Okay, I understand my situation may be a bit different since I just moved to Michigan from New York City. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and most other national consumer and trade publications were technically also my “local media.”
Yet, I say all of this not to be pompous, but rather to say: I get it. I get that securing national coverage—when a city so populated with media such as NYC is not in your backyard—can be more of a challenge. It can also seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.
After being in Michigan for a while now, I’m realizing the process to pitching national media is the same no matter where you live. We shouldn’t think that because we live in a “smaller” city, national or international media is outside of our reach. We can do it! (Insert image of Rosie the Riveter.)
Now, if you’ll bear with this former New Yorker (turned proud Detroiter!), I’d like to divulge a few secrets to help make your national pitch a success!
- First and foremost, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the story a real national trend?
- Will it be of interest to not only the reporter’s readers but a broader audience as well?
- Is the story strong news or does it provide an angle on information that hasn’t been presented before?
- Is the story unique or first-of-its-kind (this question is most relevant to initiatives, programs, reports)?
- Can you give the story to the reporter as an exclusive? (Ding, ding, ding!)
- Do you have valuable and relevant information to share? (e.g., success or first-hand stories? Key people associated with the story available for interview? Data points/key findings/next steps to share?)
If you can check these questions, then you’ve got yourself a pitch!
- Choose the right target publication and the right reporter (and no, it does not just mean pull from Cision). Investigative research is of utmost importance here. Read the writer’s prior and recent articles. Sure, their bio may say they cover technology, but specifically what area of technology? Get a sense of the reporter’s interests and themes, and ultimately, why your story would be a fit for them and their audience. (It also lends to how/what you say in your pitch, and, all in all, why your story angle is relevant to them.)
- Pitch a story—not your company. It’s true, your company or product alone are not an interesting topic—however, loop it into a much broader story, and you’re golden!
- Get to the point. As marcom professionals, it may be obvious, but put the “ask” as early into the pitch as possible. In fact, I like to bold or underline the request to make it even more eye catching. We know a reporter’s time is valuable, and they may only scan the first few lines of a pitch. Get so far as to chatting with them on the phone? Still, get straight to the point (and make sure you know what you’re pitching). Give them the who, what, where, when, why and next steps—and hope you were persuasive!
- Solid subject line. Why not put EXCLUSIVE OPPORTUNITY, along with the story angle, in the subject? Stray away from making it look like a generic/standard press announcement.
- Additional information? Pitches are meant to whet the reporter’s appetite. Embargoed press release already drafted you can share? How about a fact sheet/summary page of a report you’re planning to launch? BUT, don’t give it all up front. If they’re interested in the details you provided, then they’ll make the ask to read that full report or schedule interviews with the right people for more information.
- Pitching and Stalking Follow Up: First pitch should be via email…give the reporter a few days to consider. Typically, I like to give a “deadline” in my outreach: “Please let us know by xx date if you’re interested in this exclusive opportunity.” If you don’t hear back, the next step is a call. This step can be intimidating, but be confident! If you have a strong pitch, you have nothing to be afraid of. If you’re able to get them on the phone (do not leave a voicemail), refer to your earlier message. Regardless of whether the reporter has seen it or not, re-forward the email as a courtesy so it’s at the top of their inbox, and they can scan the details as you pitch.
Patience! Remember, reporters are always on deadline, and as PR gurus, we need to be respectful of their time as well (trust me, they’ll appreciate it!). To give you a timeline of events, I pitched a WSJ reporter the first week of February, and the story did not run until March 20th. So no, a story may not develop overnight. It’s also helpful to check in on their social media platforms or their website to see what they’re up to—maybe they are at an event, covering breaking news or even on vacation.
Of course, there is more to effective PR than just the initial pitch, but if you play your cards right, you can secure national hits, no matter where you may reside. AND, I promise to be in full National Geek mode with you.
Sawyer Lipari is a senior associate in Lambert’s Detroit office.