The consumer media landscape continues to change. While print circulation has decreased, online readership has increased. Newspapers continue to publish printed editions (though less so) while focusing on Web delivery of news (though ad revenues gained via digital have not typically made up for ad revenues lost from print). Journalist ranks (full time employees) have experienced a decline in numbers in the last 5-10 years in newspapers according to the ASNE. Add to this the Internet-only news organizations that have come of age in the past decade, and independent (and influential) journalists blogs and it is clear the business is anything but predictable.
Getting the attention of the journalists that remain at traditional media outlets can be even more challenging, as they are having to do more with less. And pitching to influential bloggers takes careful thought and preparation.
In the midst of this change, one thing that hasn’t changed is the need for a good story. A good story pitched the right way, to the right outlet, to the right person, at the right time with the right subject line, can get you closer to media coverage.
Make sure the angle is compelling, has a human element, is something that the media’s audience can relate to, and is not something that everyone else can offer. If your unique angle can also be tied to government data or business trends to supplement, your story looks more relevant. (Media loves trends!) However, when pitching, keep it to no more than two paragraphs — this is not a press release. And be sure to offer up someone to interview, should the writer want further information. Offer help to the journalist: For one client, we prepared a state-by-state chart on Medicaid eligibility differences for CBS News. As a result, the chart was part of the story, with the on-screen credit given to the client, an expert in elder law.
Be careful of the time of day you pitch. While there are exceptions, most agree mornings are best. As you get further in the work day, the timing can be less favorable. Most like Mondays through Thursdays. Of course, this can all be different with television, as the afternoon can be a great time to pitch something for the early morning newscast. And be careful when pitching near a holiday. Journalists take vacations too!
Right Media Outlet
Mass blasting your release to hundreds of media will not allow you to do your best work choosing the right outlets. Go for quality not quantity. Understand the level of reporting the outlet does, and offer something that fits. Pick a top 25 or top 50 list — whatever you can manage while still giving personal attention.
Whether using a media database or identifying writers through author bylines, be sure to pitch the right contact at each outlet. A writer that covers arts and entertainment isn’t the same person that would cover advertising and marketing.
Right Subject Line
As important as is the story, the timing and the outlet, when you communicate with the writer, understand that the writer is hearing from other people just like you — and they think their stories are great as well. You have competition. Get the important information into the email subject line and make it short. Marketing Sherpa has some great specific examples here.