by Eric Rindal
What is the best way to pitch a story? PR professionals took this question (and others) to eight locally-based movers and shakers in the world of print, broadcast and online media last week. Media participants were each situated at his/her own table, as 70 eager event attendees rotated tables every 15 minutes – speed-dating style – to ask some of our most common questions.
Media participants included:
Holly Smith Peterson – reporter at the Business Examiner and co-host of the Sound South Business Report
Cynthia Wise – senior assignment editor at KING-5 TV (NBC)
It was a great opportunity to put faces with names and learn a few important tips. Here are the top six we took back to the office with us.
1. Include everything in the body of the email + visuals!
- Never attach a PDF or Word doc in an email. Most journalists receive 100-700 emails a day and prefer to scroll through the email (some refuse to open attachments)
- The first two paragraphs in a pitch are vital—most people will stop reading even after the first—stay away from vague, wordy emails
- Like a first-aid kit, ensure everything is included: pitch, more info, photos, and contact information
2. When pitching a small business story or start up…
- Include the CEO/Entrepreneur when sending the initial email directly to the media contact.
- Key is for business leader to make initial contact.
3. Email versus Phone call
- You’re on your computer all day, so is everyone else—rest assured, they will see your email
- Most likely they did receive your press release…don’t “follow up” with a phone call just to ask “did you get my press release.” When you call, make sure you have something of value to add – additional story angle thoughts, important source availability, etc.
4. With broadcast, know when they plan their news content!
- Do not pitch during their respective news planning sessions and/or newscast. Your pitch will not get the attention it deserves!
- KING-5’s News Planning Sessions
5. Know who consumes your news–have a recipient in mind.
- Visualize the reader, viewer or listener at the outlet you are targeting—this will guide the news hook in your pitch
- A journalist has their audience in mind, you should too
- A blind pitch with no understanding of content or audience is futile
6. Build relationships!
- Know who you are emailing; it is a person, not a robot
- Where appropriate, take the time to learn more about your media contacts—inquire on a personal level (i.e. hobbies, interests, etc.)
- The more you know about the style and interests of media contacts, the better you will be able to tailor a story that fits