Over the past few years, the media environment has changed: Reporters are faced with tighter deadlines. Traditional publishers are facing greater competition from the digital space. And everyone is tasked with the demand to constantly generate more content.
As marketers, we can help. Offering solid sources through articulate pitching can aide reporters in meeting their deadlines while also creating the buzz your firm needs. In the spirit of doing better in the new year, here are 10 tips you can use develop more effective media pitches.
- Understand what reporters cover: Research to see which reporters are covering the topic that your source wants to discuss. Read the articles, and be sure that the issue you are presenting really is relevant to the reporter’s beat. Also make sure that your list is current to avoid clogging your own inbox with bouncebacks.
- Flattery will get you far: Since you should be up to speed on the reporter’s work, compliment it! Don’t go too far, but everyone likes to know that his or her writing is appreciated.
- Pitch vs. Press Release: When announcing news of lateral hires, case wins or other breaking news, opt for a press release, and offer interviews with the source(s) quoted in the release. When positioning someone as a thought leader, a pitch is best.
- What should the pitch say? When crafting a pitch, it should have a brief intro to introduce the significance of the topic, a quote or two, and a call to action offering the source for interviews or to author an article. The language should be straightforward in a tone that you would see in print – avoid legalese. Remember that pitches are on the record, so do not include anything that you would not want to see used.
- Less is more: It may seem obvious, but make sure that you are presenting your source in the best light. It often makes sense to include a poignant, concise quote, one that packs a punch and properly illustrates your point. Include pertinent bio information, but again, don’t make it too long. Reporters don’t have a lot of time, so get to the point quickly.
- Don’t be a stalker: Reporters are busy, and good ones get hundreds of pitches a day. While following up is important, don’t be a pest. If you follow up by phone, make it very quick, and offer some new information, if possible.
- Don’t wait to call: Yes, that seems to contradict the point above, but when pitching reporters, time is of the essence. News does not keep and, with today’s 24-hour news cycle, reporters are looking for sources now. When you are pitching reporters on breaking news, try to be as far ahead as possible. Sometimes, such as in the case of a court decision being released or a bill being signed, we often have a sense of when the news is going to break. It frequently makes sense to share the source’s name and a few comments before the reporter is on deadline.
- Pitching an article: Pitching an editor to accept a bylined article is also a great opportunity to position your source, assuming he or she is willing and interested in writing. But first, check to make sure that the publication accepts bylines. If possible, see if you can get the editorial guidelines so that you have a better idea of what the requirements are. If it isn’t possible to get the guidelines before pitching, then ask once the article is accepted. Also confirm the publication’s reprint policies.
- Keep it clean: Take a minute to carefully proofread your pitch. Misspelling a source’s name, typos and other careless mistakes make you lose credibility with reporters and may make them pass on your source.
- It is in print; now what? Be sure to take advantage of the publicity, whether your source is quoted in an article or published in the form of a bylined article. Check the publication’s reprint policy – and assuming it is allowed – post a link to the article on the firm’s website, post it on the attorney’s bio page, and share it via the firm’s and attorney’s social media channels.
Getting a reporter’s attention is harder than ever, but it’s not impossible. If you sharpen your media relations skills, you can break through the noise and reach your targets. The more you demonstrate your reliability as a source for intelligent thought leaders, the more you’ll continue to reap a return on the investment of time you put into the pitching process.
This article originally appeard on the National Law Review website, January 19, 2016.