This post was first published by Megan Grobert on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.
Last Monday, my colleague, Marcus LaRobardiere, and I attended the Pub Club’s Technology PR panel discussion, hosted by PAN Communications.
The panelists discussed trends that influence coverage, what classifies as actually newsworthy, what reporters want and need, and the best way to approach and pitch a reporter.
– Michael Farrell, Boston Globe
– Greg Gomer, BostInno
– Maryfran Johnson, CIO
– Dan Primack, Fortune
– Dan Rowinski, ReadWrite
Here are a few key takeaways about pitching a reporter from the panel:
1. Know Who You’re Pitching
Remember, no two reporters are alike. While our panel agreed on a lot of things, it was clear they each covered news in a different way. Building relationships with reporters can prove to be invaluable, because you gain insight into what they are looking for, who they know and who their audience is. You also need to know your client. The more you know about their inner workings, the better you will be able to bridge the gap between your relationship with the reporter and your client’s needs to achieve great coverage.
2. Reporters Don’t Read Everything
We’re sure that the hearts of every attendee broke into a million pieces when we were informed that reporters don’t like – or even read – every pitch we send them. They receive hundreds of pitches a day and, believe it or not, not every announcement from our clients is actually newsworthy. What we learned was that the pleasantries that riddle a lot pitches are useless, reporters are well-versed in the industries they cover and care only about the actual news. Basically, reporters want to know why the news is different and why their readers would care about it.
3. Nail the Subject
How many emails from strangers with boring subject lines do you read every day? Our guess would be somewhere between zero and none. If a book had a lackluster title would you peak inside to see what it was about? Something must pull the reporter in, and using the title of a press release doesn’t do it. Add jazz, personality and exciting news to your subject line. Make the reporter want to peak and see what’s inside Box #1.
4. Keep it Brief
Many reporters look at the first one or two sentences of a pitch to determine if the topic is intriguing. If the topic peaks their interest a reporter will then research it on their own, so a long pitch full of background information isn’t necessary. Keep the initial pitch minimal, only providing the juicy news. Once you’ve hooked them, reel them in with details and set up a conversation.
5. Make it Unique
Reporters spend their days scanning the news. They know what’s trending and what their audience wants and they’re looking for an angle that’s different from the rest. Keep this in mind when writing pitches. Will the subject appeal to the media audience? Rather than pitching a product feature release, which the media audience is unlikely to read, anticipate a trend and find an interesting angle. Better yet, reveal information no one else has.
6. Don’t Just Rely on Email
If you’re still having trouble reaching a reporter, try something other than email. We all say we’re connected, yet we only use one, maybe two, mediums to reach out. If a reporter is tweeting about a particular topic that’s relevant to your client, reach out via Twitter, right then and there..
7. Forget the Editorial Calendars
The panelists agreed that editorial content topics aren’t always covered in-depth. These pieces are typically completed months in advance, so even if there is a distinctly different angle on a topic, it may be rejected solely because the piece is already done. The best approach is to pitch early and provide a unique perspective and a reliable, experienced source.
No single suggestion will guarantee success, but piecing the panelists’ suggestions together with tried and true approaches should lead to a more harmonious relationship between PR professionals and reporters, in turn benefiting publications and the clients of every PR agency.
Many thanks to PubClub for hosting a great event that left us with a lot to consider when reaching out to reporters. Here’s to refining our pitching skills and delivering great, newsworthy content. Now it’s your turn – what are your top suggestions for pitching tech reporters?