Pitching 101 Part 2: Understand Who Would Actually Be Interested in the Story

Media Relations has long been a cornerstone of PR. Though not as all-encompassing for agencies and practitioners as it used to be, it is still an important skill every person who enters the profession needs to have.

The big thing that no one tells you about pitching: there is no secret perfect formula. What works with some journalists* will not work with others. This blog series, Pitching 101, outlines what I’ve found successful, and includes some tips and examples to help you draft better pitches. Click here to read Part 1 of the Pitching 101 series, Know Your Client.

Understand Who Would Actually Be Interested in the Story

It’s a terrible expression, but it’s one of the most apt ones I have ever heard in regards to media pitching: Use the rifle approach versus the shotgun approach. This means that a targeted media pitching list is more effective than a wide and general list that you ‘spray’ your story at.

First, find out what outlets would be interested in your client’s story. Sure, everyone wants to be on TechCrunch (The Agency specializes in the tech sector, so this is a common request we often get in early meetings with clients). But would coverage on TechCrunch actually result in page hits and sales for your client’s enterprise software for the manufacturing industry? Would it not be better to focus the hours you have for pitching on the five B2B trade publications for the decision makers in the manufacturing industry?

Beyond researching which outlets would be good for your client, think about what reporters or editors at those outlets you should be contacting. Another thing to take into consideration; Depending on the outlet, and the media type (print, broadcast, blog, tv, etc.), the best person to send your pitch to is going to be different. It can be the editor, section editor, a specific writer, hell I’ve even gotten a client media coverage by pitching a publisher of a major oil and gas journal before. Though a little dated, I find that this post from Rock the Status Quo is a good resource to start with when trying to figure out the players at different types of media outlets. If you are having trouble figuring out where the best place to send your pitch to is, try phoning the outlet to see who covers what.

Once I called a leading magazine in the oil and gas industry because it wasn’t clear where my client’s product launch release should go. I was told to send it to the publisher, and low and behold, the client got coverage.

Pro tip – use Twitter to find out what reporters like to cover. Even if their official bio on the website of the outlet that they work for says that they cover startups, sometimes when you dig a little deeper you find out that their beat is actually startups founded by young entrepreneurs. Make sure you are following journalists on Twitter too. It’s a good way to find out how to NOT pitch them, and to get to know them better. Twitter is also handy because a lot of times reporters have their contact info in their Twitter bio when it is not listed in other places.

Twitter and other social media platforms can also help you find out how to pitch journalists. Make SURE that you read these very carefully. Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times likes getting pitches via Direct Messages on Twitter. Alex Wilhelm is quite vocal about the fact that Twitter pitches are a major no-no with him. Facebook is pretty much a no-pitch zone for everyone. Some journalists don’t mind phone calls. Some are vehemently against them. This info is relatively easy to find, and you can save yourself time and trouble by putting in the research hours to find it out.

What are your tips for pitching? Share them with us on Twitter on @PRTheAgency or in the comments section below!

*Journalists, for the purposes of this post includes all different types of reporters: print media, bloggers, radio, television reporters, etc.

Read Part 3 of the Pitching 101 series here.