In the past month I’ve helped plan, organize and implement four large events for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. That’s right: four in one month. As you can imagine, the PR for these events involved loads of media pitching in a short period of time. As a soon-to-be college grad, I have learned a lot of PR how-tos in the last four years; however, media pitching was not one of them. Yes, I learned how to write a news release, fact sheet and backgrounder, but I hadn’t learned how to communicate properly with the media, pitch an event, or reach reporters. What I thought would be an easy news release, turned into an intimidating task.
I started with the basics: constructing media lists, drafting news releases, fact sheets and backgrounders, and preparing a standard e-mail pitch. Now, all I had to do was e-mail the media kits to the respective newspapers and radio stations. Not so fast. I quickly learned (the hard way) that media pitching is a process.
According to a blog post on UnderstandingMarketing.com, there are ordered steps to follow in the world of media pitching:
1. Create a newsworthy and interesting press release. This will eventually be used as background information for the reporter or editor. The news release should include all information about the event and usable quotes.
2. Write a short e-mail pitch letter telling the story in a conversational manner. Explain the news and why it would benefit their readers or viewers.
3. If the reporter doesn’t respond within 24 hours, call his or her office and have a 30-second pitch with talking points ready. Although you have talking points, don’t rely on those; it’s still important to sound conversational.
4. You will receive one of three answers: a not interested reply, a request for an interview, or a request for more information. If the reporter requests for more information, then you send the news release. According to PublicRelationsIdeas.com, it’s best to send the news release through fax. Avoid broadcast e-mails unless you already have a profound presence in the media market and trusting relationships with the reporters. As for snail-mail, don’t use it unless you have a story that needs a photograph to make it substantial, and if that’s the case, mail the photograph along with the news release.
5. If you send additional information out or the reporter hasn’t returned your call, follow up with another call a week after the initial e-mail pitch. This time, try to come up with a new twist to your story that could entice the reporter even more. Maybe you have a new interview set up or a development in the story; whatever it is, make your story that much more newsworthy and important.
As I said, I had to learn these rules the hard way. I didn’t think of media pitching as a process; I thought of it as a task. Although it may be a daunting process, if you follow the rules and pitch a newsworthy story, those reporters will be coming to you for their next big article.