As a professional, getting your articles and quotes into the trade, national and local media can help gain you valuable credibility and authority.
The traditional route used to be to hire a PR specialist to do both the relationship building and legwork to get your name in the press. Times have changed – editors' and journalists' email inboxes are often overwhelmed by PR professionals pitching ideas and press releases to them. If you are going to do your own PR, you will need a little more than luck and an emailed press release to get your pitch noticed.
“A large part of a journalist’s job now is filtering out the weight of information that is out there. Therefore, you will need to somehow stand out to get their attention.”
Gavin Hinks, Freelance Journalist
These are 7 insider tips that I learnt from journalists and use to get high quality media coverage every single month:
1. Do your research on the publication, journalists and editors
Before you pitch a story to a publication, do your homework. If it is a local media outlet they will be interested in the local angle first and foremost.
Make sure you tailor your story and your credentials to the outlet. Your pitch to the publication needs to explain why your story is relevant to the publication’s readership. What problems does it solve for them? What value will it bring their readers? Why will they be interested in what you have got to say?
For example, when Suzy, an Accountant and newly published author, wanted to get coverage in the local media, she started her press release with the phrase, ‘local bean counter tries her luck at writing’.
However tempting it may be, don’t blanket bomb emails with your pitch to editors. Their inbox is already full up! Identify a list of publications you want to target, not just at the current time, but ones you would like to feature in regularly. Then aim to make contact with the editor, particularly the deputy and/or features editor before you want to place a story.
Nearly all newspaper staff are on Twitter and listening out for stories of interest. They may also regularly ask for help with stories. Look out for the #journorequest – it may be a very easy route to getting quoted in an article.
If the editor or journalist is not active on Twitter, then you can always email them a short note introducing yourself and attaching a short 1-pager about you, a link to your blog/website, plus a list of topics that you will be able to help them out with.
If you can show editors similar types of publications where you have been quoted or had articles printed, then this will help you get noticed and used in the future.
2. Make your article very valuable, timely or intrinsically newsworthy
“You are more likely to get published if, when speaking to a journalist or writing, you are bold, lively and opinionated.”
Gavin Hinks, Freelance Journalist
The TV, newspapers and radio are hungry for news. But, what actually makes an article newsworthy? When you *get* this, you will find it much easier to successfully pitch articles to a journalist.
Typically, ‘newsworthy' tends to be anything which involves conflict or has a human-interest element. Unless the publication you are pitching your article to regularly commissions or uses features, your article needs to be timely. For example, has a big national event just happened, such as a royal wedding? How will that affect your target audience?
What newsworthy doesn't mean is self-promotional. Try to avoid your pitch being too self-promotional. Your article will get cut to shreds or discarded if the editor has to remove any self-serving content. After all, the media outlet is not interested in promoting you, but providing valuable content to their readers.
3. Use Twitter and #hashtags
Journalists are often monitoring keywords on twitter to help them find people to contribute to their active stories. For example, my tweeting about #ukstorm #powercut over Christmas led to my first ever appearance on the BBC national news lunchtime bulletin.
After the initial story has broken, journalists are often looking for follow-up stories, or a different angle on the original story. This is a good time to pitch your article to them.
4. Be brief
When pitching your story to the media, you want to whet their appetite and get their buy-in before sending them everything. Save the full article and media kit until you have an editor or journalist interested in your story.
Your aim is to keep the initial contact short and sweet. After all these are incredibly busy people, who often receive in excess of 200+ emails a day. Waste their time and you may find yourself blacklisted for ever.
Remember not to beg editors to read your email, and craft an email title that invites them to open the email and read. Try to keep your email subject title to under 8 words, and tailor your subject to the reader of the email.
5. Don’t expect to catch a fish every time you cast your line
You are unlikely to get picked up by every editor every time you pitch. Ultimately, you want to have a list of publications, ranked in priority order. Then start at the top of the list and work down, until someone bites. Some publications will not take your article unless it is exclusive.
I actually find the words ‘I've not offered it to anyone else yet and if you commit to taking it, you can have it on an exclusive basis' works really well for some journalists and publications.
If you don’t get a response after a week, you may like to try a brief email follow-up. However the reality is that editors and journalists are busy people, and if they wanted the story, they would have probably gone for it when they first saw your pitch.
It is always worth sitting down monthly and brainstorming some ideas for articles. All you need to think of is a catchy headline plus 1–2 paragraph synopsis of the article. Circulate these ideas to the publications you want to feature in, and every now and again, you will be approached for the full article.
6. Don’t get overexposed
No, this is nothing to do with what you wear in your photos for the press! Most publications don’t want to be seen to be actively promoting one expert over another. Therefore, if you have been successfully placing articles or getting quoted regularly in one magazine, you may be passed over for a couple of editions. A magazine will try not to use two articles by the same person or firm in the same edition, or quotes by an expert in two articles in the same edition.
7. Keep your relationships with journalists warm
Probably the best way of getting your article into a media is to cultivate a good relationship with their journalists or editor. When you have a strong and personal relationship, many journalists will readily take many of your articles.
Although this is the last tip in the series, it is probably the most important and effective tip of them all. Your relationships with journalists, if cultivated in the right way will save you from shelling out for a PR agency's help.