5 Easy Steps to Get the Media Attention You Want
This week I was asked to be on a podcast, hosted by a public relations professional, to talk about media coverage and to give my expertise on the subject. What works and what doesn’t when it comes to PR? So, I thought it would be good idea to write about it here in my blog where I can write about anything that floats my boat (I will be mentioning the Navy in this post, so keep reading).
You want your product or company or organization featured in the news? Seems simple enough. But just because you like your idea for media coverage, that doesn’t mean the media will like it. There are a whole lot of factors that go into what is and what is not covered on television or in the newspaper each day. As a journalist for 30 years, I have received more story pitches than I can count. Most of them went right into the trash can. Why? Well, because most of the pitches were terrible. I am going to break down what makes a good pitch (bad pitch) and what usually got me to bite (or not).
First, here’s a look at bad pitches:
- Pitches that start with “Hi Susan, how are you? Hope you are doing well and enjoying this fabulous Monday. It’s still chilly here in (location).” These were usually emails sent from PR people I did not know personally. Cut to the chase. You have a pitch for a story. Get to the point. You are one of 100 emails I am getting today. Delete.
- Pitches that promote a product for sale with no other interesting or valuable information. That’s a commercial, not a news story. Delete.
- Pitches that have more words and paragraphs than my final paper in my media law course at Syracuse University. I don’t have time to read this. Delete.
To avoid having your pitch deleted in the first 5 seconds, I like when people use the KISS principle. KISS stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. The acronym was a design principle noted by the US Navy in 1960. The concept states that most systems work best when they are simple rather than complicated. Can I get an amen?
Here’s what makes a good pitch:
- It’s simple, easy to read and gets to the point. Remember, use the KISS principle.
- It includes who, what, when, where and why. You should be answering all of these questions in your pitch. You can even make them bullet points right off the top. Journalists don’t have time to hunt down answers to these simple questions. Make it easy for them.
- Your pitch offers “news you can use”. Say you are a pillow company and your goal is to sell pillows. Instead of a pitch about your pillow, your pitch is focused on some facts that would be useful to viewers and readers. For example:
- It’s National Sleep Month (good timing for a story on pillows).
- The National Sleep Foundation says you should change your pillow every 1 to 2 years (really?).
- Research shows that after a couple of years, up to 30% of a pillow’s weight will be made up of dead skin cells and dust mites (oh, gross!).
- A new study shows that certain pillows and sleep positions can help reduce acid reflux, neck pain and back pain (tell me more!).
- The pitch offers experts/consumers/others who are willing to talk. Nothing brings a story to a standstill faster than a lack of people who want to go on camera or give a quote. If you are pitching a story, you need to have these people already lined up. Let’s go back to the example of the pillow company. In your pitch, you offer up a pillow expert from your company who can talk about how to buy the right pillow and other "news you can use".
- Personalize your pitch. It’s always a good idea to send your story idea to a reporter you know. Or, use a mutual acquaintance. If I know you and trust you, or if you mention that our mutual friend suggested we connect, I am 100% going to read your pitch.
Here’s an example of a pitch that got my attention and became a story:
A few years ago, the organization Kids and Cars contacted me about a story. We had done stories together in the past. They were very concerned about the number of young children being killed in “front-over” accidents, where the driver pulls forward and doesn’t see the child in front of the car. They offered me an interview with the founder of Kids and Cars, data on the number of deaths, the types of vehicles involved and who’s behind the wheel, and pictures of children who have been tragically killed. We used all of that, plus we found a mom and child willing to help us demonstrate just how big the blind spot can be in front of a car. This pitch got to the point, had an expert, had victims, had news you can use, and it was personalized.
Our “Front-overs” story won an Emmy. You can watch it here.
Also, keep in mind there are many other factors that can make or break a story. A news director may not like it. There’s a lack of staffing to cover the story. The story is happening on a busy day with lots of other, bigger stories. Or, you contacted the wrong reporter. Don’t send a consumer story to the medical reporter.
If you need help crafting a pitch or contacting media outlets with your story idea, I am always here to help. Feel free to contact me, anytime!