Marketing is all about getting your home business in front of others. It can be time-consuming and expensive, but one of the most effective options, that also turns out to be free, is appearing as an expert in the media. Still, for all the bang you can get from media buzz, getting journalists and producers to take notice is a challenge.
One easiest option is to use Help A Reporter Out (HARO), in which you respond to media requests for guests and experts. But even in that case, you need to deliver a stand-out pitch to get noticed. Further, there might be media outlets that target your audience that doesn’t use the HARO report to solicit resources, in which case, you need to cold pitch.
Journalists and producers receive many pitches a day, which means they can ignore the ones that don’t interest them. To avoid the delete button or trash can, here are tips to creating the perfect media pitch.
Before Making the Pitch
Writing a pitch that journalists and producers respond to takes research and planning, including:
- Make a list of topics you can cover. Media people need ideas and content. Give it to them by providing a specific topic you’re an expert in. Make your topic ideas relevant and newsworthy. When pitching your idea, go so far as to give a title. For example, a bookkeeper can pitch “10 Costly Mistakes Families Make on their Taxes” during tax season. While you’ll only pitch one idea to a single media outlet at a time, it doesn’t hurt to have a list, so you always having something reach out to the media about.
- Research the best media targets for your idea. You don’t want to send your pitch willy-nilly. Instead, you want to identify media that covers your topic and is consumed by your target market. For example, if you’re a real estate virtual assistant, your ideal media outlets are related to real estate and target Realtors. Identify a variety of resources, from association newsletters and magazines (online and off) to television shows and videocasts, to radio and podcasts. While it’s appropriate to reach out to large media outlets, don’t dismiss smaller ones, especially if they’re highly targeted. You might get better results being on a Top Realtor Success Tips podcast than in an article on the national association website.
- Learn about the media you want to pitch. Just like in writing your promotional materials, pitching media should be targeted. In order to do that, you need to know a little about them. Some things to check out include, what journalist or producer covers your topic, what articles or shows have they done recently (to avoid pitching something they just did), the tone of the content, and the market it reaches (it should be similar to the one you want to reach). Also, find out if it has specific guidelines for submitting story ideas.
- Draft a template to work from. While you’re going to tailor your pitch to the media outlet, there is information that will appear in each. Having a template that you simply tweak for each pitch is faster and easier than writing them all from scratch. (See below for what goes into your pitch).
Writing and Submitting Your Pitch
Now that you know the ideas you want to pitch and to whom you want to pitch them, it’s time to start writing. Here’s how:
- Address your pitch to the specific journalist or producer, if you can find it. Do spend a little time hunting down the name. A pitch addressed to the right person will get more attention than having the wrong name or a generic “To Whom It May Concern.”
- Follow the media sources guidelines. If the media outlet has submission instructions, be sure to do what they say. It doesn’t matter how terrific your idea is, if you don’t send in your submission correctly, it will get ignored.
- Show that you know the outlet. It might seem disingenuous, but in fact, letting the journalist or producer know that you’ve read or watched some of their content, and commenting on it builds goodwill that can increase the chance of your pitch getting read.
- Focus on what you have to offer. Too many entrepreneurs lead with what’s so great about them, but media outlets would rather know how you can help them; the old features vs. benefits rule. Remember, media outlets need stories, so pitch that, not your business.
- Make the media source’s job easy. The less research the journalist or producer has to do, the better. Include any important facts along with sources to support your idea.
- Be interesting and engaging. While you want to be professional, you don’t want to be boring.
- Be brief and to the point. Journalists and producers don’t have a lot of time to read pitches. Any that drone on and on are more likely to be deleted.
- Include information on how to get in touch with you. Although your pitch will show up in an email the journalist/producer can hit reply to, give your email address anyway. Also include your phone number, website, and social media links.
- Format your pitch. Use text (not HTML), basic font and formatting to avoid your pitch showing up jumbled and disorganized the media outlet’s email box.
- Send your pitch to only one journalist or producer at a media source. Mass mailing your idea to every journalist listed in the mast line of a magazine will annoy the journalists. These people work together, so they’ll know that you emailed them all. With that said, you can send a similar pitch to different media outlets at the same time.
- Follow up. This is where many people miss out on great PR and publicity opportunities. If journalists/producers like your idea, they might respond right away, but often, your idea is saved but not replied to. Media people are extremely busy, and so it’s up to you to follow up. The trick is to do it in a way that doesn’t annoy them. Wait two weeks or so, and then send a follow up email asking if they received the pitch and if they need more information. You can call, which can be very effective, but again, be quick and brief on the phone. Whichever you do, only follow up on your pitch once. Instead, you can pitch a completely different idea.
If the media contacts you, make sure you’re professional and prepared for the interview. After the interview, send a thank you email and add the source to your personal media contact list along with details (topic and date) of the interview. Once the interview posts/airs, share it with your newsletter subscribers and on social media.