One of the most effective ways for your company to gain publicity is to use journalists as megaphones for your news. In this blog post, we’ll go through a few things that you should consider how to pitch to journalists – and cover your story.
Your company has recently passed a milestone and you’ve put long hours of work into writing a perfect press release. Everything is prepared in the newsroom and now it’s finally time to press “publish”.
But nothing happens.
Unfortunately, there are many circumstances that can prevent your message from finding its way to the right journalist and receiving media attention. Your company is probably not alone in launching an important initiative, or product or unveiling a new collaboration on that particular day. Your press release – despite being well-written and published on a major PR platform – might drown in a pile of news tips. It’s disheartening, of course, but the media buzz is hard to penetrate and journalists’ time is very limited. Plus, there may be other news dominating the reporting or it may be as simple as your story not fitting into the media mix that day.
How to get journalists to read your pitch
To improve the chances of getting better distribution, many communicators choose to send the news directly to a relevant journalist with hopes of making him or her their megaphone in the media world. When it works – and the journalist not only republishes the news but makes his own article – it’s one of the best ways to build credibility for your brand.
To make sure that you don’t miss out on the chance to get your story heard because of an overstuffed tip basket, we’ve listed some tricks on how to stand out with your pitch.
1. Review your mailing list
Some companies choose to go as broad as possible with their mailing lists. The idea is that a mass mailing will increase the chances of someone being interested in the news, but unfortunately, the effect is usually the opposite. A major Swedish media outlet receives thousands of pitch emails every week and will only look at the most relevant ones.
Success lies in finding the right journalist and attracting attention in a few seconds. So, start by reviewing your mailing lists. If you use a publishing tool – use the opportunity to write a more personal pitch and note which journalists engage with your material in the newsroom. It can be time-consuming, but remember that a publication by a respected media outlet lends credibility to your brand that is almost impossible to achieve through direct marketing.
2. The importance of a pitching subject line
The importance of a well-written and interesting subject line in the email cannot be overemphasized. Often it’s the one that determines whether the email is even opened – and if it isn’t, it doesn’t matter how exciting or revolutionary your news may be.
Use the subject line to formulate a concise, but not boring, a summary of your news. Seven to ten words is a good benchmark, but if you can convey what you want to say in fewer words than that it’s even better.
Highlight the most important or surprising aspects of your news story. If it’s about a collaboration: explain what the collaboration will lead to, not just which parties that are involved. A product launch: focus on the benefits that the launch will have for your target audience rather than just telling them the name of the product. In addition, if you know what journalists often write about and are interested in, use that knowledge to highlight what you think will attract the most interest.
Avoid puns or “giving away half the story”. Start with yourself. What headlines interest you? How often do you open emails from companies with subject lines you don’t understand?
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3. Greet correctly
This may seem trivial, but the fact is that the greeting is not only important to start the email with the right tone, it also helps to ensure that the email won’t be ignored. Mass mailings appeal to very few and if you want to increase your chances of the email being opened, you should avoid an overly impersonal appeal.
But for that matter, do not overdo it and greet so relaxed that you risk being perceived as unprofessional. A simple “Hello” followed by the recipient’s name works in most situations. Do not forget the name, it is more important than you may think; surveys show that they can increase the opening frequency by 20 percent.
4. Make sure your pitch answers the questions when who, what, and for whom
When you address the journalist, the content should not be perceived as it has been mass-mailed a feeling of being a mass mailing. Without overdoing it, you can briefly say why you are contacting him or her; maybe you have read an interesting article that the journalist has written on the same topic as your news?
Then briefly describe what your news is about. Remember to answer the questions when who, what, and for whom. Always do a test where you ask yourself these questions before pressing “publish” or “send”.
Bullet lists are perfect in a pitch email. You can effectively convey a lot of information without risking boring the recipient. The method lets the journalist quickly determine if there are any aspects of the news that would be suitable for an article, thereby increasing the chance that it will be retold.
If you want, you can send the entire press release in the email, but it’s usually even better to send along the contact information and ask the journalist to get in touch to find out more. Not only does it give you the chance to promote your company and the news in detail, but it also initiates a relationship that increases the chances of the journalist opening your next email.
5. Follow up and A/B test your pitch
Don’t be afraid to nag a little. There could be lots of reasons why a journalist hasn’t seen and read your email. Send a friendly reminder and ask if the journalist has seen your email.
To sum up:
- Make a list of media outlets that are relevant to your company and contact them via email for your next press release.
- Be careful to word your email so that it does not appear to be a press release and take extra time to add an interesting headline.
- Don’t forget to give your contact details clearly and ask the journalist to get back to you.
- If you wish, you can attach a pre-written press release or photos, but try to keep it to a minimum so you don’t overwhelm the journalist.
These tips will not only increase the chances of your story receiving coverage and your company getting media attention – but you’ll also create relationships at the editors’ desk that can be invaluable to your marketing efforts.
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Hard time finding stories and getting covered in media?
Today, there are countless platforms to meet your audience. Social media is an excellent channel to inform your target audience about company news and integrate with them and get to know them better.
Regular communication builds trust and loyal relationships, creates engagement, and contributes to increased brand awareness. In other words, there are good reasons to ensure a steady flow of news. However, coming up with the news is not the easiest thing to do and many of us quickly fall into doubts: is the news value high enough?
Will this be of interest to my audience?
The answer is usually yes. It’s all about broadening your view of the concept of news.
The five classic news criteria:
Actuality, Proximity, Relevance, Conflict or controversy and Human/Emotional.
When only looking at these classic news criteria, many companies get stuck. Maybe you have one, possibly two, big news stories in the next year.
That’s why it’s important to remember that a news story and ‘content’ are governed by completely different principles.
What are the characteristics of a(good) story?
- Interesting – The content captures the interest of the target audience
- Valuable – The content is educational
- Relevant The content is relevant to the context
- Credible The content is authentic (from the sender’s point of view)
If you have a “classic” news story and want to reach journalists, the press release is usually the best format, while a blog post can be just as effective for reaching out with more personalized content. In your owned channels you can also share customer cases, personal portraits, or opinion pieces. It all depends on your purpose and the audience you want to reach. By considering your newsroom somewhat of a “content hub” – a gathering place for all your company’s content – rather than just a regular press room, you open up a lot of creative ways to communicate. You’ll also find it much easier to get an overview and secure a “red thread” in your different efforts.
Think broadly to find interesting angles
Good content is all around you. A good first step is to write a straightforward list of everything that’s going on in your company. Then move the focus outside your company. Is there a trend or industry-specific issue that you can leverage for greater engagement and outreach? Or can you link your business to a holiday or other event?
Gathering a number of key people to brainstorm ideas usually yields an incredible number of ideas. Then put it all together in an editorial calendar and plan dates for publications.
Coffee breaks a perfect source of information
Encourage employees from all different departments and areas of the company, such as customer service or production, to get involved in producing content for the company’s channels. Let everyone contribute with interesting stories.
Broaden your horizon and jump into the conversation!
Keep an eye on what’s happening by monitoring the world around you – it can generate unexpected ideas. Set up search strings – not just for your own brand, but add keywords such as your customers, competitors, key industry issues, social trends and more. And dare to jump into new – unexpected – conversations!
Take advantage of SEO
Publish regularly and take advantage of SEO. The more frequently you publish, the more visible your business will be – your company and your newsroom will rank higher in the search engines. There are many good beginner guides for those who want to get better at SEO.
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