Getting Creative: Pitching Media During a Pandemic
Monday, May 18, 2020
The best-told stories aren’t the stories you tell about yourself; the best-told are the stories told about you by others. Having an outside source discuss your company, product or campaign elevates your message. Suddenly, you have been validated by a third party and ultimately, more trustworthy to the public. After crafting your message and developing your brand, you must find someone who will talk about it.
But who are the best people to tell your story? Journalists! However, right now many reporters are working from home. Getting in touch with the correct reporter might be challenging – they’re not in the office only focused on work, they may be preoccupied with other priorities now that work and home life are so closely integrated. Email pitches and follow up phone calls – nothing is “normal” right now and pitching efforts shouldn’t be either. Almost everyone with the ability to do so is working online and the major form of communication is email. Therefore, reporters are likely inundated with emails. However, phone numbers found in databases and online are often office numbers, which are empty. So how do you make your pitch stand out in the era of COVID-19?
Do your research.
This is important even without the complexity added by the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone is overloaded with information, so be sure you’re not pitching a technology piece to a lifestyle reporter. Look into what the reporter has been writing about lately and use that information to draft your pitch. You will spend less time spinning your wheels by using targeted, direct pitches to reporters who actually want to hear from you.
Reporters are people too.
Believe it or not, they’re just like us. Think about the emails you choose to read when you open your inbox and what you deem as compelling. Craft your messaging with the reminder that they are people as well. They’re also experiencing the pandemic in the same way we are, so a little humanity here may go a long way.
Know your niche.
Many national publications are overwhelmed with COVID-19 news right now. They’re looking to national experts on public health and the economy to speak on the effects of the pandemic on our nation. Ask, what is the Wall Street Journal of your client’s industry? Focus more on trade publications who may be reporting on perspectives from thought leaders in your industry during this time.
Use creative, catchy subject lines.
This is a tried and true pitch tip, but it’s important now more than ever. Subject lines that include the reporter’s name have been known to strike attention, and compelling questions as subject lines may pique enough interest for a reporter to open your email. It’s also important to remember:
- Be specific and concise
- If applicable, include numbers and statistics
- Use active verbs
Get your timing right.
It’s 4:30 p.m. You receive an email from someone you may or may not know asking to schedule a phone call. You’re likely busy, tired or about to leave work. You skim the email and move on without a second thought. Sixty-one percent of reporters prefer to receive pitches in the morning. Make sure to get those pitches out early, giving reporters plenty of time to meet deadlines and make your pitch more visibility.
Get creative with your platforms.
Try using social media as a resource for pitching. Twitter and LinkedIn are great resources for reaching out to reporters. Start by building your contact list of relevant journalists and cross check your list with your LinkedIn connections and people you follow on Twitter. A reporter’s LinkedIn and Twitter profile should give you an even better idea about the industry topics they write about, which publications they write for and if they write regularly (i.e. Do Your Research).
After you find your contacts, build connections by following reporters on their social media channels. Retweet and share their posts of interests to your clients and audience. If the post is appropriate and relevant, possibly leave a well thought out comment to promote discussion.
Finally, feel free to message a reporter directly on social media channels. Building a prior relationship will give you a boost and increase the likelihood they respond to your message and want to speak with your source or write a story you are pitching.
Realize when you’re just adding to the noise.
There is a lot of news out there right now – and we mean A LOT. Is your pitch actually telling a story, or are you just adding to the noise? Focus on building a comprehensive story over time that hits on your core messages as a business and aim for a larger piece.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start when considering how to successfully reach out to media during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most importantly, remember that everyone is going through this strange time together, and learning how to be concise, show that you did your research and are providing an interesting and relevant perspective still goes a long way.