When it comes to pitching the media, we all want some great reward.

Not all pitches are the same.

The same can be said about media, they are vastly different from one to the next.

Before I entered the marketing, PR and social media field, I spent years as a TV news executive.

Publicists and business owners hunted me down with thousands of bad pitches via snail mail, fax, email, phone, and special delivery that failed to get the exposure they sought.

If you are struggling to break through the clutter and get your client, product, or service exposure, these simple tips will provide best practices to pitch media.

I am here to help you avoid making the common mistakes that frustrate journalists, and steer you towards achieving maximum success.

These are today’s top 5 tips for pitching the media.

Today we employ a little bit of help from 1980s new wave act Depeche Mode.

Get the Balance Right

PR pros are very good at schmoozing journalists to make sure their pitches are heard.

New business owners and startups aren’t as savvy.

I’ve worked with startup companies marketing a product or service.

Oftentimes, it’s a very small team, with everyone doing a little bit of everything.

Sometimes they miss the finesse of balancing out a pitch.

Do not try to promote your brand or pitch media with a generic, carbon-copied release or email.   Those pitches are certainly destined for the physical or virtual trash can.

These generic releases and emails lack any kind of personal touch, or attempt at making a connection.   They just scream “I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE, OR WHAT YOU ARE DOING, BUT STOP, READ MY RELEASE, AND RUN WITH IT!”

Before you hit media with a page or two about why your client, product, or service is the greatest thing since sliced bread, introduce yourself, and convey that you are familiar with that journalist’s work.

Editors, reporters and bloggers like to be acknowledged for the content they have produced.

Sending in a pitch about a client, product, or service that’s all about me, me, me, will not spark the interest of a journalist.   There needs to be some recognition of that person’s work, or some kind of understand that you know what this person has been working on.

For example, if you’re pitching a new car wax that will make clunkers seem like they were just driven off the lot for the first time and you’re targeting the auto reporter, cite a few of their stories about car restoration or protection.

Try an intro like, “Mr. Smith, I am familiar with some of your past columns/posts on protecting your car’s paint, and maximizing the resale value of your car.   I think I might have a product that your readers would be interested in, that would help protect their auto-investments.”

The information highway is a two-way street.

Nobody wants to be bombarded with a hard sell out of nowhere.

Show some evidence that you did some work to identify that they are the right journalist for the story.

The balance between what the journalist has done, how his/hear readers will benefit, and how your product/service/client enhances that coverage will help earn you the publicity you are looking for.

Never Let Me Down

You hooked the media with a great pitch, and they want you for that TV spot, newspaper column, or blog.   Your job isn’t over.

Making a story come to life doesn’t stop with connecting a client with the media.

Media personnel deal with quick deadlines and antsy editors.

They crave great visuals, detailed information, and compelling sound or quotes.

They need your help to put together a piece that sings.

They don’t want to be hunting you down for a .jpeg or a video file that you should have already sent over before the interview takes place.

When an editor green lights a journalist to cover a piece, they have a vision of how that piece will turn out.   Don’t let them down.

I can’t tell you how many times, someone pitched me a story that I approved for a reporter that failed to materialize.

It happened way too many times.

If you pitch a story about a family whose Christmas presents were stolen, and your company is replacing their Christmas, make sure that family has agreed to let their name and face to be used in the story.

Editors and more importantly, the audience wants to hear the emotion from the main subjects.

The quickest way to be blackballed by a media outlet is failing to deliver on your pitch.

Provide extra images and video clips well ahead of interviews, and always have a second subject lined up, or in attendance, when an interview is scheduled.

If you fail to deliver, the media will likely ignore your calls and emails next time.

Policy of Truth

Photo Credit: Tristan Schmurr

This would seem to go without saying; however, I can’t begin to tell you how many lies, mistruths, and little fibs I have been told covering stories.

The biggest one is the event where the big celebrity is supposed to show, and doesn’t.

Publicists and event organizers seem to get confused about who was asked to attend, and who confirmed their attendance.

Be truthful about who is showing up, and more importantly what time they are showing up.

With deadlines that are very frequent, reporters and editors can’t sit around all day waiting for the guest of honor to arrive.

If you say your spokesperson is going to be there at 6, make sure they are there and ready to speak.

This should be a no-brainer.

If you pitch it, make sure it is true.

Just Can’t Get Enough

There is always the chance that a media outlet likes your pitch, but can’t commit full resources to your story.

What you envisioned for a feature on page one of the major paper, or as a 2:00 story on the local news, may end up being a blurb somewhere else.

That’s why it’s important to put all of the relevant information into your release and email.

Don’t leave anything behind for a big reveal, or secret major announcement.

If the press runs with your story, make sure they have all the facts and quotes to tell your story right.

It’s key that you provide them with more than enough information to represent your story well.

If you don’t like what they end up doing with it, you’ll have two options: suffer with it as it is, or request that the story be taken down.

Obviously, that’s easier said than done if your story actually makes it to print, or airs on TV.

No journalist likes the guessing game, and more importantly, they really dislike going back on a story they thought they had in the can.

Question of Time

Everyone believes his or her time is valuable.

You wouldn’t want to sit on a 90 minute sales call if you knew you weren’t going to make a purchase.

Journalists are always on deadline.

They already give up much of their personal lives to maintain and survive professionally.

They work long days in the field, and they often work outside of their normal business hours (whatever those are) to set up future stories.

Take as little time as it needs to pitch them, and you will have a better chance of grabbing their attention.

Once you are confirmed to work with them, deliver all helpful assets early and in one package.

When you come face to face with the media:

  • Keep the pace moving.
  • Make sure your CEO isn’t long-winded.
  • Don’t let your interview subjects approach journalists with off-topic items.

If things are concise and easy to put together, there’s a strong chance the next time you pitch something, that journalist will be interested.

This will only help you in the long run build a meaningful relationship with the media.

With a little help from Depeche Mode, these tips will keep you from being a violator of the media.  If you can really nail your pitch, your content may become music for the masses.

That’s the inside pitch.

Need Content marketing, public relations, or social media help for your client, product, and service?   Inside Pitch can help generate buzz for your business.   We are a brand boombox working with communities to build your reputation and exposure.   Visit our contact section and talk to us about your business.

Have a comment?  Reach out to us on Twitter, username @JS_InsidePitch, or email at Jeff (at) Insidepitch (dot) com and share your ideas and strategies, as well as ask any questions you have about making the most of your media pitch.

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