Getting your story through to the media is no easy task, but personally pitching your press releases might be your best bet. After all, “PR” also stands for “personal relations.”
We caught up with Brad McCarty, editor and director of business development of The Next Web. He shared his advice on how to get tech journalists interested, how not to pitch, and how you should distribute press releases.
Use the basics to tell a great story
Although they have different interests, you can successfully approach journalists with these simple, basic things:
- A subject line, without buzzwords, that grabs attention.
- A two- to three-sentence explanation of what the company is doing or announcing.
- A link to the press release—do not copy and paste it in the body—with the relevant information the journalists will need to write their stories.
If you have these three things, McCarty assures you he will read your pitch. But when it comes to clicking through, it comes down to a great story told in a few words.
The three-sentence explanation in the email should be a good teaser for the bigger picture. It should not uncover all the details, but leave the journalist wanting to discover them.
Don’t be a used car salesman
Another piece of advice is to remember you are talking to a human. Thus, the used car salesman approach for your pitch doesn’t work.
Email pitches with a 50-word subject line, huge wall of text and buzzwords galore suggest to McCarty that you haven’t bothered to take the time to get to know your client or company. If you haven’t, why would he?
Companies should focus on telling the story of who they are, what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
Be objective and do your research
According to McCarty, companies handling their own PR need to realize they’re uniquely unqualified to tell their stories. Potential customers will never be as attached to your story as you are. It’s the journalist’s job to tell it in the best way to his or her readers, even if it’s in a different way than the company imagined.
Pitching a journalist just because he mentioned one keyword will never work. Do your research, follow him on Twitter and look at what he cares and writes about. Chances are he actually mentioned the keyword in a negative context.
Avoid bad pitching
Nine out of 10 pitches that end up in an editor’s email are bad. Avoid sending a bad one by knowing what news is, and customizing the message.
Bad pitches are huge, spammy walls of text that push information that would tenuously be called news on the slowest of days. They have bland information a company desperately uses to grasp at some tiny chance of being included in the day’s news cycle.
Emails titled “Dear media contact” or that contain unconvincing lines like, “ABC site (i. e. competitor media outlet) just wrote about company XYZ and we think you should too,” fall in the same category.
Or even worse, bad pitches are the copy/paste emails in which the sender considers his story to be perfect for the previous publication he sent the email to.
Send personalized pitches
McCarty is convinced bloggers and journalists would love it if every email they receive was personally tailored and a perfect fit. Everybody wants to feel special.
But he also understands there are logistical problems that come into play. As long as you make sure the basics are still in place, mass distribution can be part of the game plan.
Just remember that the most important part of the term “news story” is “story.” Without that story, it’s just another speck of dust in an already windy world.
Andrei Florian is the community manager for PressDoc, a PR tool for creating and sharing online press releases. Use promo code “ragan” to redeem a one-month trial subscription.