Reporters are responsible for a lot more than just writing copy and sending it off to editors in a smaller newsroom. There are about five PR practitioners for every one reporter in the US. According to the Pew Research Center, “From 2008 to 2017, newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped by 23%. In 2008, about 114,000 newsroom employees – reporters, editors, photographers and videographers – worked in five industries that produce news… By 2017, that number declined to about 88,000, a loss of about 27,000 jobs.” This is due to many factors, not the least of which is ad dollars moving away from traditional media every year.
For the journalists still working, the workload is getting heavier. In a 2018 episode of NPR’s All Songs Considered, host Robin Hilton said he receives about 400 emails a day. That’s a new email every three and half minutes. That figure obviously varies based on the individual reporter and outlet, but it demonstrates how much noise the average reporter may be sorting through every single day. If you’ve been pitching and haven’t been hearing back, the sheer volume of competition for a reporter’s attention is a major factor. The lack of response can drive return on investment of the time you spend lower and lower. The solution, then, is quality pitches over quantity.
Here are five things to remember when writing a pitch that will give you a better chance of getting coverage.
- Brevity—If someone is receiving hundreds of emails a day, the odds that they’re going to read a pitch with huge chunks of text are very slim. Get your point across up front, in as few words as possible, and mercilessly eliminate any fluff. If they signal interest after the initial communication and ask for follow up information, that’s when you have leeway to be wordier.
- Clarity—Your company is likely “internationally recognized for…” a “world-class leader in…” a “premier company specializing in…” Everyone trying to earn publicity is pitching this way. Maybe you really do run the greatest company ever to open its doors but by presenting them in this cliched way, you’re actually lumping them in with everyone else—not making them stand out. Using buzzwords or overused phrases will turn off most journalists immediately. It takes them more time to get through to the message if they must sift through meaningless jargon.
- Relevance—You may use a media database that tells you what the reporter covers, but be wary as they aren’t always updated. If you want coverage from someone in particular, go to their profile on the website and familiarize yourself with their coverage. You should also go to their LinkedIn which could let you know if they write for multiple outlets. If you spend just a little of your time doing research, then you signal that you aren’t out to waste their time.
- Make it universal—Unless you’re sharing huge company news of national appeal—like Amazon announcing the date of Prime Day—or the reporter doesn’t clearly see how it could appeal to the masses, many outlets won’t pick up a story about your clients’ greatness. Do some legwork, get creative, see what’s trending and pitch them an actual story, not just a selection from a company bio. Reporters like to see timely “pegs” that they can hang a story on–what is your company doing that speaks to a larger trend that everyone is talking about?
- Check their contact info—If you’re trying to go another route for pitching—one that’s outside of e-mail— check first. Reporters who are vehemently against social media pitches will say it somewhere in their profiles. Likewise, many people dislike cold-call pitches. Respect their requests. If you don’t, you can forget about hearing from them.
Tony DeFazio is an accomplished public relations professional and entrepreneur who has led three agencies. He bootstrapped his first business, growing it through the Great Recession to achieve an exit. He excels at developing narratives and delivering them with resonance and impact to influencers and media around the world. DeFazio is a respected thought leader who has served in leadership positions of industry associations, and was elected President of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Philadelphia Chapter and Heritage Region Board of Directors, representing 17 states in the Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West.