How to get media to notice your story idea

Increasingly, traditional media, bloggers and social media influencers are being bombarded every which way with story suggestions. Unfortunately, in this world of 24/7 news, most of the pitches are briefly scanned, filed or even deleted once they reach an inbox.

As a former senior national television news producer, I can admit to responding (or not at all) to a pitch with one or all of those tactics. Why? Too many emails and a lack of time.  

On average, I received six to eight hundred emails a day with 50 per cent of the emails being pitches. Don’t get me wrong, pitches helped out immensely when I had to put together 41 minutes of content Monday through Friday…365 days a year. However, to put together quality content, I had to spend my time wisely focusing on brainstorming, writing and creating to meet my daily deadline – there was no time to sift through hundreds of emails.

As communications professionals, you all know how to create the pitch. But how do you resonate with journalists and stand out from the crowd with a story idea that gets noticed?

Well I am here to give you the inside scoop on how to knock your pitch out of the park especially during the summer months when everyone seems to be on vacation.

NETWORKING IS KEY

Network and build up your media contacts. They call it ‘media relations’ for a reason!I would always consider an idea if I knew the person making the pitch. I was more likely to trust a person I knew because I could put a face or voice to the name in my inbox. Moreover, a relationship allows you, the comms expert, to figure out what pitches will work best for your media contact’s  area of interest.

If you can, make the pitch by phone first. A phone call strengthens the relationship and grabs the journalist’s attentioneven for a brief moment. Nine out of 10 times, I couldn’t have a full conversation, but the call allowed me to know a little bit about the pitch and say send me an email. A piece of advice though, know WHEN to call. Receiving calls during the busiest times of the day, near deadline or, in my case, while I was producing a live show, annoyed me to no end.

Which brings me to my next point…personalize your pitch.

GET PERSONAL

There is nothing better than receiving a personal email with a pitch perfectly crafted to the intended journalist’s, editor’s or producer’s  news needs. Personalizing a pitch told me that you knew me and understood what kinds of stories would pique my interest.

ALL IN THE DETAILS

The pitch itself should be short and sweet. No more than a page. It should include an attention-grabbing headline, a paragraph or two describing the story idea, a spokesperson who is available to speak to the issue and when, followed by your contact information.

CHECK THE CALENDAR

Finally, once that pitch is made, PLEASE make sure the interviewee is available on that day…for the entire day. There is nothing more frustrating than being interested in a pitch to find out the person is not available for an interview. Sure, a spokesperson might be struck with anillness  or a last minute emergency but always have a plan B ready, just in case.

So overall, a well-crafted pitch will require hard work but the resulting coverage you secure will speak for itself. Media professionals will appreciate your efforts if you do your homework, be thorough and take a personalized approach to your pitch. And even if you don’t land the pitch, you will develop stronger media relationships that will help you capture quality coverage down the road.

Alyson Fair

Director, Media & Communications, Syntax Strategic