expert post | 10 tips for a successful media pitch

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today we have a fantastic guest post from our expert partner in PR and advertising, Nicole Leedham from Black Coffee Communication. she is answering a question that i asked her recently...

"How can little biz owners pitch their products or businesses to media to get featured in a magazine or newspaper? Any tips?"

Last week, I was involved in a heated debate in a Facebook group about media pitching. There was the camp saying “just send something to the media, businesses are profiled all the time in our local rag”. Then, on the other side, there was me. A lone voice in the wilderness.

You see, the conversation pressed all my buttons. After all, if people think that pitching a story to the media is easy, I have an uphill battle convincing them of the value of my services (and the services of other public relations/marketing consultants).

By the end of the conversation, I think I had made my opponents see the other side. See that, yes, businesses may get profiled “all the time” but the ones that do get that valuable “free” advertising have probably done a great deal of work behind the scenes. You know the story about the duck looking all smooth on the surface but paddling furiously underneath? That is the plight of the media manager.

So how do they do it? Well, either through dumb luck (which is hard to replicate), or they follow these 10 not-so-simple-and-somewhat-time-consuming tips (remember, successful PR takes time, while successful marketing usually takes money).

  1. Research: Don’t just send your release out willy-nilly. Have a look at the publication that you want to feature in. Study the reporters’ bylines, and work out which one aligns with your brand. You will probably need to read more than one edition to get a feel for their style. Try and engage with them on Twitter, Facebook or even the publication’s own website – complement them on a recent story, ask advice, even mention what you do, but not in a “salesy” way. Get your name in front of them first, then once the relationship is established telephone or email them, give them your “elevator pitch” and, if they seem open to the idea, send them a release, written in the style of the publication you have been researching.
  2. Photos: It may be a cliché, but a picture truly is worth a thousand words. Make sure you have publication-quality images to hand. In many cases, if the reporter is interested in the story, they will send their own photographer, but you can’t be sure.
  3. A news angle: Sorry to burst your bubble, but your product or service is not news. You need to sell a story, not a product. Most things have an “angle” but some are harder to find than others. Persist.
  4. Short and sweet: Reporters are busy people and will not want you to waste their time with some long rambling explanation. Get straight to the point (perhaps after complimenting them on a recent story). I never contact a reporter without first jotting down what I am going to say to them and sticking to the script.
  5. Zeitgeist: Tap into current trends. If, for example, you sell modern cloth nappies, and you notice a story in a metropolitan paper about how mothers are turning to cloth nappies in their droves and Huggies stocks are down as a result, then ring the local rag and give them the local angle. Even if you are seeing the opposite trend – it is still news and still gets your brand out there.
  6. Samples: If your phone or email approach doesn’t work, try old fashioned snail mail, and don’t forget to include a sample of your product. I recently read a report that indicated reporters are much more likely to open a “bulky” envelope than a flat one.
  7. Go elsewhere: There is a fine line between staying on a reporter’s radar and annoying the living daylights out of them. If phone calls, emails and snail mail still don’t get you in the paper, maybe it’s time to try someone else – starting, or course with the research. That doesn’t, however, preclude you reaching out to your original contact later down the track, perhaps with a new angle.
  8. Be available: If you do grab a reporter’s attention, and he or she wants to come to your business and interview you or take photos, move mountains to make yourself available. Journalists work on strict deadlines and there’s nothing they hate more than someone feeding them a story, and then farnarkling over an interview time. They have other stories and will move on to them if you seem “too hard”. I hate to be the one to point out a harsh reality – but you need them more than they need you.
  9. Niche publications: Sometimes, no matter what you do, your product or service will never be of interest to the mainstream media. And that’s OK. In fact, as more and more people turn online for news, there has never been a better time to get some valuable publicity through niche publishing – blogs, websites, trade publications and so on. Sure these publications don’t have as wide a readership as mainstream press, but it is highly targeted readership.
  10. Have faith: If you have faith in your product, and passion for what you do, this will shine through and will go a long way to igniting the spark of interest for the journalist.

Have you received media coverage for your product or service? We would love to know how you did it – please leave us a comment below. 

Nicole Leedham is the owner of her own little biz: Black Coffee Communications. She specializes in helping small to medium businesses with writing, editing, marketing, public relations and media.