10-MINUTE READ – How To: Pitch Print Media (Examples)
A little-known fact about me is that my first career choice was journalism. If any of you remember the doom surrounding print media in 2006, you’ll understand why I decided to switch my focus and major in public relations. (For those of you who don’t remember, at the time, everyone – and I mean everyone– was saying the print industry was dead and journalists were going to have to change careers.)
Though the industry didn’t die, much of the focus has changed from solely print publications to print publications with an online component. One thing I’ve learned for sure from being on the other side of journalism is that PR and media are closely related. If you’ve never pitched to media, remember that journalists are people too and need PR professionals to help them find story ideas, and PR pros need journalists to make sure stories get told. Here’s my time-tested plan for pitching to print media:
Before we begin, I’m going to assume you already have a press release written. If not, there are thousands of templates available online, or our associates at K.E.Baker Marketing would be happy to help you draft one (shameless plug).
Determine Who Your Market Is
Are you looking for local press where you’re headquartered, or are you seeking to get into more niche publications – and why? For example, a boutique clothing store announcing it has moved might be better suited for local media because only local residents would be interested in that information. However, if that same clothing store was announcing it would send a portion of its proceeds to the ASPCA, then more niche publications related to animal welfare might be interested in that news on a broader scale. Think like a journalist and determine why what you’re announcing is newsworthy and whom would be most interested in that information.
Research, Research, Research
Far too often journalists and editors alike lament how they receive media pitches completely unrelated to their preferred topic. This is the quickest way to not only erode valuable media relationships but also waste your own time. Take the time to ensure you’re targeting the right people. Here are some things to consider: What publications cover your topic? If you’re reaching out to a print magazine, what is their production schedule and deadlines? What journalists have already written about your topic?
For example, let’s say you’re a local restaurant owner and you’ve decided to open your doors and make sure every homeless veteran in your community has a meal throughout the holiday season. You’re hoping to generate press surrounding this endeavor to raise awareness and help as many people as you can. First, start with your local newspaper(s) and comb their website to see who has written about veterans, homeless veterans, charity, and/or business. In this example, reporters who have written about any of those topics are much more likely to cover your story than the sports reporter. Similarly, I would also research any weekly papers in your area and repeat the same process, but this time, make sure you know when they go to print for that week’s paper so that you don’t miss the deadline.
If you cannot find anyone who has written about those topics or their name doesn’t appear in the article byline, then go to the “About Us” page and get the managing editor’s information – the editor is typically the person who would assign stories if a journalist doesn’t already have one lined up. In both cases, you’ll need an email address and a phone number.
Craft Your Pitch
I have to say this right away: NEVER mass send a media pitch and do not send a generic email to all of your contacts. This is where your research comes into play. Though your pitch should be five sentences maximum followed by the press release pasted into the email, it’s extremely important to personalize the pitch. Comment on how you know the journalist has recently covered a topic similar to yours (and link to the story), and let them know why you think this would be a great story for their readers.
Here is how I would craft the pitch:
“Hi Seamus, given your recent coverage of homeless veterans in the Hogsmeade community, I thought you might be interested in the press release pasted below. So far, Buckbeak Restaurant has been able to feed over 50 homeless veterans! Any attention you can give to this cause would help make an even greater impact. Please let me know if you have any questions.”
Then I would simply paste the release beneath the pitch and hit send. Journalists understand why you’re reaching out to them, so you don’t need to outright say what you want them to do or weigh down your pitch with flattery.
The Art of Following Up
More important than sending the actual pitch is the follow up. I cannot stress this enough. Journalists get so many emails a day – it is almost guaranteed they did not read yours.
You should plan to follow up with a reporter at least three times. Typically, my schedule is: Day one – send the pitch. Day three – follow up with an email. Day four – call to ensure the journalist received the information.
In between each step, make sure you check the publication’s website or print edition (if it’s a print newspaper) to see if the story ran and the reporter just didn’t have time to write you back – it happens. If the story DID run, see the next step. If it didn’t, keep reading.
If you find yourself on day three trying to figure out how to tactfully follow up, keep it simple:
“Hi Seamus, just wanted to check in and make sure you received the information in the press release pasted below. Please let me know if I can answer any questions or help facilitate an interview. Thanks so much for your time!”
If you’re on day four and you still haven’t received a response and your story hasn’t been covered, then it’s time to use the phone number you wrote down in the research phase and give the reporter a call. You’ll want to keep your intro short and to the point to be respectful of the journalist’s time.
I like to write myself a script: “Hi Seamus, my name is Kristen Baker-Geczy, and I just wanted to quickly follow up on an email I sent earlier this week regarding Buckbeak Restaurant’s pledge to feed homeless veterans this holiday season. Did you happen to receive it?”
Usually they’ll say they received it, but haven’t had a chance to read it OR say they get way too many emails a day. Just continue with your pitch.
“That’s okay. Buckbeak’s has been able to feed over 50 homeless veterans so far, which is really amazing. We would love your help in getting this information out to the community so that we can feed even more heroes. Is this something you’d be able to help us with?”
At this point, your contact will usually ask for more information in email, and you’ll just go from there. It does happen where they simply aren’t interested in your story – and that’s okay. Thank them for their time and move one. The process of cold-calling journalists tends to make people extremely nervous. I think of it as no-harm, no-foul. If I don’t give it that final effort, then I haven’t done my job. But, it’s worth noting that I have a much better success rate when I’m able to get someone on the phone.
If your story ran, don’t forget to thank the journalist for the coverage. This will help you build a rapport with the reporter in case you have anything to share in the future. But remember, they did not write the story for you, they wrote it because it was useful information for the public. So, avoid thanking them for helping you or your client.
Say something like this: “Hi Seamus, thank you so much for the coverage of Buckbeak Restaurant and helping to raise even more awareness of this great cause! The story in the Daily Prophet was excellent. Thanks again!”
If your story wasn’t covered, don’t take it personally. There could be a variety of factors at play – breaking news, deadlines, other agendas that day, etc. I’ve had discussions with editors about getting a story placed in the next day’s paper only to be told it got bumped by bigger news. There’s nothing you can do. So, don’t get discouraged, it happens to every PR professional – we only publicize our successes.
Have questions or want to share your best practices? Leave me a comment below!
Need help writing a press release, getting earned media, or developing a PR strategy? Learn how K.E.Baker Marketing can help you tell your story – schedule your free consultation today.