Six Golden Rules That Make an Influencer ‘Pitch Wizard’
At Cirkle, word from the rumour mill is that I have a knack for media and blogger relations. Previously specialising in journalist relationships and news generation, my ‘little black book’ of contacts over the years has shifted from professional acquaintances to lasting friendships (still seeking my journalist BFF 4 LYF – applications are now open).
These relationships allow me to have an honest and open conversation, gaining first-hand insight into the world of editorial and unveiling the truth as to what really ticks journalists off (and lights their fire) when it comes to PRs pitching stories to them.
Aim – be as efficient and effective as possible. To pique the interest of the press, it is all in the pitching strategy. Journalists receive hundreds of pitches a day, from poorly written emails, to stuttering phone calls and irrelevant tweets – all in a bid to gain editorial coverage in their publication.
In the words of Eminem, you only get one shot. It is crucial to get it right from the beginning, whether you are selling-in a feature idea for the Daily Mail, or product placement in Good Housekeeping, here is some of my advice that that I’ve racked up over the years that will make sure you knock it out the park, making you go from this..
Is your story really a story?
Ask yourself, before you even attempt to create a news story pitch, ‘is your story actually newsworthy?’. Journalists are interested in things that are new, unexpected and that will resonate with their readers. Your best bet is to spend time researching the publication you want to pitch to, the more you understand its audience and the kind of stories it typically features, the more likely your pitch is to be successful.
Develop a killer one-liner
As a rule of thumb, whether you’re planning to pitch by email, social media, face to face or over the phone, you should be able to summarise your story in 15-20 words – or fewer, maybe even in the subject title alone if you want to flex your skills and become a pro. However, if you’re struggling to do this, think what the stand first of the article might be (the summary sentence that appears under the headline of an article). Try not to get bogged down with technical language – simplicity is key here; imagine you’re telling a friend outside the media about your story over a coffee (bottle or two of wine) and it should be about right.
Phone call or email, email or phone call. If I had a quid for every time someone asked me….
Is it best to email or phone a journalist? The rather unsatisfactory answer is – it depends. Some press are happy for PRs to pitch ideas over the phone, others prefer email – in fact I know a publication team that has unplugged their phones in an aim to be pitched purely via email.
If you’re comfortable on the phone, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t call, just don’t get offended if a journalist is short with you as newsrooms can be frantic place, working to extremely tight deadlines. Most journalists’ inboxes are overflowing with press releases and pitches, unfortunately sometimes resulting in great ideas getting missed. If your story is time sensitive, pick up the phone and call – just get your timing right.
Hi (insert name)
‘Don’t automate, make a mate’ is what I live by. Yes, it can be time-consuming to tailor each pitch, but that’s where the most success will be found – guaranteed. Those who tend to automate might be able to send 200 emails at a time, but they won’t be able to make a lasting impression and build relationships – which can be the solid foundation from landing a single key message in an article to multiple ones with a higher share of voice. The more effort you put into making your pitch the start of a relationship rather than a one-time deal, the better off you’ll be.
Exclusive means exclusive
You have a killer story, surprise surprise, a journalist wants an exclusive. National press are savvy, even when you have an embargo in place, you will always get someone trying to be cheeky as **** to beat other publications to the post. You wouldn’t believe some of the excuses I have heard for press attempting to break an embargo. My advice – think about your client’s target audience, can The Sun offer your AB audience something more than the Daily Telegraph? The answer is no. Offering an exclusive can sometimes allow for negotiations to take place, resulting in richer content and more column inches.
If you can’t give a story in its entirety as an exclusive, think about what else you can offer to your client’s ‘dream’, platinum tier publication. Offering an interview or exclusive picture might do the trick, that way the journalist can get a unique hook without compromising anyone else’s interest.
Be prepared for knockbacks
You need thick skin to do this job. If a journalist doesn’t return your call or answer your email – don’t be surprised. Most journalists tend to only follow up on stories they want to cover, however if you really believe in the story there’s no harm in putting in a follow up call or email – just don’t overdo it. There’s a fine line between being proactive and annoying. Reminds me of a few Tinder messages, am I right ladies?