11.15.2012 | Heather Campbell
If you are in the public relations industry, you know the power of strong media relationships—and the problems that can arise if you aren’t able to effectively pitch your story.
Editorial coverage is incredibly valuable, not only because it creates awareness for a company, product or service, but because it also can help validate what people and companies are doing. The art of pitching a story in a way that will entice journalists to write third-party articles about a company is constantly evolving.
Due to the importance of securing editorial coverage, I was delighted to attend the BusinessWire Media Roundtable meet and greet on Nov. 7, 2012. Present at the event were:
- Becky Bisbee, Business Editor, The Seattle Times
- Ethan Chung, Deputy Editor, 425 and South Sound magazines and VP, Society of Professional Journalists (Western Washington)
- John Cook, Co-founder, GeekWire
- Greg Lamm, Banking and Finance Reporter, Puget Sound Business Journal
- Holly Smith Peterson, Reporter, Business Examiner Media Group and Co-host, South Sound Business Report
- Amy Rolph, News Gatherer, Seattle PI
- Linda Thomas, Senior Features Reporter and Digital Journalist, KIRO Radio andMyNorthwest.com
- Cynthia Wise, Senior Assignments Editor, KING 5
I sat with Greg, John, Cynthia, and Holly, and received their insight on journalism in Seattle, how to foster effective (and healthy) relationships with media, and learned about their respective interests. Some general tips I gathered were:
Understand Reporter’s Beats
Unanimously, every journalist noted that a pet peeve is receiving pitches that are completely off target. People in our field often use databases (such as CISION) to compile media lists. However, information in these can be out of date. It is important to have an understanding of who a reporter is and what they cover before pitching them on a story. In this day and age, finding this information is pretty easy; simply look on the publication’s website, and you will find archived articles which you can sort by author.
It is also important to stay on top of what reporters are currently covering. For example, Greg Lamm used to cover technology at the Puget Sound Business Journal, and now is focused on business and finance. Therefore, technology pitches sent to Greg are no longer relevant and clog up his inbox.
Once you see what a reporter is writing about, think through: Will they care about my story? Is my client (or company) relevant to their coverage? And of course, most importantly, why is it relevant?
Pay Attention to the Publication’s Focus
Think through who the publication caters to, and what they write about, before sending out a pitch. Puget Sound Business Journal, for example, only writes about Seattle-based companies. If you’re a Bay Area start-up, they’re not going to cover you.
Additionally, think about the publications audience. To whom are they catering? Would this audience be interested in your company or client? Remember, a publication’s main goal is to gain readership. Your story needs to appeal to their audience, or it won’t be beneficial for a publication to write about it.
One useful tip Greg Lamm offered was to ask clients what publications they would like to see themselves in. Your client may have a more in-depth understanding of what type of audience they would like to target.
Do Your Homework
Plenty of information about publications and journalists is available online. As I mentioned before, it is relatively simple to discern a publication’s and journalist’s focus from their online article archives. More often than not, publications will also clearly state their target audience in their mission statements or “about” sections on their websites. Holly Smith-Peterson from the Business Examiner Media Group also noted that Business Examiner publishes its editorial calendar online, where you are able to then understand what each issue will be covering year-round.
Additionally, as John Cook from GeekWire pointed out during our media roundtable, you can usually see the “most popular” stories online at each publication’s website. This allows you to think critically about what is driving readership for each publication. If a story caters to a publication’s readership, it will likely drive traffic for the publication. At the very least, this knowledge will give you something to mention in your pitch (i.e., “I noticed your story on apps for the workplace has been wildly popular this month, and one of my clients has developed a new fitness app that integrates…”).
This meet and greet was fun and educational. It’s always great to connect with local colleagues and hear what they’re up to. I highly recommend attending a BusinessWire event if you get the opportunity.
When pitching journalists, reflect on the above tips—they’re straight from the source. Additionally, remind yourself that the ultimate goal is to create a mutually beneficial situation for your client/company and the journalist/publication. A journalist should want to write about your client/company because its story is newsworthy and will drive readership. As a PR representative, your job is to facilitate an understanding of why this is.
What do you think makes for an effective pitch?
Tags: business examiner, BusinessWire, cynthia wise, GeekWire, greg lamm, holly smith peterson, John Cook, king5, Media, media relationships, pitching, press release, press releases, Puget Sound Business Journal