As published by The Gaston Gazette:
(12/28/14) BELMONT, N.C. – Many people think securing media coverage is as simple as picking up the phone or dashing off a quick email – and then they wonder why their efforts to attract attention go unnoticed.
So what should a business do to get the kind of coverage that money just can’t buy? Here are a few foolproof tips that will help you secure consistent coverage from local and national media outlets alike:
- Know your audience. No journalist wants to see an email addressed “To Whom It May Concern.” If you don’t have a specific contact or at least a department to whom you can address your pitch, chances are it will get ignored. If you want to hear back, get to know the reporters and editors at the publication, website or station of interest. Find out what they’re writing about and how they’re writing about it. Once you identify someone who is writing stories that relate to your business, read and familiarize yourself with several of his/her articles. If you educate yourself about your audience, you’re well on your way to building a strong enough pitch to elicit a response.
- Identify your “hook.” Just as important as a familiarity with your media contacts is a familiarity with your business and what makes it stand out. It’s nearly impossible to convince a journalist to write about your company based on a mission statement – you have to carefully craft a story that will engage and interest their readers, listeners or viewers, not just choose a topic. You also have to illustrate how your business is different from your competition. For example, if you run a furniture store, explain what makes your store unique: Do you feature primarily local artisans? Are you celebrating a big anniversary? Have you implemented a feature on your website that is unlike anything else in the market? Figure out what makes your business different from others, and you’ll lay a solid foundation for a powerhouse pitch that will attract media attention.
- Tailor your message. Once you have a thorough understanding of a media outlet, are familiar with a journalist’s work, and have articulated a clear idea of your own, your next step is to figure out how to link your idea to theirs. Think about what they’ve written previously and how your story will further their work, and then write a few sentences about that connection. Not only will this make it easier for the journalist or media outlet to take the ball and run with it, but it’s also an ego boost – everyone loves when their work is appreciated. Also, ensure you spend a little time on your email’s subject line. An editor or reporter is more likely to open an email that references a story that relates to their work than one entitled “story idea” or “media pitch.” Finally, take a moment to scrutinize your email carefully for errors – particularly the correct spelling of the recipient/journalist’s name – and make sure your email is succinct. Once you’ve done a thorough double-check, you’re ready to hit “send.”
- Follow up. Even if you’ve written a fantastic pitch, remember that, just like you, journalists are busy, and it may take them a while to respond. Give them three days to a week, and if you don’t hear from them, follow up. It’s a good idea to find out in advance how particular journalists prefer to be contacted – some hate to be called on the phone and others hate emails piling up in their inboxes. Whatever their preferred method of communication, use it. Don’t contact them too early or too often – journalists are notorious for putting aside a pitch if someone is too pushy. Keep a spreadsheet or a log of those you have contacted with what idea and when, and you’ll be able to easily stay on top of your follow-ups without feeling overwhelmed.
- Focus on your long game. If you do everything right and you still don’t hear back about your fantastic idea, don’t get discouraged. Be consistent in your approach, and if your pitch doesn’t pan out, put that reporter’s contact information aside for a while and focus on another contact at the same outlet and other outlets altogether. Similar to the business community, there are people in media careers with whom you and your ideas will mesh, and there are others with whom you won’t. Give yourself time to learn who is who. Once you do, don’t waste time trying to build relationships with people who don’t respond. Move on and ferret out the people who do because they exist at every media outlet. As you continually utilize your newly-built media list of receptive journalists, remember to refresh the contact information regularly. Media members frequently relocate to other positions or competing news outlets; this occasionally occurs without notice to their personal contact lists. Routinely sweep through your media list, research to ensure your information is accurate and adequately update contact details. Developing your comprehensive list only works well if you maintain your media resources.
There’s no question that it takes time and effort to write a great media pitch. There’s also no doubt that the more you write, the easier pitches become and the more likely it is that they will be successful. As you become more familiar with your local and national media landscape, you’ll become more confident in your ability to tackle this sometimes daunting task – and you’ll be much more likely to secure coverage that will have both potential and returning customers paying attention.
Lyerly Agency’s President and CEO Elaine Lyerly and Executive Vice President and COO Melia Lyerly share their 35+ years of marketing, advertising, public relations and brand strategy experience with readers each month in a column published by The Gaston Gazette.