‘Media relations’ refers to working with journalists to garner editorial coverage of your business or product. There are two types of media relations. ‘Reactive media relations’ refers to when you answer incoming requests from journalists who reach out to you because they are interested in creating a story about your business. ‘Proactive media relations’ occurs when you are pitching the media on a story you would like them to produce about your business.
Proactive media relations is obviously more difficult, because you need to convince a journalist that your story is worthy of their time and attention. Most journalists prefer to be contacted over email, which means your pitch has to stand out amongst the hundreds of emails they receive each week. It’s no easy task, but here are some tips for creating the best pitch possible.
1. Do your research
Knowing who you’re pitching and tailoring your pitch to that journalist is the key to keeping your email out of their trash folder. As you determine who to pitch, make sure you understand what topics they usually cover. If it is a writer you are pitching, read their stories from the last few months. Are they writing reviews, interviews or features? What topics are they writing about, and how does that relate to your business? If you are pitching a radio or television producer, watch or listen to their show to understand what type of segments they are running, as most shows stick to a pretty regular formula. Determine whether or not what you have to offer fits into the journalist’s priorities, and if there isn’t a fit, move on and look for someone else!
2. Be Relevant
The best way to make yourself newsworthy is to take a look at what is happening in the world and see how your business fits into the big picture. There are topics that journalists are likely to write about no matter what, so see if you can capitalize on those opportunities. If you are an accountant, pitch a story on how to get the biggest tax refund during tax time. Pitch your gourmet donut shop ahead of National Donut Day. If you run a tutoring company, pitch your services ahead of exam time, or during the back-to-school season.
3. Offer an exclusive
The media landscape in Canada is small, and journalists don’t want to be writing the same story that will be appearing in multiple outlets. They are looking for a story that can only be found with their organization, so give it to them! Instead of sending the same pitch to everyone you are reaching out to, offer different opportunities to different journalists. For example, if you are pitching your food truck business, offer a food writer a tasting menu so they can sample all of your menu items, and offer a business writer the opportunity to ride along with you for a half day to get an idea of what it is like to own and operate a food truck.
4. Keep it short and sweet
As mentioned earlier, journalists are receiving hundreds of email pitches a week. Be respectful of their time and send concise emails that get right to the point. Make your subject line clear as to what you’re offering; for example, “Interview: Common mistakes students make when prepping for exams.” Describe your business in a sentence and link to your website – instead of writing out your entire business story. Tell them your story angle in a sentence or two, with a short note on why you think that story will be interesting to their readers or why the story is timely. If you have an exclusive opportunity to offer them, include that in a few short sentences. Most importantly, don’t forget to close your email with your request. For example, “I would love to chat with you about the common mistakes students make when preparing for exams, and how to fix them; is this something you would be interested in?”
After you’ve sent your pitch, don’t be surprised if you don’t get a response right away. With interviews to conduct, stories to write and deadlines to meet, journalists have a lot of work on the go. It is appropriate to follow-up with a short email after a few days, but overly-persistent follow-up can be a turn-off. Limit your follow-up to one or two emails; it’s safe to assume if you don’t get an answer, their answer is “no.” If you decide to follow-up over the phone, be sure to ask if the journalist has a moment to speak with you before launching into your pitch.
Unlike advertising, you don’t need to pay for media coverage, but what you save on budget you will likely spend on time. Before you start planning your proactive media relations, determine whether or not you have the resources to commit to doing the research and creating a well-crafted pitch. The more effort you put in, the more likely you are to catch the attention of journalists and hopefully garner some stand-out media coverage for your business!
Written By: Meghan Paton, Public Relations & Social Media Manager, Futurpreneur Canada