Effective media pitching that results in a major placement is one of the best feelings for any public relations professional. And yet, it often feels like such an opportunity is a rare accomplishment in today’s news-laden media landscape. However, that doesn’t have to be the case.
While this may sound obvious, one of the most important elements of media relations is your relationship with the media. Time and again, many individuals only pitch their stories to editors when it’s convenient for them. Unsurprisingly, their media pitch is turned down—or worse, their email never even earns a response.
In order to ensure your next media pitch rises above the noise, be sure to implement these five best practices for effective media pitching:
1. Know the Editorial Calendar Before Contacting the Editor
This is a rule that can be broken when the time is right—such as for a breaking news story—but most stories are evergreen and will remain fresh any time of year. This can vary depending on the medium, but most trade journals and publications produce a media kit or editorial calendar at the end of each calendar year. For advertisers, it’s an opportunity to see which issue might be the best to deploy an eye-catching ad. In any case, taking a look at your targeted media’s editorial calendars should be your starting point before any pitching.
Consider this simple analogy: an editorial calendar is the media equivalent of a children’s coloring book with pre-drawn illustrations. If all the child had was a blank page—or you sending a vague email to an editor saying you’d like to work with them—even your best-laid intentions can lead to different interpretations (ahem, modern art). However, if the editor has clearly earmarked a certain issue to cover the topic that best suits your client, that’s your best chance to interest an editor. In other words, it’s much easier to color inside the lines.
2. Personal Relationships with Editors Secure Placements
This point doesn’t mean you should get to know the editor too personally, but it’s the first step in having a positive working relationship. Think about it: If you’re pitching an editor, they realize they control the success or failure of your pitch by offering a simple yes or no. But if you already have a relationship, or you’ve proven you can be trusted based on previous experience, that can go a long way in getting your placement secured.
All of us get too many emails daily, so your first introduction should be a phone call. Even if you leave a message, it shows you care about what they have to say. By knowing the editor, you’ll also be familiar with their interests and stylistic preferences. Remember that it’s much harder for them to say no to you in person or over the phone than it is to send a short, emotionless email. Use that to your advantage.
3. Simplify Your Pitch For the Editor
Most editors aren’t looking for lengthy media pitches with vivid storytelling and compelling information. That stuff comes later. All they’re really after is a brief rundown of what your story is about and if it’ll interest their audience. After that, they’ll want to know when they can see a rough draft of the piece, and at what length it’ll be written.
Once there’s a piqued interest, make sure you keep the conversation going until the piece is ready for print. The last thing an editor wants is to rely on you to be the difference between whether or not they’ll have a story ready before the publication goes to print. Even if there’s a hitch and the opportunity no longer benefits your client or simply just isn’t possible to complete, it’s always better to deliver the news quickly to the editor. That’s just being professional. Wait until the last minute, and the editor will most certainly take it personally—and likely say no—the next time you pitch another idea.
4. The Best PR Professionals Embrace Newsjacking
Newsjacking is the concept of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story and generating media coverage and social media engagement for being a voice of authority on the topic. If you handle public relations for a supply chain logistics company, you better believe it’s a great business strategy to pitch your subject matter experts to publications discussing the federal government’s proposed infrastructure bill or the impact on global trade when the Ever Given got stuck in the Suez Canal. Sometimes you must create the best opportunities, while other times they fall into your lap. However, not acting fast enough can be the difference between, as Ricky Bobby said it, being first or last.
5. Deliver on What You Promise
The final point is the most important one. If you’re going to pitch an idea or a subject matter expert to an editor, the absolute minimum you can do is deliver on what you promise. Meet every deadline and always keep in contact with an editor from the moment they express interest to when you see the published piece online or in print. A lot goes into pitching an editor, so appreciate the outcome. If all goes well, you’ll become a trusted resource for an editor and are well on your way toward securing another placement in the publication. If not, don’t be surprised if the editor tells you next time to contact other media outlets moving forward.
Download our FREE Media Relations Guide to gain the tools you need to develop a media relations strategy that will boost your brand awareness, position you as a thought leader and generate more leads.