitching them, don’t follow up with, “I saw you recently wrote about XYZ, my client is an expert in XYZ and I’d love to set up an interview…” Why would a journalist want to tell essentially the exact same story all over again? A better way to approach the journalist would be, “I saw your recent story about XYZ, and wondered if you've ever thought about this different angle on XYZ?”
2. Make Your Pitch Short & Sweet
Odds are the person reading your pitch is doing so from their cell phone. Whether they’re in the field, on their way to cover a story or headed back to the newsroom, reporters are not chained to their desks all day. Don’t bury the lede! Put your call to action toward the top of your email, otherwise it’s likely the person on the receiving end will stop reading it and hit delete well before you make your point.
Once you've written the pitch go back and edit it down to a few paragraphs. Sending too much information can cause some reporters to think that there’s not much left to research for the story. Remember, less is more when writing a pitch!
3. Don’t Be Overexcited and Avoid Buzzwords
You’re probably very excited about the news you’re sharing, but it’s likely the journalist on the receiving end of your email is less than enthused and only mildly interested. Peppering a pitch with words like “revolutionary” and “groundbreaking” and using three too many exclamation points can undermine your credibility. Instead of using buzzwords use actual data to get your point across.
It’s fine to be energized about what you’re sharing, but avoid those extra exclamation points, smiley-faces and fluffy language if you want to be taken seriously. And, don’t forget to use facts to back-up that excitement.
4. Don’t Rely Solely on Email
If you’re having a hard time reaching a reporter via email don’t hesitate to use another medium to get their attention. We all know about the standard “follow-up phone call,” but have you thought about using social media as a follow-up tactic? Utilize social media to reach out if that’s a medium the journalist you’re trying to reach is tapped into. If they tweet about a subject you are pitching, don’t hesitate to tweet them immediately about a unique angle on the topic.
Bonus: following reporters you’re interested in working with on Twitter is a great way to not only know what interests them, but it can also provide the “inside scoop.” For instance, you will be better in tune with the reason they may not be responding right away because their Twitter feed says they’re out with a sick kid or out-of-town.
5. Be Responsive
Once you've got the reporter interested, get back with them as soon as you can even if it’s just to let them know you’re working on getting more information or finding out your client’s schedule for an interview. If they ask something you can’t answer, let the reporter know you’re working on their request and following up with your client.
Be as transparent as possible when communicating with the journalist about timing, schedules, information and resources. Sticking to this “PR etiquette” will not only make journalists feel more secure that they won’t miss their deadline working with you, but it will also likely keep them coming back to your client as a resource because you make their job easier.
This blog was contributed by Krystal Morris (@KrystalNMorris)