How to pitch your story to the media (like the pros)

Rear view of female dj working in front of a microphone on the radio

Traditional media outlets – radio, TV, newspapers and magazines (and their online offshoots) – are often seen in several different lights by the business world.

On the one hand journalists, broadcast producers and interviewers are seen as untouchable, largely hidden away and inaccessible to anyone from outside the media itself, or the PR, advertising and celebrity industries. It’s as if you need to be ‘connected’ in order to generate editorial exposure for your brand.

Conversely, there are those in business – in my experience, these tend to be hard-charging startup entrepreneurs and senior corporate executives – who believe the media exists solely to tell their story (and get seriously miffed when the media doesn’t give them print coverage and/or airtime).

And then you have those who have taken the time to understand the media and how it works; they realise it’s a long-term proposition to build relationships within the media if you are going to successfully generate coverage on an ongoing basis.

The first scenario is a myth. Having been on the ‘inside’ (working for the media) as well as worked for 20+ years in PR, I can tell you journalists, researchers and producers are not so much inaccessible as very busy. They often have incredible demands on their time and having to work to constant looming deadlines  – as well as field pitches from the PR industry and directly from business organisations and the public generally – only exacerbates the pressure they work under.

The view that the media exists for the benefit of self important people trying to get their message out into the marketplace disrespects the role that journalism plays; it’s incredibly naive and self-centered and not one I’m going to spend any time dispelling.

The thing to remember is the media needs stories.

This has always been the case, but in today’s content-hungry environment in which depleted newsrooms are competing with countless attention-sappers such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc, it means having reliable and steady sources of news, information and story ideas is critical for journalists.

79868500Put simply, journalists and producers simply don’t have the time or the resources these days to be chasing down every story idea.

While many journalists will bemoan the public relations industry and take umbrage at the crap they’re sometimes served up by PR ‘professionals’, the bottom line is they need to be fed ideas/angles/hooks for stories from a variety of sources if they are to do their job properly.

Smart journalists and producers will build and nurture their network of contacts so they have access not only to ‘talent’ (people who can provide advice, tips, opinions and quotes) but also a steady stream of ideas put to them by people ‘in the know’.

In this episode of the REPUTATION REVOLUTION, I outline the basic steps aspiring thought leaders need to take in order to pitch their story to the media. We look at:

  • the importance of establishing your goals, ensuring they are realistic in the first instance;
  • the need to do your research to ensure the journalists you intend pitching your story to are the right ones (put yourself in the journalists’ shoes);
  • the difference between the two key types of story ideas you will find yourself pitching to the media (and why it’s important to understand the nuances of each one);
  • understanding what makes a good story (and the importance of knowing this before you start pitching);
  • the importance of Twitter in building relationships with journalists; and
  • why thinking laterally, aiming small and building credibility in media circles is the best strategy for aspiring thought leaders.

Links to individuals and services mentioned in this podcast:

  • Bernard Salt, a leading commentator on demographic trends in Australia
  • HARO (Help A Reporter Out) – connecting news sources with journalists looking for their expertise
  • Source Bottle – an Australian online service that ‘crowdsources’ sources for journalists and bloggers and creates publicity opportunities for PR professionals and businesses
  • Media Stable – online directory of Australian Talent for the Media to source content, opinion and commentary (NOTE: I’ll be interviewing Nic Hayes from Media Stable in the next episode of Reputation Revolution)

I hope you get something out of this episode of Reputation Revolution. Remember to subscribe on iTunes and not miss an episode! And if you enjoy what you hear, I’d really love it if you could leave a review on iTunes. Thanks! 

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Welcome to the frontline of the communications revolution!

G'day, my name's Trevor Young. Subscribe to the PR Warrior blog today and receive regular updates from me on all things PR, social media, content marketing and thought leader branding.

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