Before joining Communications Strategy Group (CSGⓇ), I spent five years as a professional journalist and received tens of thousands of pitches from public relations professionals. In my new role, I have enjoyed using my experience as a reporter to help CSG send the perfect pitches for clients. Now that I’m on the other side of the pitching equation, here are five tips I have for sending pitches that resonate with journalists and land your clients coverage:
1. Read media trades and read mediums your clients want to be in
As a reporter, it always surprised me when public relations agency professionals admitted to me that they never watch or read the news. The best way to get a sense of what types of stories different news outlets like to pursue is observing what stories make it on-air or in print. Granted, I understand that if you work for a public relations agency that offers PR services to a variety of clients, you will not be able to read every single publication that they would like to be featured in someday. Instead, I would recommend regularly reading one local news source, one national news source and one trade news source as well as watching one local news channel and one national news channel a couple of times a week. This will help you get a sense of each medium.
2. Hone in on your target audience
Regularly consuming news can also help PR consulting teams differentiate potential stories for B2C media outlets versus B2B media. While I was a finance reporter at the Denver Business Journal, I often received pitches from financial public relations agencies that were more geared toward a consumer audience versus an audience that already knew a lot about financial services. As a PR services professional, it’s important to figure out what audience your client wants to be seen by and what media outlets cater to that audience. Likewise, PR services professionals need to think about what makes their client unique to different media outlets. Before writing a pitch, consider what makes your client the ideal source for a particular media outlet.
3. Read journalism trade media
I would also recommend reading trade media outlets to better understand what forces are shaping the journalism industry more broadly. Even before COVID-19 turned the economy upside-down, the journalism industry was struggling financially. Pew Research found that newsroom employment at U.S. newspapers dropped by nearly half between 2008 and 2018, from about 71,000 workers to 38,000. Yet, this is not a well-known fact.
A late 2018 Pew Research survey found that 71% of U.S. adults believed that their local news media was doing well financially, despite the fact that 14% of U.S. adults had paid for news in the last year. Reading journalism and media-focused publications such as Poytner, Nieman Lab, Ad Age and AdWeek can help public relations professionals stay on top of journalism industry trends such as its finances as well as mergers and acquisitions. For financial PR agency professionals in particular, Talking Biz News is a great website for keeping up with financial trade media.
4. Don’t take it personally if the media never replies to your pitch
As a reporter at the Denver Business Journal, I sometimes received more than 200 pitches per day via email, along with several phone calls and direct messages on Twitter. If I were to have replied to every pitch I received, I would have never had time to write any stories. I often genuinely felt sad that I did not have time to look into some of the pitches I received. More than half of the pitches I received had some potential, but I had to be especially picky, given the limited time I had to review pitches in comparison to completing interviews and writing stories.
I would often receive a great pitch that would fall by the wayside due to breaking news. For example, I was working on several interesting feature stories before COVID-19 spread that I never got to finish. Being on the other side, I now know it can be frustrating to work hard crafting a pitch only for it to be ignored, but given the dwindling number of journalists, it is unfortunately just a part of public relations now.
5. Be ready to deliver on your pitch
If you are lucky enough to have positioned your pitch to rise to the top of a reporter’s inbox, then you need to be ready to deliver on your pitch. A pet peeve of mine while I was a journalist was when I would receive an awesome pitch, but then a promised interview would fall through. For print and online media, public relations agency professionals need to make sure the people who they mention in their pitch are available for phone, email or in-person interviews. For radio and television interviews, PR pros need to make sure the people they mention in their pitch are available for on-air and on-camera interviews.
As a journalist, I could tell that CSG already lives by these tips. Below are two examples of their national and Denver-area PR and media acumen in action:
1. CSG’s public relations professionals used their media knowledge to raise awareness regarding eating disorders in prominent publications while working with Eating Recovery Center, a provider of comprehensive eating disorder treatment for adults, adolescents and children. CSG’s health and wellness team immediately recognized that they needed to create separate strategies to explain eating disorders to healthcare professionals versus reporters. In order to capture the attention of journalists, CSG created “The Journalist’s Guide to Eating Disorders.” The 16-page guide featured statistics, research, definitions, media resources and a speakers bureau resource for journalists to encourage them to give eating disorders the nuanced coverage they needed.
The guide resulted in Marie Claire’s multi-page story “Starvation Nation,” which appeared in the July 2011 issue of Marie Claire and brought national attention to the Eating Recovery Center as an expert care provider. Read on for more on this case study.
2. More recently, CSG’s PR consulting team used its media savvy to score current client Power Breezer coverage on CNN and Fox News in July 2020. Power Breezer makes large fans that had previously been used by several industries, most notably by major sports leagues, such as the NFL and NCAA. Power Breezer pivoted in the wake of COVID-19 to repurpose its machines to disperse disinfectants, in addition to water vapor, to combat the virus. CSG ensured the proper visuals and interviews were available to broadcast media at an event featuring Power Breezers in use at an Arizona middle school. CSG’s careful planning resulted in CNN covering Power Breezers as an innovative way schools are combatting COVID-19.
Get in touch with CSG to find out how one of our industry-specific PR teams can support your bottom line.