If you're determined to get media coverage this year, keep these rules in mind.
Whenever we come across a female business owner and she's trying to communicate a message to journalists to ultimately get them to feature her business or her upcoming event, things sometimes get lost in translation. She's either unintentionally committing some of journalists' biggest pet peeves or she's ineffectively sharing her message.
Right now in 2021, when things are a little bit different, it's worth keeping these 10 things in mind. It's an extensive list, but you’ll thank us later.
Commandment number one: Thou shalt be brief.
Whether you're sending a pitch through email, or if you happen to be talking to somebody in person, get to the point. That's a really harsh reality but consider the environment that journalists are in right now: At any given point, they're on deadline. They've been pitched a hundred times that day and they simply don't have time for niceties or for youto try to explain yourself for 25 minutes. So if you're sending an email, I highly advise that it'd be 100 words. If you're like, "Well, that's not possible," then perhaps you haven't done the work to get to the essence of what your message is.
Get to the point. We cannot stress this one enough.
Commandment number two: Thou shalt provide visuals.
Even though you can provide this brief text, which we just talked about, you should be conveying your message with some kind of persuasive visual. Tell the journalist that you can provide a video that they can use as what we call “b-roll”, specifically for your local news station. It really helps if you're able to provide footage of whatever it is you're talking about. So b-roll is essentially that background footage that plays as the reporters talking over it, and you can make their job easier by providing the stuff that they can use. Then that is a key selling point.
Commandment number three: Use the journalist's name.
Essentially, this is umbrella language for personalize your pitch. Do you know how conditioned journalists are to being pitched with copy-and-paste messages all day long. To be totally frank with you, a lot of them aren't even opening those emails and it's getting immediately trashed.
Use their name. We have a whole course on how to pitch the media, and we talk about the first two lines to get immediate buy-in. The main thing you should know right now is to start using their name.
Commandment number four: Thou shalt not bribe.
I know it feels like you're doing something helpful by saying, "Hey, if you do this, we'll gift you with this," but a lot of times they're not even allowed to accept that gift because it kind of goes against their ethics. Even though it's a well-intentioned gesture, do not offer something in exchange for coverage. If you want to pay for coverage, that becomes something else entirely. You're now aiming for placing an ad. It's no longer earned media and that's a completely different department.
Commandment number five: Thou shalt not overhype.
If you have to fluff or exaggerate, that's an indicator to you that what you’re pitching may not be newsworthy in the first place. Reel it back on the exaggerations and just keep it real.
Commandment number six: Thou shalt know the journalist’s beat.
A “beat” is what journalists call their area of coverage. So for example, if we're talking local news stations for example, there are people who cover crime and government. There's somebody who covers education. If you're reaching out to the wrong person, trust us: they're not going to do you the favor of forwarding the message to the appropriate person. It's going in the trash, and even worse, you might get blocked for future emails. We’ve seen that happen.
Commandment number seven: Stay ready.
We’ve seen female business owners reach out to the media and they must not secretly believe that they're actually going to get coverage, because the times when the media actually says yes or demonstrates some kind of interest, that female business owner is not actually ready.
Reporters may say something like, "Actually, we're going to come out today at one o'clock. Can you be available?" And to our disappointment, the business owner responds "Oh, well not today."
You should be doing backbends to try to make things work on their schedule, or they're going to move on. Be ready, and then the people you say you're going to have available to speak or comment, have them ready to.
Commandment number eight: Thou shalt not recycle.
Never say to a journalist: "I like your recent story highlighting new coffee shops. I’m a new coffee shop. You should feature us."
The story has already been done. It's over. They already covered it. So keep that in mind.
You should be using their pieces that they've already written or topics they've already covered to inspire new ideas for yourself, but not asking them to duplicate it because the moment has passed.
Commandment number nine: Thou shalt stay relevant.
Essentially, you should find a way to tie in other things that are happening in the world that people have already demonstrated interest in. What's already happening that's trending, that's got people excited, that's captivating our dialogue already? And then you should find a way to join in the conversation and make that a part of the pitch that you're giving. We have a five-day pitch intensive coming up that will provide a step-by-step guide on how to do this. Join our mailing list to be notified of the launch.
Commandment number 10: Thou shalt have thick skin.
You are going to hear “no” a lot. More than rejections, you're going to get crickets. It's more likely that you're not going to get any response at all than you get a message back with the journalist politely saying, "Oh, actually we're going to pass on this opportunity and here are all the reasons why." That's likely not going to happen.
Be resilient, keep your chin up, keep reaching out, because eventually you'll be one step closer to your yes if you continue to move forward.
If you keep these 10 commandments in mind whenever you reach out to the media, you'll likely increase your chances of getting coverage for your business or upcoming launch, campaign, or event. And as always, if you're looking for support in executing these things, you can always reach out to us at tellpublicrelations.com, or follow us on Instagram @tellpublicrelations. Happy pitching.