We all know the old adage, “If it bleeds, it leads” – but beyond that, what makes the news? Following are some tips to keep in mind when you are preparing to pitch your next story to the media. While you don’t need to hit on all of these elements, you should always strive to be relevant and timely and to always include a real story. In addition, you should try to hit at least one of the other elements listed below:
Timely: Is there an event happening now? Is there a related issue that is currently being covered in the media?
Relevant: Does your pitch connect with the audience of the media outlet? For example, you may understand how a healthy food financing program could impact the business community, but unless your pitch to the local business journal clearly makes that connection, your pitch will likely be passed over.
Surprising: Can you offer an unusual way to tell a story that has been previously told? Do you have a spokesperson that the media wouldn’t expect to be a champion for your issue?
Provocative: Did you create a pitch that that makes the reporter or editor analyze or think about the topic differently? If so, they may believe it will do the same for their audience.
Controversial: Is there another side to the story that you can tell? Look for opportunities to tell your side – it makes for good debate.
Pre-pitching stories can significantly increase your odds of success. You can share embargoed information with key reporters and brief them in advance, or offer an exclusive to one outlet to “break” the story or conduct an exclusive interview.
When crafting your pitch, keep these tips in mind:
- Quickly capture the attention of the reporter/editor
- Deliver a clear and concise message
- Make the link between the story you are pitching and the relevance for the media outlet’s audience
- Be brief and make each word count – plan, practice, and deliver a short and intentional message
The most effective method to get your stories covered - and the most time intensive - is to cultivate relationships with key reporters and editors:
- Spend time getting to know them and what they cover.
- Meet them for coffee, reach out regularly via e-mail or phone. If calling, always remember to ask if it is a good time to talk – they work on tight deadlines.
- Be sure to customize your pitch. Don’t send the same pitch to multiple media outlets – make it relevant to their audience.
In other words, learn what matters to them. Remember, it doesn’t matter that we think something is newsworthy – it isn’t newsworthy unless the media thinks it is.