Getting publicity is a great way to get exposure for your brand. It can help to establish your credibility by a third-party and allows the platform to create buzz at the grassroots level. Because publicity is free, it is not driven by payment but content. The first step is to determine what “news” to share and then develop a press release to get the word out. After that, develop a list of media to approach and then pitch the story.
These are the top tips to pitch a story:
- Target specific writers, not publications
Don’t make the rookie mistake of sending to a generic email address like “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
This doesn’t work. Generic, catch-all email addresses are usually inundated with pitches. Unless you have a story about Amazon acquiring Facebook, your pitch will go unnoticed.
A better approach is to target specific writers at each publication.
By doing this, you can:
- Target writers who cover your beat (more on this next)
- Develop a relationship with each writer
- Increase your chances of your email being read
Plus, this gives you an opportunity to personalize your pitches. Personalized emails are 26% more likely to be opened.
- Always target the right beat
A “beat” is a journalistic term for a journalist’s area of focus. These can be broad (“technology”) or narrow (“mobile payments”). Industry-specific publications usually cover narrow beats. Recode.net, for instance, has separate editors for robotics, social media, AI, commerce, etc.
Publications like HuffPo or NYTimes, on the other hand, will have a single editor covering a broad beat (such as “politics”). For these strategies to work, you need to target the right beat. Don’t send a story about your AI startup to an editor who only covers e-commerce. With the fragmented nature of news desks today, there’s a good chance your pitch will never be forwarded to the right editor. One survey by Fractl even showed that 60% of writers want pitch subject lines to align with their beats.
It’s super-important to target the right beats, otherwise you’ll just waste your time.
You can find a journalist’s beat by looking at the publication’s masthead (journalism term for “about” section). Most will also mention their area of coverage on their Twitter.
Alternatively, you can use a tool like JustReachOut to look-up journalists who cover your topic based on their past work. While following the first two rules will make pitching easier, your PR success will ultimately depend on whether you follow this critical third rule.
- Invest in relationships
PR is highly personal. You don’t just reach out to press contacts when you need them. Instead, you should build long-term relationships with them.
In a way, it’s a lot like sales. You must consider what the end users (here, journalists) need, nurture your relationship with them, and when the timing is right, send them a personalized pitch.
When you embrace this relationship-first ideology, you’ll never struggle to get press.
With these must-haves out of the way, let’s take a look at the pitching process and some attention-grabbing media pitch example emails.
Writing a Media Pitch that Stands Out
Creating a pitch that makes a journalist’s eyes light up like kids opening presents, you need these three things:
- An angle that piques their curiosity.
- An attention-grabbing subject line.
- A short, crisp email that instantly gives them value.
Let’s cover each of these now.
Find the Right Angle
To create a read-worthy pitch, you need to make sure it’s:
- Relevant to the journalist’s interests
- Timely (with respect to a recent story)
- And has the potential to get a lot of traffic
Combine all three and you have a pitch that won’t be ignored.
Let’s move on to approaching the journalists. I find this to be nerve wracking for some, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
- Relate the pitch to a recent story
Find a recent story the journalist has covered and relate your product or content to it.
The idea here is that if a journalist has covered this same topic in the past, he might be interested in covering it again.
For this approach to work:
- Your story has to align with the writer’s beat.
- Your story should relate to a recent story.
Go through your target writer’s last few articles. Ask yourself: what’s common between these stories? How can I relate them to my business?
What if you don’t have a related news story?
In that case, you’ll love the next angle.
“Newsjacking” is when you piggyback on a big news story and tie it to your product. It’s now become a standard play in PR but was a groundbreaking approach when David Meerman Scott first used it.
Large brands tend to use this approach all the time but it also works well for smaller businesses too.
To use this approach in your business:
- Pick a major news story that’s being covered by most media outlets (think election results, a big sports event, or a controversial story, etc.)
- Create content related to the news story that aligns with your knowledge and business.
- Send the story to relevant media outlets.
The key to making this work is to target media outlets that cover the news topic only incidentally. For instance, if you’re writing about the business lessons from the latest Kardashian scandal, don’t approach People magazine. Approach Forbes instead.
Another example would be right after Trump’s inauguration, Hiro Taylor of HeroPay wrote this article on whether Trump would be good or bad for business. FastCompany picked it up because it:
- Aligned with a major news story, and
- Focused on something they covered – business.
As a result of the article, Hiro’s site saw a 200% increase in traffic and a 300% increase in conversions.
Newsjacking works spectacularly, but isn’t always possible to pull off. If that’s the case, this next strategy offers an evergreen solution.
- “X worked, so here’s Y”
Everyone is looking for more traffic these days. And if you can offer something that will potentially get a lot of traffic, journalists will definitely perk up.
But how do you prove that a story will generate traffic?
Simple: show the journalist you’re pitching how a similar story performed well in the past. And back it up.
With this approach, you:
- Find a story that has performed exceptionally well in the past.
- Create content related to this story or tie your product to the story.
- Pitch your story, referencing the older, well-performing story.
Here’s an an example.
In August 2014, Buzzfeed featured a story about a woman whose face was Photoshopped in 25 countries to show the current global beauty standards.
This story was heavily shared across the web (the original page has over 70 linking domains).
A year later in August 2015, Buzzfeed featured another story from Superdrug.com. This one had 18 freelance artists from 18 countries Photoshop a woman’s body, again, to show global beauty standards.
The result was over 700,000 views and 900,000 shares. The current page has over 1,000 referring domains.
This is the perfect example of “storyjacking.” Find something that worked and use that as a reference to craft your content.
Then, when pitching, you can point to the already successful content and say “hey, this similar one received thousands of shares before, this one has the potential to do the same.”
The pitch angle is crucial, but what bothers most people is actually writing the email.