Getting media coverage is not easy.
Sure, it may sound simple enough.
Find a reporter, send an email telling them how awesome you are, sit back and wait for the coverage to roll in.
But if you’ve tried this before, you know how this usually goes.
Pitching the media and getting them to write about you is a complex mix of art and science.
Adding to the complicated nature of media outreach is the fact that, like everything else in marketing, the rules are constantly changing and evolving.
What worked today, won’t work tomorrow and every day bad pitches go out, journalists get more and more angry and frustrated, often publicly venting about the bad pitches they receive.
To help you avoid these types of situations, we’ve put together this post to educate you on the best practices you should know in 2017.
Before we jump into the technical best practices of media outreach, we will first explain the core traits you’ll need to develop to become a master in media outreach.
These key core traits lay the foundation that you need in order to find success and failing to understand and implement these traits, can throw off the impact of the 9 best practices we explain later in the post.
4 Keys to Successful Media Outreach: The Foundation
Key#1: It’s Not US vs. Them!
People and companies trying to get in the media seem to constantly make the mistake of viewing it as an “Us vs Them” scenario.
Viewing it this way makes it clear why so many journalists hate those who are doing PR outreach. Instead, all media outreach should be approached with a long term partnership mentality in mind.
You should be thinking about things like what you can do to add value upfront in exchange for nothing and how you can help make their jobs easier, not just “how can I get this person to write about me!?”.
Key #2: Add-Value, Ask For Nothing
The goal should be to position yourself as the ultimate resource for your specific niche or industry and eventually over time, you can begin to form a relationship.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking for a second that journalists owe you anything and while you may think you have the next big thing, so do 300 other people that emailed them that day.
Instead of being just another person spamming them, focus on rising above the noise, prove you can be a trusted expert resource and then when the time comes, you can have a better chance of getting coverage if its a good story, relevant to their beat, and information their readers would benefit from knowing.
Key #3: Think in Terms of Their Readers, Not Yourself
Before you ever even consider reaching out to a journalist at a specific outlet, think about what the actual story is that you are trying to get picked up.
Does it actually add value to their readers? What would their readers write in the comments? “Great story!” or “WTF is this?”.
Journalists have an obligation to their readers and outlets to deliver stories that they’ll actually want to read so before you waste your time or theirs, do your research, remove yourself from the day to day and determine if its ACTUALLY the right story for that journalist, outlet, and audience.
The key to focus on here is ability to remove yourself from the day to day. Because you’re buried deep in what you are doing, it’s hard sometimes to realize and accept that what you are doing may not be that at exciting at that current stage, at least not enough warrant a full-feature story in the WSJ.
Key #4: Understand That Speed is Everything
Speed is everything when it comes to media outreach.
When it comes to methods like newsjacking, you need to be able to see breaking news taking place, develop your pitch or content and execute an idea. All within hours, ideally minutes.
This chart which was created by marketing strategist and author David Meerman Scott shows what takes place during a newsjacking opportunity:
As an example of this taking place in action, here is Oreo’s now infamous twitter Super Bowl tweet.
The power went out and while everyone scrambled, Oreo quickly executed a perfectly timely and highly relevant newsjack:
When journalists are scrambling looking for a resource or addition to a story, by being there and helping them complete the story, you create a win-win scenario.
On the other side of speed, it’s extremely important to make sure that when you do manage to get a reply from a journalists, you get back to them right away. Our internal rule is 15 minutes or less for all media opportunities. Sure, sometimes we may need to speak with a client before responding if they asked for additional information or we can’t take it any further ourselves, but no matter what we can always get out a reply right away so they know we’ve received their response and give them a timeline on when we’ll get back to them.
9 Media Pitching Best Practices You Better Follow in 2017
[Part 1 Planning]
#1 Ask the question: so, what’s the story here?
This one is the most important of all because it requires you to step back and ask yourself the honest question: what’s the actual story here? It sounds obvious but so many times you can get caught up in sending out a pitch that you forgot to really step back and see what the end story you are trying to get placed actually looks like.
#2 Focus on the Headline
This is a supplement to #1 but it’s one of the best ways to see what the actual story may look like. Equally as important, many journalists have expressed interest in receiving pitched that have headlines similar to what they write in the subject line. They’ve said that this is a good way for them to know that you actually did your research and have crafted a story based on the types of stories they write.
#3 Create Collateral
Having a piece of collateral to include with your pitch is extremely important. We don’t mean collateral like executive head shots. We mean collateral that offers value upfront and gives the person you are pitching the chance to determine upfront if it’s something they are more interested in.
For example, if you are pitching out to get your CEO featured in the media talking about “Predictions on where the media industry is headed”. Instead of just sending a pitch with bullet points, you could create a visually pleasing blog post or infographic that explains in detail the predictions and aligns those predictions with facts and statistics.
Then, when you are doing your pitch, instead of just sending an email, you have support material behind you.
#4 Begin Before You Need it
One of the biggest mistakes we see companies make is starting the media outreach process when they need media. This is a mistake because a large part of journalism is about relationships. Instead of waiting until launch day to begin connecting with journalists that work in your industry, you should put in the time 6 months or more before and begin building a relationship and add value. This can be simple things like commenting on their articles, retweeting their posts and sending them over information that adds value but is not meant to promote you in anyway.
[Part 2 Execution]
#4 Have a Soul
Journalists get a lot of emails. It seems people often forget that the people at the other end of that email are human. Write to them like you are actually talking to another human being and understand that they go through the same ups and downs day to day as everyone else.
Journalists have a magical ability to spot any email that’s mass pitched. They can tell right away and sure, sometimes if the pitch is good enough or if they really need a story, they will bite but for the most part, the moment they realize they’ve been mass pitched along with 1000 other people at the same time, they will delete that pitch and move on to the next 300 emails in their inbox.
When it comes to personalizing, what you are trying to show them is that you spent the time to research them and crafted a totally personalized pitch based on what you found.
#6 Be Relevant
This ties back into personalizing but the key here it to be sure that what you are pitching is actually relevant. Often times, we see people who find a journalist who wrote about a specific topic back in 2014 while working at another outlet. Then, today, in 2017, they receive a pitch referencing that outdated article.
#7 Follow Up (Automated)
Internally, we use tools that allow us to automate the follow up process.
How it works is that when we send out an initial pitch, we can set a sequence to follow up automatically. Just because it’s automated, does not mean it’s not personalized.
What you can do is create a sequence of 3 emails (never follow up more than 3 times!). This would be the initial email then two follow ups. You then fully personalize these three emails then load them into your email software and send them out to send once a week for 3 weeks.
If they reply at all, the sequence automatically turns off. This saves countless hours that would be spent following up and free up your time to focus on more important creative tasks.
Whatever you do here, do NOT just send out spam follow up sequences to mass lists. This is the fastest way to ensure the media will hate you. All you are doing with the automation is setting it up to reduce time but it should only be used for an extremely targeted list that is highly personalized upfront instead of one by one.
#8 1 hour (or less) rule
Internally we have a policy that ideas can’t take more than 1 hour from start to finish. We’ve found that in the past, we’d come up with an idea, fall in love with it, invest a massive amount of time and resources from ourselves and client then execute the idea and have it not go as far as we thought it would.
Then we’d have other ideas that we’d spend 15 minutes on, and they’ve go on to generate massive results. This internally lead to our rule that any idea you have should at least be able to begin to be executed in less than one hour of total time spent.
You can of course make tweaks and changes as you go that will take up more time but the goal is to at least get moving because often times, things change as you go. You want to get a feedback loop going as fast as possible and following this rule is the key to getting there.
[Part 3 Optimization]
#9 Unemotional Data
The ability to collect honest and accurate data than analyze it to determine which actions you should or should not take is a science and skill that many people fail to faster. While in the past that was maybe alright, today, those with the best data win.
The first step here is to build a system and process that allows you to collect data. From there, you need to set scheduled time to carefully analyze and review the data to see what it’s telling you. Based on what you find, you can tweak and optimize your outreach campaigns.