Pitching to the media is an essential part of digital PR and media relations, but if you’ve never done it before it can be daunting. In simple terms, a pitch can be an email, phone call or a message via social media to a journalist in the hope that they’ll cover your story, resulting in news coverage for your client. But with journalists saying they can receive anything between 100 and 1000 emails a day, it can be hard to get them to actually open your email in the first place.

So, how do you stand out in a journalist’s already crowded inbox without annoying them? And even if they open your email, how do you go about getting your story covered? Whether you’re a newbie in the industry, or aren’t having much luck securing coverage, Gareth Hoyle, Managing Director at Coveragely, offers his expert advice for successfully pitching to the media and getting links for your clients:

Do your research

Research is key when it comes to pitching to the media. Before you’ve even crafted your pitch, you should build a highly targeted, relevant media list featuring journalists who cover the type of story that you’ll be pitching. No matter how good your pitch or story is, if it isn’t a subject area that the journalist covers, then it’s pointless pitching it to them. Not only will they not cover your story, but you’ll also damage any relationship you could have had with them because they’ll know you haven’t looked at any of their previous work or put any effort into learning more about them. 

So when you’re creating your list, make sure you know exactly who you’re pitching to, what title they write for, what industry they write about and how they like to be pitched. To do this you can use media databases, like Response Source, Cision or Roxhill, to search topics related to your story and find out who covers them. You’ll not only find out where they work, but you’ll see previous articles as well as their X (formerly Twitter)feeds (if they have one), so you can see what they’re interested in receiving. Sometimes their feeds will also show if they’ve moved on, got a new title, a promotion or moved to a different desk. Some media databases can be slow to update when journalists have moved on, so using both methods helps to ensure that you’re on the ball with who works where. 

Build relationships with journalists 

Having the journalist come to you directly for expert comment from your clients when they’re writing an article is the ultimate digital PR goal. This is only achieved through building good working relationships with journalists by regularly providing them with relevant stories, being accessible and helping them out via journalist requests. If you make yourself a great point of contact, then the journalists will be more likely to come to you, because they know they’ll get good content in time for their deadlines. 

This is also important when it comes to pitching your stories. If a journalist sees your name come into their inbox – and they have a relationship with you – then they’re more likely to take an interest because they’ll know who you are and that you generally send relevant and interesting content. 

If you’re looking to sustain your relationships with journalists, then it’s important you don’t just contact them when you’re looking to get your client coverage. Consider how you could add value to them – either by sharing their stories,  engaging with them on social media, or simply thanking them for covering your client and seeing if they need any help with any other stories they may have in the pipeline. You could even meet them for coffee or lunch to have a more in depth chat about the types of things they work on and what they like to get from PRs. 

Finally, making yourself helpful is key when you’re building these relationships. Make sure you and your expert are available – especially if you’ve pitched to them. There’s nothing worse than a journalist having to chase for more information or miss deadlines because you couldn’t get the information over to them in time. 

Make your subject line stand out

The subject line is key when it comes to pitching. If you’re responding to a request, make sure you include exactly what they’re looking for so it can be noticed easily in their inbox. Journalists get thousands of emails a day and sometimes only have time to read the subject line. If they don’t think it’s for them, it’s boring or they’re too busy and you give no indication as to what the story is about, your email may simply be deleted or ignored. If you can’t summarise your press release in one short sentence, then your pitch doesn’t stand a chance when it comes to being read. 

I find a/b testing a different set of subject lines can work with bigger campaigns, as well as tweaking the subject line to suit the journalists’ style or the publication they write for. This can be time consuming but a well targeted campaign is always better than a ‘spray and pray approach’ – where you send the same pitch to hundreds of journalists.

Remember: While you do need to make your subject lines interesting, you should avoid misleading journalists. If you’re regularly using clickbait as a tactic, especially in PR, you risk losing trust if you’re continually providing them with content and pitches that fail to live up to their promises. This can damage your reputation and relationship with journalists, making it less likely for them to read your emails in future. The main problem with clickbait is that if you’re having to use it to draw people in – the content is usually far less exciting or valuable than what you’ve promised with the subject line. If the story is interesting and engaging enough, you shouldn’t have to mislead people for success.

Tailor your pitch 

Crafting the perfect pitch can be tough. To be successful you need to think and write like a journalist to make sure you capture their attention.  Keep it interesting but short and concise – journalists don’t have a lot of time so be careful not to waste any of their time with a longer-than-necessary pitch. Explain what you’ve got, and why you think they and their audience would be interested.  If it helps, bullet point some key details or statistics instead of writing them out and always include your press release within the body of the email. Attachments can cause bouncebacks with spam filters or issues with formatting when the journalist comes to open it.

Always try to tailor your pitch to suit each journalist and the title you’re pitching to. This will be time consuming but it means that your pitch will be very relevant for that journalist and therefore, has more chance at being successful. You should read their previous work and if possible, refer to those articles in your pitch, along with how your story is relevant to them in the first couple of lines. This shows them that you’ve taken the time to check what they cover and how your pitch fits. 

Top tip: Include everything they need, including contact details, quotes and images or links to high res images, in the first email so they don’t need to chase you for anything. When journalists have tight deadlines they don’t have time to follow up with you for any missing information. 

Be quirky

If you’re responding to a request or reacting to a big event or topic in the news, also known as news jacking, then you need to make sure that your experts’ responses are not only helpful, but that they also stand out. Journalists will receive hundreds of pitches off the back of their requests and the key is not only speed, but also whether you’ve thought outside of the box and provided responses that are slightly different to the norm. Most answers will be the same so you’ll want to stand out to the journalist and give them something that will make the article better or give consumers something different to what they’ve heard before. 

Follow up – but don’t be a pest

As I’ve said above – journalists are busy people. This means that, even if your pitch is tailored and highly relevant, sometimes they will miss your email. If your initial pitch has been ignored – it doesn’t mean they don’t need you or your story. If you haven’t heard back within three days to a week, follow up with an additional email to find out if there’s anything else they need. This helps push your pitch back to the top of their inbox. If you don’t hear back after the second time – then it probably means they aren’t interested and it’s time to drop it and move on. 

Sometimes we’ve had instances where stories we’ve pitched have been ignored but then published months later. This is because some journalists simply don’t have the time to come back to you, but they do like the story and will file it for another time when they feel it would be more relevant. So bear this in mind too. 

Get that link

Sometimes you get the coverage and the brand mention, minus the link. In the world of digital PR, it’s not always guaranteed that you’ll get one as some media titles simply don’t link. But if you know that they do, and for some reason, you didn’t get a link when the story went live – it can sometimes be worth reaching out to the journalist to ask if they would be able to link. Make sure to provide them with a link – not just to the homepage, but to a page that actually gives their readers more information. This could be a landing page or a link to a product page which has more information on the product featured, for example. 

Say thank you

Finally, if you do get coverage from your pitch, it’s always worth going back to the journalist to say thank you for covering your story. Whether they’ve replied to you or not, it can be a great way to help build on your relationship with them. You could even use this email to ask for a link – if they haven’t linked to your client, or see if they’re working on anything else and need any more comments from you on any other topics. This means they’re more likely to come to you directly because you’ve offered them other sources.  

How to write a good press release for small businesses

Writing a good press release for a small business requires attention to detail, clarity, and a compelling narrative. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to craft an effective press release:

1. Start with a strong headline:

Your headline should be concise, attention-grabbing, and convey the essence of your announcement. Use action verbs and make them relevant to journalists and readers.

2. Write an engaging lead paragraph:

The first paragraph should summarise the most important information in a clear and concise manner. Answer the key questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how.

3. Provide supporting details:

Use the following paragraphs to provide more context, details, quotes, and background information. Include relevant facts, statistics, and any unique selling points of your business or announcement.

4. Include quotes:

Incorporate quotes from key stakeholders, such as the CEO or founder, to add credibility and human interest to your press release. Quotes should be concise, relevant, and offer insights or opinions.

5. Add boilerplate information:

Include a brief paragraph about your company at the end of the press release. This should provide an overview of your business, its mission, key achievements, and any other relevant information.

6. Provide contact information:

Include contact details for media inquiries, such as a spokesperson’s name, email address, and phone number. Make sure these details are easy to find and accurate.

7. Follow proper formatting:

Use a standard press release format, with your contact information at the top, followed by the release date, headline, and body of the press release. Include ### symbols to denote the end of the press release.

Use clear and concise language, avoiding jargon or technical terms that may be difficult for non-experts to understand.

8. Proofread and edit:

Before distributing your press release, proofread it carefully to check for spelling and grammar errors. Make sure the press release is well-written and flows smoothly. After completing the initial proofreading, review the 

press release one final time to catch any remaining errors or inconsistencies. By following these tips and taking a systematic approach to proofreading, you can ensure that your press release is polished, professional, and error-free before distributing it to the media and your target audience.

9. Distribute effectively:

Research relevant media outlets, journalists, and bloggers who might be interested in your announcement. Send your press release to them via email or through a press release distribution service. Follow up with journalists to gauge their interest and offer additional information if needed. 

By following these steps and guidelines, you can craft a compelling press release that effectively communicates your small business’s news or announcement to the media and your target audience.

For more expert tips visit: startyourbusinessmag.com