Your club is doing something amazing and you want the world to know. You craft your press release and identify a spokesperson from your club to talk to the press. You blast out your release and then…nothing.
There are many reasons why journalists don’t cover a story. To start with, the average journalist gets more than 100 press releases a day. It is a guarantee that all 100 of those organizations sending releases think their story is important.
One of the best ways to break through the clutter is to start off on the right foot with an outstanding pitch. While a press release gives all the specific details about your news story, a pitch is a brief two or three paragraphs that entice a reporter to cover your news.
While you can pitch reporters over the phone or through social media, 93% of them prefer to be pitched via email. To help you get started, consider these top five tips for crafting a pitch that will land in the hands of reporters and not in the trash.
- Get personal. The number one reason why reporters toss otherwise relevant stories is that the pitch to them was not personalized. Spelling a reporter’s name wrong is an immediate way to get your pitch tossed out. The same thing goes for sending the same pitch email to a dozen or more reporters.
Increase your chances of success by putting in the time to learn what that reporter has covered in the past to determine if they are an appropriate contact. A reporter can determine if a pitch is worth their time or not within seconds. Answering the question, “Why should I care about this story?” by personalizing your pitch to each reporter will help give you an edge.
- Grab their attention. Due to the volume of emails and phone calls a reporter gets on any given day, crafting an attention-grabbing subject line or introduction statement is paramount. This is often the hardest part of crafting a pitch for many people.
One of the best ways to get a reporter’s attention is to tailor each subject line to that reporter’s beat or subject area. Tell them in a brief and concise sentence why the news you are sharing will be of value to their readers.
- Get to the point. When pitching the media, short and simple is the way to go. Reporters have many tasks and are often checking their email on their phones. If they see your pitch goes on for several paragraphs, they are more likely to ignore it.
Aim to keep your pitches to under 200 words. Your pitch should get right to the point and answer the questions, “Why is this news important and how is this story relevant to readers/viewers/listeners?”
- Call them to act. You have a great subject line, your pitch is personalized and you told them why what you are sending them is important, but don’t forget to tell the reporter what you want them to do with this information.
Do you want the reporter to attend an event you are hosting, interview your club president, or report on the information? Make sure you close your pitch with your contact information and a call to action for the reporter to follow.
- Respect deadlines. Most reporters prefer to do business via email. However, it is perfectly acceptable to pitch reporters by phone. If pitching by phone, your first question should be “Are you on a deadline?” If the answer is no, proceed with your brief pitch. If yes, respect their time and follow up when they are not on a deadline.
Media calls are best made in the morning or early afternoon when most reporters are not on deadline. Exceptions to the rule are radio and TV talk shows. Call when the show is not on the air.
Shauna Schuda is the senior media relations specialist for Lions Clubs International.