Attaching your organization or a company leader to a news story can grab media attention.
Reporters are always looking for insightful and credible sources to offer background information for pieces on the particular industry and topics they cover. A savvy PR pro knows how to connect their client with a reporter as a story unfolds to maximize coverage potential.
However, a poorly timed pitch will only irk the reporter, who might have been able to use your source a couple of hours prior, but now can only click “delete.”
Here are four rules for PR pros to live by:
1. Build a relationship first.
If you want to be a go-to source for a journalist, you have to develop a rapport, asking questions and tailoring your pitches accordingly. Learn their publishing schedule, what kinds of stories they cover and which expert source(s) might interest them.
Unfortunately, far too many PR pitches reek of laziness, and that can be damaging.
With the 24-hour news cycle and online publishing, getting your quote included in an article requires early pitching. Make sure your pitch provides everything a reporter might need, including your expert’s full name and a short bio. (Make it 25 words, tops; 10 words is even better.)
When building a relationship with a reporter, don’t make yourself a nuisance nor waste their time with phone calls about nothing. Read their articles, and pitch a story or two that would fit their beat. Start with evergreen content, and work your way toward time-sensitive material.
However, building a relationship doesn’t mean being overly friendly or obsequious. A reporter might not respond well to flowery praise, even when it’s merited. Who are you to give them a performance review?
Instead, offer something they can use. A PR pro who can deliver the goods can become an essential resource for a busy journalist—and all it requires is doing your job well.
2. Don’t pitch an add-on to a story that’s already been covered.
This recently came to PR Daily:
Hi Ted – I saw that you covered Instagram’s shopping checkout feature and thought you might also be interested in receiving commentary from [redacted]’s President, … who can share his perspective on how this change will impact D2C brands? I’ve included some commentary below:
PR experts preach the importance of knowing what a reporter covers, and many industry pros will suggest that in your pitch you mention pieces a reporter has written.
However, pitching a time-sensitive topic is different.
Once a story has been covered by a media outlet, that topic goes dormant unless a major development occurs. For an example of how big a “major development” should be, think about Facebook’s rolling crisis in 2018. Every incremental update slightly skewed the way the public viewed the company. Your executive’s two cents about an ongoing situation probably isn’t newsworthy.
So please, PR pros, don’t send a pitch piling on a story that’s already been published.
3. Don’t send examples of your coverage somewhere else.
Even though your objective is to get your name out there as much as possible, that’s not the journalist’s priority. A media outlet wants to sell newspapers or airtime, and that means they want an exclusive story. If your expert has been quoted already, it means the journalist doesn’t have something new, just content recycled from a competitor.
If you got coverage somewhere else, brag all you want to your client, but leave it out of your pitch.
4. Be proactive.
Here is an example of a common pitch:
I wanted to reach out and see if you’re planning any coverage surrounding Instagram and Facebook being down around the U.S. and its effect on public relations firms. These social media platforms are so engrained in the daily communication efforts of various businesses and an event like this shows how reliant we are on them. If so, I would like to present the principal of our firm [redacted] for additional insight on the immediate sharing nature of these platforms and how they have become an integral part of the PR strategy.
When pitching time-sensitive commentary, a feeler email can be a waste of time. Reporters are working on tight deadlines, and if you can offer immediate, usable insight, you’ll have a better chance of having your commentary picked up.
Here is an example of a PR pro who is taking the initiative:
In case you or a colleague are following this I wanted to get this over to you.
As you know, Apple has shut down Facebook’s ability to distribute internal iOS apps. The shutdown comes following news that Facebook has been using Apple’s program for internal app distribution to track teenage customers for “research.”
[Redacted] is the president and owner of [redacted], a full-service digital marketing agency. He manages the needs of clients along with the need to ensure protection of their consumers, which has become one of the top concerns from clients over the last year. …
Please feel free to use all or parts of [redacted]’s comments above in your stories. Please just let me know if you do. Thank you.
By providing commentary—and offering to follow up if something more specific is necessary—this pitch has a better chance of making it into a story being assembled on deadline.
How have you had success with newsjacking? Please share your stories in the comments.