Fewer Outlets = Better Pitches?

By now, it’s common knowledge traditional media outlets are suffering. Advertising sales are way down, which means print publications are closing their doors at an alarming rate, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer to the Ann Arbor News. This ever-shifting media landscape means it’s even more important for PR pros to stay on top of who’s still out there and what they’re looking to cover. In light of this, here are some tips on pitching both local and national media – everyone can use a refresher every now and then.

  • Know the publication or online outlet. Understand its format, target audience, frequency and reporting style, and what beat a reporter covers. Read articles previously written by the reporter you are contacting.
  • Target the pitch specifically for that media outlet. For example, we’re pitching a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) communication kit to national media on behalf of the Arthritis Foundation. For publications like Good Housekeeping and Cosmo, we’ll focus our pitches on how RA affects women and offer interviews with women who have RA. For the Associated Press and the evening TV news programs, we’ll focus on breaking RA news (like new study results) and offer the toolkit as a free resource for those with the disease.
  • Be cognizant of breaking news and whether your pitch is relevant at that moment in time.  For example, don’t pitch to local media in a city just hit by tornadoes unless your story is about helping with the clean-up, housing the victims or donating supplies. The same goes for national daily news.
  • Keep these tips in mind, and check out HARO (Help a Reporter Out) – beneficial for journalists and PR pros alike. You’ll receive three e-mails a day with queries from reporters who are looking for something specific. For example – one of my clients, Kevin Rej of Raise Studio, has an amazing vintage lunchbox collection. A few weeks ago, a writer for a magazine in San Francisco was looking to speak with a lunchbox collector. I pitched Kevin, they did the interview, and the article is scheduled for the magazine’s July issue. It’s like having a constantly updated editorial calendar delivered to your inbox! It’s important to note that Peter Shankman, the HARO facilitator, is serious about on-target pitches. He’s been known to blacklist PR people if reporters/journalists report off topic submissions.

    The bottom line – the competition for editorial coverage has gotten tighter, so we have to work smarter by taking time to do our research before picking up the phone or sending an e-mail. The pitch has to be succinct and relevant in order for the news to turn into a story. Use news sites and social media to stay on top of the changing media landscape and constantly update your list with media on the way out, and new outlets appearing on the scene.

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