As public relations practitioners, we know a lot of preparation and hard work goes into pitching the media. Whether you are pitching a small handful of editors about a bylined article or dozens of reporters about a customer press release, your pitch must be relevant and appealing to the recipient to result in media coverage.
B2B technology companies announce news every day as part of their public relations strategies, creating a myriad of emails for reporters to dig through. If your media pitches are being ignored more often than you'd like, you may be guilty of one of these five common mistakes that send pitches to the recycle bin:
The first thing a reporter will see is the subject line of an email. If it doesn’t seem interesting to them, there is a good chance they will assume it isn’t important. To avoid this, create a subject line that concisely and directly tells them what the news is about. Don’t make subject lines too long or wordy—50 characters or less should do it. Many emails are read via mobile, and subject lines that are longer than 50 characters could get cut off. If your client is launching a new product, include the name of the company and details of the product they are announcing in the subject line. If it is a pre-pitch, include “under embargo” as the first two words of the subject line so the reporter knows it is sensitive information.
The next most important rule of creating a successful pitch it to make it personal. Make the reporter feel like there’s a specific reason you are pitching them, because there should be. Also, remember that a little small talk doesn’t hurt. Reference an article they wrote or ask them how they are doing before jumping to the point. If you speak with the reporter regularly, don’t let your intro sound like all the other pitches. Base it on past conversations you’ve had with them. Include why you are reaching out to them if it’s something they don’t normally cover, and explain why you think they are a good fit for the topic.
Point out the important details of the news you are pitching at the beginning of the correspondence. Only include information that is part of the hook. They can read other details in the press release or ask additional questions in interviews. You want to include just enough information to intrigue the reporter but not divulge all of the details in one email.
Close the pitch with a clear next step. Are you offering an interview with an executive of the company? Are you interested in contributing an article? Do you want the reporter to attend an event? Do they need to agree to an embargo before they receive more information? Do you want to set up pre-briefing before the news is made public? Don’t leave the reporter confused.
So you have done the legwork and sent out all of your pitches. Don’t stop there. Due to the number of emails reporters receive, they may have opened your pitch and forgot to respond. Sometimes reporters are out of the office (yes, they do go on vacation, too!). Always follow up a day or two after your initial outreach. This may seem annoying, but many times reporters are thankful when you bring the email to the top of their inbox. Still no responses after email follow-ups? Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. This is often more successful than email, especially when you are pitching top-tier publications. Sometimes you get more information from reporters by picking up the phone and having a conversation.
Reporters are people, too. They don’t want to be bothered with emails or phone calls that are not relevant to what they normally cover. Think of them as your “media buddies” and build a relationship. Once you have created that relationship, pitching media becomes less intimidating and more successful.
At Idea Grove, we use these skills and more to ensure our clients get the media coverage they deserve. Learn more in our public relations case studies.
To give you an idea of how to avoid mistakes with media pitches, let's take the case of our long-time client NEC, the multinational information technology and electronics company.
NEC generates many high-profile announcements—but sometimes the news it needs to share is not as sexy on the surface. For example, NEC tapped Idea Grove to pitch a series of announcements with updates on its cloud-based communications platform in the United States and Canada.
The challenge was that these announcements were updates to a previous, larger announcement by the company, meaning there was a good chance they would get lost in reporters' inboxes if we weren't careful.
Specifically, these media pitches could have fallen victim to any or all of the mistakes outlined above. For example:
Instead of settling for lackluster effort and results, Idea Grove stepped up to the plate to make the most out of these updates through targeted pitches in both countries—resulting in 21 total pieces of unique media coverage for news that wasn’t exactly new.
Let's break down how we did it:
To get started tackling an announcement with cross-regional audiences, you must first know with whom you're communicating. Our approach involves strategic research of media contacts so we can approach them as both journalists and human beings.
That means spending time looking at areas the reporter has covered in their recent work and identifying any underlying threads. For example:
Catering to these journalistic characteristics helps us catch the eye of relevant reporters. Figuring out how to approach them as individuals is a little more fun. We start by looking at the reporter's social media profiles (Twitter is usually the best option) to see if there are shared experiences or interests, such as:
We like to reference these rapport-builders briefly (and in a professional matter) in our outreach, as it shows the reporter we’ve done our due diligence in researching them, and we value their time by not giving them a story pitch that’s not a fit.
For NEC, we honed in on contacts that specifically covered business communications and collaboration, naturally—but we tailored our outreach to each specific region. For U.S. media, we played off the original partnership announcement. In sharing the follow-up news, we painted the picture that NEC was rapidly gaining momentum in the unified communications (UC) space. We also built upon specific angles used by U.S. journalists in their original stories, such as:
Questions like these informed the creation of media pitches with the level of detail and relevance necessary to attract journalists' interest—and respect.
Communicating to Canadian news outlets also required hyper-targeted media pitches. Idea Grove identified that the Canadian media was particularly focused on the impact of this announcement on Canadian channel partners. As such, the team studied the country's top channel and tech publications and ensured that outreach included channel-centric outlets in addition to general technology media.
By gaining an understanding of the target audience upfront, the message around NEC’s solution availability in Canada was clear, concise, and effective.
There were lower expectations around the final announcement in the series, highlighting a new partner model that would benefit both the United States and Canada. As such, we made sure that our pitches were even more targeted by revisiting the original media list and sharing this news as a follow-up with contacts who’d indicated an interest in the previous announcements.
Communicating NEC’s news to different audiences involved dedicated media research (to identify key contacts), developing targeted media pitches (specifically tailored to each publication and reporter’s areas of focus) and hands-on outreach and follow-up to leave no stone unturned in our media pitches.
We leaned into the nuances of different geographies whenever possible, and weren’t afraid to get targeted and dig in with our research and pitching efforts. We found that the more relatable we could make our news to our list of contacts, the better.
Good media pitches don't require a groundbreaking announcement to be successful; that's an excuse too many PR people use for failure. It’s all about getting the right pitch in front of the right audience at the right time.
Donna Ammon and Mary Brynn Milburn contributed to this blog post.