Public Relations

Do and don’ts when pitching to the press

24 February 2020 4 min read
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Perhaps you’re a well-established business seeking investment and need a public relations agency to take your media outreach to the next level, or you’re a start-up and want to do more to amp up the noise around your brand. Whichever stage you’re at, both require a close understanding of what journalists are looking for, and the inside knowledge of how to pitch to the press correctly. Public relations can be a long, hard process – devising a release that grabs attention, finding the relevant journalists, pitching to the right media platforms and following up. However, there are some key dos and don’ts to bare in mind to ensure your pitch cuts through the noise and delivers the targeted news coverage you want.

1. Don’t tailor your pitch to publications, find relevant journalists

This is a big one, but irrelevant press releases are still a common complaint by those in the media. The last thing any journalist wants is to receive a pitch on a topic they have never written about, or even worse, an auto-generated message which has been sent to a huge range of publications on a media list. They will undoubtedly see through it. The best PR pitches will be tailored to the background of the journalist, and later, the concerns of the larger media platforms they work for.

A mass mailing will water down the story you are pitching, and subsequently the coverage that follows. Journalists will often want exclusivity on stories, and online saturation of your news will dilute their version of your news in search engine results. You want to find journalists that have a lot of pull with a niche audience, and your PR staff or agency should operate with a media targeted distribution list that takes into consideration the specialities of a particular writer.

2. Don’t puff up your press release – be concise and stick to the facts 

It is the journalist’s job to write the story and select what to feature, so it’s in your interest to avoid wasting time by writing your release in prose, and instead, stick to the facts. Focus on communicating across the Five W’s: who, what, when, why and where. This will make the journalist’s job a lot easier as they do not have to sieve through to locate the facts. An effective pitch to press will include an intro, why you’re pitching to this specific journalist, the story (think about why it’s relevant, why it’s newsworthy and why it will benefit the journalist to cover it), ask for their interest level and include how to reach you. The journalist will take it from there. 

3. Do give them plenty of lead time and consider their workload 

Waiting until the last minute doesn’t work for most journalists. If you have a big news story, it is a good idea to give the journalist a heads up, allowing them to make time for your release. This can be done informally through email or via embargo, whereby you give the details ahead of time but restrict the journalist from making it public until a certain date. 

Journalists work full time too and a quality article can take a day if not longer to write. Giving them plenty of lead time will ensure your news is covered and covered properly. The writer will also appreciate your consideration, strengthening the relationship for future pitches.

4. Don’t use another publication’s coverage as a news hook  

News Hooks are a great way of strengthening your pitch, but journalists don’t want to hear another publication beat them to breaking your story. If anything, it is a turn off. They will have wished you contacted them first and will move onto the next story. Instead, be strategic and link it to a wider conversation in the news.

5. Do build a rapport with journalists before pitching 

Journalists are people too and people respond best to people. Before you pitch to them, it’s important to engage with them and build a relationship. 64% of writers think it’s important to establish a personal connection before pitching.

Successful media outreach is all about relationships. Whether you reach out to them on social, via twitter or LinkedIn, or invite them for a coffee, your best chance of coverage will hinge upon your relationship with them. You will be able to pitch news they’re actually interested in and they’ll be more inclined to read your pitch and cover it.

6. Don’t just sit back after the story is covered

Once an article has been published about your company, product or service, use your platform to increase its reach. Post a link to the story in your News section online or craft a blog post about the article. Alternatively, update your social channels with the coverage and get your following engaged in the story. Press coverage is way more than just that; it’s a talking point, an opportunity to shout about your company, so exhaust it in whatever way you can. 

Equally, make sure your relationship with the journalist doesn’t end there. Follow up with a courtesy email as well as details on where you have chosen to share it, and ask for a list of upcoming news topics that you could be interested in pitching for. 

Increasing your press outreach is a great way to take your business or start-up to the next level and build the reputation of your brand. But, public relations is no easy task, and one purely based on relationships. So if you follow some or all of these tips, you will find your communication – and all round relationship – with the press will improve. Likewise, if you’re on the lookout for an PR agency to ramp up your press coverage and start shaping external perceptions of your organisation, drop us an email or give us a call.