We live in a time where the news cycle is constant and spread across numerous platforms. Whether you read your news via the traditional daily newspaper, a daily round-up email, or your social media feed, the variety of options to choose from for our headlines are plentiful. With this as our reality, reporters work hard to keep content fresh and applicable to their audience around the clock – so, as public relations professionals, we can do them a huge favor by asking ourselves one vital question pre-pitch: “Is my news actually newsworthy?”
Let’s discuss what to pay particular attention to when crafting a pitch letter.
The right to remain relevant
Let’s start with the basics. A piece of news that you’re sharing could stir excitement for you or the person you’re pitching on behalf of, but if no one else thinks it’s relevant, you’re going to come up coverage short. Busy reporters get dozens of pitches a day, so the need to stand out is crucial. Here are a few small things you can do to make your hook hard to ignore:
- Tie your pitch to a niche the reporter is interested in – people are automatically going to pay more attention to a topic they have a passion for
- Do research on what they’ve reported on in the past – acknowledge an article they have published and show that you’ve done your homework to relate to them.
- Include language about what makes this news novel – it could be as simple as “It’s the first time a business in [INSERT CITY] has done something like this.”
In short, spin your news to make yourself and your information absolutely necessary to the person on the receiving end of your pitch.
Location, location, location
It’s pretty rare that your news will be relevant to an audience that spans the whole country. If it is, you have permission to pitch to the masses! But if not, start by identifying how far and wide would be appropriate to share the information. Of course, you want your news to get ample attention, but it might be much more impactful to get abundant regional recognition rather than a blip on the national news stream. Once you’ve identified the appropriate location to pitch, it’s important to review your media list and the geography of those contacts.
An example: if you’re announcing a new chain of restaurants opening statewide, cater your pitch toward local reporters in the towns where restaurants are opening, editors at larger outlets that cover the whole state, and food trade reporters or bloggers that would find this information significant. By focusing your efforts on a specific location, you can ensure you’re spending time wisely and not pitching only to have your email deleted before it’s even opened.
Put that evergreen news where it belongs
Something that drives media professional crazy is when a pitch is considered “urgent” but is really evergreen content. You can identify if your news is evergreen by asking yourself two questions:
- Does this news have an expiration date? If not, it’s likely evergreen.
- Will this piece of news still be relevant exactly as it stands a year from now? If so, it’s likely evergreen.
This isn’t to say that there’s no place for your evergreen news – in fact, your news could be amazing content for the writer you’re pitching to — but a good rule of thumb is to check in with yourself and rework the pitch if it falls under the “evergreen” category.
Unpredictable external forces
It’s possible that the news you have is extremely newsworthy and super exciting, but something monumental happens that day causing you to get overshadowed. There’s no way to predict this will happen, and it’s extremely frustrating if it does, so it’s always good to have ideas in place if you need to execute plan B. Some thoughts:
- If there’s wiggle room, set an alternative date the press release could go out.
- If there’s no wiggle room, rework your pitch letter subject line and body content to make the news stand out more.
- Work directly with reporters you hold relationships with to get it in front of someone, anyone.
The reality is that there’s not a lot that can be done in this unfortunate scenario, but a simple piece of advice: do your best to share your story during the period when it’s still relevant.
Offer the exclusive (when appropriate)
During your outreach research, it’s possible you’ll come across a reporter who has the perfect mix of beat, readership, and clout for your pitch. If you come across a unicorn reporter like this, consider offering them and their outlet an exclusive to the story before pitching far and wide. This type of pitch often takes more planning and coordination as you might have to offer them the information under embargo (a.k.a. a time limit), but it could also be very worth your while if the writer takes the bait.
No matter what your news is, make sure you’re doing your due diligence when pitch time comes around. It may take you more time to do the necessary research and rework your writing to be newsworthy, but it will undoubtedly be worth the added effort when you get a response from your media contact saying, “This is right up my alley. I’m posting it today.” Happy pitching!
Ethos is a multiplatform branding agency that develops and executes integrated marketing campaigns across multiple channels for companies inside and outside of Maine.
At Ethos, we believe that the most effective way to set a company’s marketing course is by finding its core truth – its ethos. We know that once we discover and communicate that core truth, we can truly make a difference for each client’s unique marketing and business objectives.
With Ethos, you get more than a marketing agency. You get a long-term partner whose goals are your goals.