How To Pitch A Reporter In 3 Easy Steps

Last month we gave you 5 Things to do TODAY to get your startup in the news with tips on where to find story leads and creating your elite press calendar.  Next, with the help of Torch Communications, a specialized communications firm at Workbar that helps innovative companies tell their stories, we’ll identify how to identify your pitch and reach out to reporters.  If you’re looking for fluff, you won’t find it here – follow our practical guide below and get your company in the press.  Good luck!

Step 1.  Identify Your Media Opportunity:

In our previous post on the media, we noted how there are many different ways you can get into the news.  Here are a few opportunities you should be keeping in mind that will help you meet the press:

ReporterA. Editorial calendar: Because magazines and online publications rely on advertising revenue, they post a publicly accessible editorial calendar at the beginning of each year.  Your company/technology could be relevant to an upcoming scheduled issue of X publication; choose one and send them your pitch.

B. Comment on a story: If you read a story relevant to your business, you’ll want to contact the reporter who wrote it.  A public comment on their story is a great way to get the reporter’s attention.

C. Hook onto a trend:  If your business is a part of an emerging trend in your space/industry, this opportunity is less direct and immediate but none the less PR worthy in pursuit.

D. Event: You want to invite a reporter to an event that you are hosting that may peak their interest in your business.

E. Big News: You have breaking news to announce to the media (growth, new product launch, etc.) and are looking to make a traditional splash in the news.

Once you figure out the type of media opportunity you have, the next steps are to contact the appropriate reporter or publication and pitch them your story.

This is where folks usually get stuck, which is why we’ve outlined below how to get started in 3 easy steps.  In its most basic form, the building blocks of any pitch include an intro, body and call to action.  Reference the examples and sample language below with regard to crafting your pitch and your goals as they relate to your specific media opportunity.

 Step 2.  Craft Your Email Pitch:

StampA. Editorial calendar: You want to look like an expert when approaching a publication about their content.

I noticed you’re writing about X in the Y issue of Z, and I wanted to provide you with some information that may help your story.”

As you may know… (trend/context – Explain how your company is related to how the issue is seen right now).”

B. Comment on a story: Make sure to give a different/interesting perspective when posting comments.

Just caught your story on x.  I especially liked (be specific).  Have you thought about (how it’s related to you/your company)?”

C. Hook onto a trend:  A quick audit of the media landscape in your industry will reveal a lot about media interest and understanding. How much do people care about your technology? How new is it? How much do they understand it? Many new, innovative, or technical technologies are not fully appreciated by the media.

Pitching a broader trending story that explains the space as a whole and how it fits into other industries, or society at large, is often effective if you don’t have other press leads.   Be aware, you may have to and want to offer up some of your competitors to show mass in the emerging trend and to help raise broad visibility about the industry – possibly even without initially differentiating your company. After there’s a full appreciation for your technology and space, you can begin differentiating from competitors.

In a ‘hook on trend’ story your goal is to exercise your expertise and show thought leadership.  You want the reporter to see you as an industry insider and expert who wants to help them develop a story in an emerging space that they may not be familiar with or know anything about.  Prove that you know more about the issue than they do and that you’re the go-to-source for information. Later, you’ll have the opportunity to differentiate yourself having already established a relationship with the reporter who’s interested in covering the story further.

You may have noticed increased attention around the issue of X recently. What you may not have realized is Y…”

D. Event:  Why should a reporter care about your event and want to attend?  Give context around an issue/trend and why the event is related and important to that issue.  For example, a conference about coworking might be prefaced with new data surrounding the trending mobile workforce.

Take note that most reporters do not finalize their schedules till the week of, so some follow up may be necessary as the date approaches.

“I wanted to invite you to take part in an exciting event. I think this is important because … X,Y,Z”

E. Big News: You have breaking news that needs to get out now!  If you have a press release (which you should) copy and paste it below your email.  Do not attach the press release to the email!  Reporters’ email clients can filter out attachments or be annoying when looking for the information immediately.  In the body of your pitch, get very specific and pull out the most important parts of the news.

“I wanted to give you a heads up about some exciting news that was released today.”

Pay Attention to Email Subject Lines:

When emailing members of the press, make sure your subject lines:

  • Are catchy and descriptive; and don’t lie.
  • If people don’t know your company name (because you’re new) don’t use it.
  • Don’t use industry terms/abbreviations that the reporter wouldn’t know.
  • Use numbers and data if possible; example “800% increase in ROI.”

For example:

“Brand new innovation” = Bad.

“New study demonstrates effective diabetes management” = Good!

 Step 3.  Following Up:

Follow up emails are very important because most of the time, reporters won’t reply until you follow up or contact them more than once.  The appropriate waiting period before following up with a reporter depends on the type of media opportunity.

Follow upFollow these guidelines in your follow up:

  • Write your follow up on top of the original email.
  • Draw out the most important part of your initial email or add new details pertaining to the story.
  • Only use the phone when you absolutely have to and if you think it’s something they’d be REALLY interested in.

So how long should you wait before following up?

A. Editorial calendar: A few days.

B. Comment on a story: A few days.

C. Hook onto a trend: Follow up 2-3 days after initial email.

D. Event: Send first email a week or 2 before the event.

E. Big News: For breaking news, pitch in the morning and follow up the same day (about four hours in between).

Now refer back to your ‘elite’ press calendar (look back to our original post on how to create one).  With your better understanding of what a media opportunity represents, create your 3-6 month plan to get started.  Your elite calendar will map out media opportunities to pursue each month related to upcoming company news and goals.

If that’s too much to chew off – just follow our three-step plan above to identify your first media opportunity and go from there.  If you have any questions or get stuck, you can tweet @workbar or the experts at @torchcom.

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Torch Communications is a specialized consulting group serving the communication needs of the disruptive technology, life science, clean energy and health 2.0 communities. With more than three decades of experience at some of the world’s top public relations agencies, founders formed Torch Communications to create a new service model better attuned to meet the needs of the innovation economy. For clients large and small, Torch offers the kind of creativity, flexibility and passion for work that can have a lasting impact.

About the Author: Evona Niewiadomska is the Events and Digital Media Manager at Workbar.  As of January 2013 she is an independent Digital Media & Design Creative with a specialty for infographic design and social media strategy.  Check out her website, or contact her via email or twitter @evonawiktoria.


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