Tips for Pitching Top Tier Media
Last month I wrote more than 1,300 words on how to secure top tier media. That high-level and strategic post was about three main areas to focus on for targeting top tier coverage: the audience, the message, and the need for persistence.
You’d think with a blog post that long I’d be out of things to say but you’d be wrong. This month I thought I’d dive a bit deeper and get a bit more tactical with my tips and tricks.
Let’s start by picking apart one thing I told you last month, when I mentioned that most top tier coverage isn’t self promotional, and that’s true, up to a point. There is one exception – financial media coverage. Mainstream business publications like The New York Times and especially The Wall Street Journal love it when companies can talk about their financials. This is a way of demonstrating that you are succeeding or that you’re onto something. Granted, this only applies to public companies, but if there’s a way for you to talk about your financials, it might help you get some interest.
With that said, let’s move on to some practical tips around actual pitching.
Before you begin
There are a few basic things every PR person should do before they begin pitching, and they do not just apply to top tier media. In my mind these are the easiest things you can do, regardless of who you are pitching — and they will set you apart from those who give PR a bad name.
- Read the publication. This may seem like a no-brainer, but read the publication you are reaching out to. Know who their target audience is. Don’t pitch a financial story to a site that caters to federal CIOs, for example. Make sure your pitch matches what the readership is interested in.
- Know the reporter and their history. Do some research on the reporter(s) you want to pitch. Visit their Twitter profile and see how they describe what they do. Often their profiles are more up-to-date with their current beat and the topics they cover than any of the other tools at our disposal. You should also know how well regarded the reporter is. Is this someone who has only been working for the pub and writing for a year or two, or are they a veteran reporter? Finally, read what they have written about. If you want to pitch Kara Swisher you better know her background and interests before reaching out. You don’t want to end up with egg on your face by pitching them an idea for a story they just wrote.
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. We’ve all heard that reporters are really busy and hate phone calls and, yeah, we’re all busy and if I could text a reporter instead of picking up the phone I would. But, sometimes, you have to pick up the phone. And you know what? It works. Start with an email and be prepared to follow up via phone. Sure, some reporters might be gruff and brush you off, but more often than not you’ll get a few seconds — over even minutes — to get your pitch out.
Know your client and their story. When pitching – especially top tier media – you need to have your client’s story down pat and be able to answer any question a reporter throws your way. This is especially important when you are picking up the phone and calling reporters. You do not want to be caught flat-footed.
No awkward first dates
I talked last time about being patient and persistent when chasing top tier coverage, and while that’s important, it’s also critical that you get to know the reporter on a personal level (without stalking). You need to be able to talk to them about what they want to talk about. Securing top-tier coverage can be a long, arduous process, but part of that process involves building a relationship with the reporter that ultimately (hopefully) results in a story on your client.
- Develop a relationship. Reporters call who they know. If your CEO was on a panel with a top tier reporter, keep in touch! Email them, tweet at them often, comment on their stories, offer them other sources and contacts. Stay on their radar. This is about the CEO’s relationships as much as yours. Also, do the same with trade and lower level reporters. They move up all the time to top tier media.
- Don’t just talk about yourself. If you want to engage with top tier media you need to be open to talking about something more than your company. Many companies feel that talking about policy or social trends is not their place but it is the large context that top tier media need. Provide insight into the industry at large and trends you see taking hold, even if that insight doesn’t tie directly into what your company does.
- Offer supporting components. A thoughtful and well-researched article will provide information that backs up the claims it makes. This can be from industry research or survey data or access to customers. Additionally, refer reporters to analysts who cover your company or your industry, if you can. As much as possible, give them a completely fleshed out story that backs up the concepts and trends that you’re talking about.
The last tip I want to leave you with is don’t try to go from nothing to the front page of The New York Times. Everyone has to start somewhere and it’s important not to discount vertical and trade publications. Build a solid base of vertical and trade coverage before you start pursuing the top tier. If you do succeed in getting their attention you want them to be able to find you – and past favorable coverage – without too much digging through Google.