Pitch perfect – getting your story heard
You have a story, an announcement, something big you want to tell the community.
It might be big news for you and your business but trying to translate your company news into a successful pitch to a journalist or editor can be a tricky process.
Journalists are time poor and have access to literally thousands of different sources of information – so to succeed, your pitch has to stand out from the rest.
There are a few things to consider that might just get your next pitch over the line.
Timeliness is freshness. No matter what the medium, news is about what is happening now. If it is old (not to be confused with historical), it’s no longer news, and timeliness has never been more important than it is today with an online and social media-led news cycle.
A good way to think about this is to think about missing your favourite sports team’s weekend game.
You can’t watch the game, but you have a friend keeping you updated. These updates are useful information. They’re relevant to you, they’re informative and they’re entertaining. But, if you’re watching the game yourself, then the information isn’t nearly so useful.
If you already know the score, there’s no value in being told it by someone else!
There are two principals at work in this example that are worth noting.
Firstly, news is about something that is happening now, and about providing that information to people who want to know about it.
Secondly and, perhaps more importantly, news is about linking an event to a larger, constantly unfolding story.
Going back to the sporting analogy, your team is participating in a game (the story), which is part of a season (the big picture) and it is followed by fans, clubs and media. The team’s performance through the season is not only important to you, it is important to rival teams and their fans who are all contributing stories that allow the bigger picture to unfold.
When it comes to a news story about your business or product, the bigger picture may be largely unknown to the greater readership, but a journalist who may potentially run your story will be across it and constantly looking for the next scoop.
Journalists will be looking for both the timeliness of the information and how it fits into the bigger picture when considering the newsworthiness of a story.
So, you’ve got a timely story on your hands. It is new, it’s fresh, and you think it may be part of a larger conversation happening in the media. Does that make it newsworthy? Perhaps, but here are a few points worth considering before pitching your story.
Pitch a story, not your company
Chances are, your company and its service offerings are not, in and of themselves, all that interesting to an audience.
It is the interplay between the relevant need or message that your company can deliver to an interested target audience which helps create a newsworthy angle.
Know the publication and the journalist
Different publications have different readerships and therefore different criteria for what makes a story newsworthy. Your company’s story might not be a fit for the Australian Financial Review, but it might be perfect for Stockhead or Smallcaps.
Finding the right publication requires research. Look for publications running stories that are similar to your own and shape your pitch accordingly.
You need to put a case forward to the journalist or editor reading your pitch as to why it will work in their publication.
Financial news, for example, often revolves around complex financial transactions and regulations. The readership likely has a high financial literacy and an interest in topics that would otherwise be considered dull to mainstream news.
So, when assessing the newsworthiness of your story, it pays to think about your target audience.
You’ve determined that your story is timely and newsworthy, you have a publication or specific journalist in mind, and you have a press release ready to go.
There are a few other important things you need to think about before sending your pitch out.
Provide images and/or videos
Images are essential and enhance the prospect of your story being published.
The image is often the first thing readers see when drawn to a story in a paper, online publication or as a thumbnail shared on social media, so it is in your best interest, as well as that of the journalist, to provide a good-quality, high-resolution image.
Make it easy for journalists
Journalists are time poor and busier than ever. They don’t always have the time to pick through every release that lands in their inbox to pull a story out.
Be succinct, direct and, where possible, break your story down into a bullet point summary.
Highlight the key points effectively so the journalist can make an informed but quick decision about whether the story is of interest.
Even if they don’t ultimately run your story, the easier you can make it for them to assess it, the more inclined they will be to look favourably on your pitches in the future.
Provide quotes…and make them good
If you can’t provide an interview to go with your pitch, it’s a must that you provide good quotes from your spokespeople.
Direct quotes can transform a news story. Too often, real opportunities to connect with a readership are lost when spokespeople fail to speak directly and intelligently to the topic at hand.
While journalists determine what information is published, providing engaging and relevant quotes can make a real difference.
Ultimately, the better your pitch, the better the chance your story will be shared with a wider audience.
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