Media coverage is one of the most effective ways to raise the profile of any business. By telling a story to a journalist you can put your brand in front of thousands of people and potentially gain lots of enquiries from new customers or clients. That’s why PR has become so important to businesses.
It’s also possible to target a certain audience by selecting journalists at publications you want to reach. If you’re selling a baby product, for example, then you’ll want to target writers at parenting publications. But if you’re seeking to establish your company as thought leaders in a professional service then you might be more interested in targeting trade publications or websites aimed at your particular sector.
When you’ve identified your target media the next thing you need to consider is how to actually contact the journalists there? Hopefully this post will help you feel more confident about getting in touch.
Before you do make contact you should firstly be clear on what it is you want to communicate. It’s important to understand that journalists are looking for editorial stories. They aren’t interested in printing free adverts. So think carefully about what you want to tell them.
If the message is purely promotional then you shouldn’t be surprised if you end up being referred to the advertising sales team who will chat to you as if they’re your best friend and happily provide you with an invoice at the end of the conversation - so not a great result. Click here to find out more about the differences between PR and advertising.
The best way to organise your thoughts is to write them down. Once you’ve done that it shouldn’t be too difficult to develop them into a press release - click here for press release writing tips. There’s also more here about the press release process.
If your release conveys your message but also provides a genuine editorial story for your target journalists then it should be relatively simple to get it into the right hands and have it published - hopefully with a backlink to your website to boost your SEO.
Journalists generally prefer to be contacted by email these days and they tend to receive a lot of story pitches so it’s crucial to grab their attention right away. That means you must use the subject line to come up with something unique which summarises the story in a compelling way.
Don’t make the subject something bland and boring such as ‘story for you’ can you imagine how many emails they get labelled like that? Your email is bound to get buried in the inbox. Instead come up with something different which will make it stand out from all the others but which remains true to the story.
In the body of the email itself don’t waste time on fake platitudes. That means don’t bother with ‘how are you?’ or ‘I hope you’re well?’ Journalists are far too busy to bother with that kind of stuff, they leave that to the ad guys. ‘Hi’ is just about ok but after that get straight to the point. Hit them with your story pitch and do it in one sentence. No delay drop intros, you’re not writing for the Daily Mail. You’ve got to hit them between the eyes with the story idea and then tell them why it matters to their readers, listeners or viewers. Tell them what you have for them by way of images or interview opportunities and give them clear instructions on next steps - usually this can just be ‘come back to me for more’.
After you’ve sent your email, give them time to respond. If the story is strong and not a thinly disguised advert, and you’ve pitched it right to the right targets, then they should come back to you. If they don’t then by all means try them again. Emails do get missed.
Some agencies are shy about sending stuff out multiple times but as long as you are confident in the strength of your story then you shouldn’t be afraid to re-pitch. There are limits though. If it hasn’t made after a few attempts then there’s generally something wrong with the story. See this post on seven reasons why your press release isn’t working.
What about picking up the phone? Sometimes it’s a good idea to call and see what’s happening with a story but that’s generally true if you have an existing relationship with the journalist or if the story is just so damn hot you know they can’t possibly ignore it. What is never acceptable is to cold call a news room and ask, ‘I’m just wondering if you received my press release?’ Can you imagine being on the receiving end of that call at an organisation which receives thousands of press releases every day / week / month? If a story fails to make after a few pitch rounds it’s usually because it isn’t good enough, not because the target journalists haven’t seen it.
If you fail…
Go back to the story. Improve it, re-nose it, maybe rewrite it altogether. Or come up with a new story, a stronger one obviously. Get better at your craft. Remember if you send an advert you can’t be surprised if no one will publish it.
If you need some help to develop stories which the media can’t resist but which also convey your key messages then please do get in touch.