By Sue Papadoulis
So, you’ve researched your target media outlet, know it reaches your target audience, have a great news angle, have written a great media release – now what? It’s time to pitch it to the journalist! This shouldn’t not be an intimidating exercise, especially if you’re done the leg work and are armed with all the right materials. Here’s a step by step guide to help you get your pitch across the line.
1. Send an email first. Many media outlets prefer to be sent an email in the first instance, rather than receive a cold call. It is important you have the direct email of the person you are trying to contact, rather than the generic email address you might find on the outlet’s contact page on their web site (forget ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ for example, as that can be just like sending a letter to a big corporation addressed ‘to whom it may concern’).
2. Personalise your email. (‘Dear Jane,’ rather than ‘to whom it make concern’, or worse, nothing at all). Include your well-written media release headline in the subject heading of the email.
3. Introduce the story. In the body of the email, write a snappy sentence about your story angle, where it fits into the media outlet (such as the new product section), basic details about the product, and a call to action for the journalist (would the journalist like a sample, or set up a time for an interview?).
4. Include your media release. Follow the introduction with the text of your media release, copied into the body of the email. Never send a media release as an attachment as they won’t be opened. In fact, many media organisations have computer firewalls that prevent attachments from being received.
5. Keep a database of journalists you have emailed to ensure timely follow up.
6. Consider deadlines and lead times when pitching a story. If you’re pitching a story about a Valentine’s Day product to a monthly magazine, remember they work around three months ahead, so unless your story angle is with them by November or December the year before, you won’t have a chance. Obviously daily newspapers, TV stations, web sites and radio outlets have shorter lead times, but always aim to give an outlet at least two weeks notice for product launches and the like.
7. Time to respond. Give a journalist a day or two to respond to your email. If you don’t hear anything, follow up with a phone call.
8. Stay professional and have a can-do attitude. Before making the call, make sure you have a professional attitude that is centred on helping the journalist. It is important to treat them as you would your very best customer. It’s also important to always be on hand to provide additional information as soon as it’s requested. It may be the case that the journalist has left the story to the last minute and if you’re not available to help meet the deadline, they will simply find someone else who can.
9. What to say. When calling a journalist, introduce yourself, advise that you sent an email and are following up. Be sure you know your angle, have plenty of back up information and have images to provide (or be available for photographs to be taken of you).
10. Consider your timing. Think about if it’s a convenient time for a journalist to take your call. A major pitfall is calling right on deadline – you can expect zero response if you pick the wrong time. For example, it’s never wise to contact a radio newsroom in the last 10 minutes before each hour as the news bulletin approaches.
11. Develop an ongoing relationship. Once you’ve made a media contact, it’s important to keep the flow of information and communication going. It doesn’t mean hounding the journalist every day, but simply keeping them regularly informed about product updates and developments. This may be as simple as sending a monthly media release or asking a journalist if they would like to be added to your database to receive a regular e-newsletter.
For more detail on how to generate free publicity, there are plenty of articles relating to this at HomeBizChicks.com including:
How to Write a Media Release
A Do it Yourself PR Starter Kit
How to Pitch Your Story to the Media
© 2009 Home Biz Chicks ~ Online entrepreneur Sue Papadoulis publishes the popular e-newsletter Smart Biz Chicks. If you’re ready to jump-start your home business to make more money and have more fun and free time, get your FREE tips and FREE report “How to Generate Free Publicity for Your Home-Based Business” now at www.homebizchicks.com.