Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Perfect Pitch

To get great media coverage, it's not enough just to write a press release, send it out to the media, and then wait for reporters to call. While that might work for regular news makers like Facebook, or the Federal Reserve, most organizations will need to also craft a press pitch and send it out to reporters one by one.

A pitch is a short, targeted message designed to get a specific reporter interested in what you have to say. Its purpose is to open the door to a more detailed conversation by piquing curiosity. It's like an appetizer that arrives before the main course.

[photo credit: flyfshrmn98]

Since each pitch will need to be tailored to each individual reporter, your press list is a critical part of the pitch process. Who is currently writing about your sector? Which reporters have covered your organization before? Focus on 5 - 7 critical reporters and begin to craft a pitch letter for each.

A good pitch answers 5 critical questions that a reporter is bound to have:
  1. Who the heck are you?
    A pitch is a personal communication. It's a personalized message sent from you to a unique reporter. If they don't know you already, you need to give them a reason to read your message. Were you given their contact information by a mutual friend? Were you impressed by a story they wrote recently on a similar topic? Why are you contacting them instead of someone else? Make it personal, and make it relevant. If you don't have any way to tie your message in to this specific reporter, they're probably not the right person to receive your pitch.

  2. Why the heck should I care about what you have to say?
    Reporters only care about stories that will interest their regular readers. If you can't directly tie your story to their audience, move on. If your story doesn't bring a new twist or angle to a topic that their audience already knows a lot about, move on. If you can't give them something they couldn't find anywhere else, move on. Your job is to make their job easier. If you can't do that, move on.

  3. What is this all about?
    Boil your entire story down to the briefest possible description. Try to express your entire story in two sentences. Three at the most. Give enough of a taste of the story to get your point across, without going into the detail provided by your press release.

  4. Does anybody else care about this story?
    If your story has already gotten some press, don't be shy about noting prior coverage. Success breeds success. Letting the reporter know that others have found this story interesting might help tip the scales as they decide whether or not to cover your story. A word of caution though: if your story is old news, a reporter is unlikely to be interested in re-hashing it. Highlight coverage that doesn't overlap with the reporter's audience, or that demonstrates your organization has experience working with the media.

  5. How do I find out more?
    Be specific about how the reporter can contact you or find out additional information on their own. Include your direct phone number and email address, and suggest some times or days within the next week or two that are open on your calendar. Include a link to your organization's online press kit (if you have one).
Just like in baseball, great pitching takes lots of practice and lots of effort. If it gets your organization more coverage, though, it's well worth it.


erik gibb said...

Reporter, potential employer, potential client, potential date... any way you slice it, you gotta remember how to tell your story. Nice guidelines. Thanks!

Leyla Farah said...

Happy to help Erik - Great to see you around!