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Posted on 11.18.2014

‘Tis the Season for Media Pitching: Five Helpful Tips

I love this time of year, not just for the holidays and family time but also for the ample PR opportunities the 24/7 news cycle provides communications professionals.

You would think this is the worst possible time for media relations outreach, but that is not completely true. Yes, it’s a very busy time for retail businesses, but for other industries, that’s not necessarily the case.

The fact remains, the 24/7 news cycle and its need for fresh content is never-ending. The media enjoy reporting positive news stories and reporters are looking for interesting, entertaining stories that include important information for their audience.

While it’s still possible for your pitch to get buried in the holiday news vortex, this time of year also creates the perfect environment for thought-provoking articles, heart-warming stories, interesting photo ops and colorful visuals.

Here are five tips to help you plan your media pitches:

  1. Develop the components of your story. What are the basics – who, what, when, where, why and how? Why is it newsworthy? Who are the people who will be interviewed? What is the background information? Is this somehow tied to a current trend? Are there other relevant details or statistics? Is there a visual – photo or video opportunity?

  2. Identify specific reporters who may be interested. Is this story best told by TV, print, radio or social media? Have you worked with a reporter at the news organization before? If a reporter recently completed a related story, do you have another angle to explore? Media are competitive, and reporters love exclusive stories. Instead of pitching the same story to multiple reporters, develop a pitch geared to a specific reporter. Also, find out the reporter’s holiday work schedule and availability to determine the best possible time to make your pitch.

  3. Prepare your spokesperson. Make sure your subject-matter expert or company spokesperson is skilled, credible, and – yes – available to participate in the news story. (I’ve had success asking them to reserve blocks of time in their schedule specifically for potential interview opportunities.) Prepare and discuss talking points well in advance and conduct interview prep to ensure the individual shares the key messages during the interview. Get the spokesperson’s office and mobile phone numbers to reach them quickly once you get the call for an interview. Because news organizations tend to work with a limited staff and availability during the holidays, it’s imperative you are able to reach your spokesperson.

  4. Follow up after the story goes public. Watch, read or listen to the story to ensure the information reported is factual. Check with your subject-matter experts or spokespersons who were interviewed to get their perspectives on the story, and ask if there are ways you can better prepare them for their next interview experience. If there are inaccuracies in the news story, contact the reporter immediately to notify him or her of the error and seek a resolution. (I’ve found a retraction isn’t always in your best interest. Asking that the error be corrected in the online story and in the news archives may be an acceptable compromise that’s beneficial to all parties involved.)  Monitor the public’s response to the story. Consider other options to increase visibility for the story, like posting a link to the story on social media and the company website and sharing it via internal communications.​

  5. Foster the relationship with the reporter. After you’ve successfully pitched a reporter and the story has run, the media relations work isn’t over just yet. Follow up with an email or handwritten note to thank them for collaborating on the story. Share your feedback and the organization’s response to the story. Continue to grow your professional relationship by reading the reporter’s stories, staying in contact and extending an invitation to meet for coffee to discuss other story ideas.

 

Andrea Ewin Turner is a Senior Account Supervisor at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Andrea’s blogs here.  Connect with Andrea at Andrea@lovell.com  or @aewinturner​

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