6 steps to pitch journalists (that will always work)

Stop shooting off press releases and hoping for the best. This PR pro swears this approach will get you on a reporter’s good side.


Like many of you, when I began my career I was thrown into the deep end of the media relations pool.

The expectation was that if I could create relationships with journalists, I’d eventually be able to do the same with the executives in our office and at our client’s offices.

To do that—and be seen as someone who was motivated, driven and promotable—I spent many years cultivating relationships with journalists. I got to know their beats, what they would or wouldn’t cover, and even their birthdays so I could send a card, cupcakes or booze.

Then 2008 hit. Newspapers folded, popular magazines went under and a lot of my friends—those I’d known for more than 10 years—lost their jobs.

Suddenly the journalists who were left had to cover automakers, manufacturing and small business, even though small business might have been their only beat previously.

They were too busy to take phone calls, go on media tours or even sit with you for an hour to talk about what you had coming up.

The role of the communications professional changed when it came to media relations.

Get the attention of journalists

Almost exactly four years ago, Steve Strauss, the small-business expert at USA Today, wrote an article called “Should Entrepreneurs Twitter? Uh, No.

I read it with great interest, mostly because I had amazing success using Twitter to build a brand.

In it, Strauss detailed the four reasons entrepreneurs should not use Twitter. I thoughtfully responded on his article and pointed out the four reasons they should use it—and other social networks, too.

Because my comment was thoughtful and professional, he called me and we talked about social media in general. About 30 minutes into the call, he asked if we could go on record.

What came of that conversation was “Twitter for Small Business…Reconsidered.”

Because Strauss is like everyone else, swamped with little to no time to listen to pitches from PR professionals, he reads the comments on his articles to see if there is anything worth revisiting or diving into more deeply.

Pitch journalists on your own

Hence, the response campaign was born.

It’s not a very creative title, but my team and our clients know what it means: Spend time reading and responding to journalists and they’ll eventually add you to their Rolodexes.

Here is a step-by-step process to create this magic for yourself:

1. Choose one newspaper, magazine or blog that makes a difference in your industry. It can be the Wall Street Journal or a trade publication. Choose just one.

2. Comment on an article, blog post or editorial once a week. If you disagree, say so, but do it professionally. Being negative or criticizing without a solution isn’t helpful. Professional discourse is.

3. Keep this up.

4. After about six weeks, the journalist will feel like he or she is beginning to know you and will call you for a story in the works.

5. Add another publication every quarter so you have four that you focus on each year.

6. Don’t be afraid to go after big publications. If your expertise adds value to the stories they’re reporting on, comment away!

If you are consistent and post intelligent comments once a week, you’ll soon develop relationships with journalists who call you when they need someone to interview.

Yes, it takes some time. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, it requires you to keep up with your reading. But it works 100 percent of the time.

Wouldn’t you rather do that than send a news release to 1,000 journalists and not get a single bite?

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. A version of this article originally ran on Spin Sucks.

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Topics: PR

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