Pitching a story to a journalist is like trying to get the prettiest girl in your high school to notice you. A good journalist has tons of people fighting for her attention, and a reputation to uphold. She’s not going to date (errrr…I mean…write about) just anyone. You’ve somehow got to convince her that your pimply, squeaky-voiced startup is actually a charming, “most-likely to succeed,” new business with a winning smile. And even then, there’s a good chance she’ll say “no”…or ignore you altogether.
But with the right strategy, you can increase the chances she’ll say “yes.” In a Helpfest talk at American Underground, communications strategist Billy Warden of GBW Strategies shared some of the tactics he’s found successful when pitching to press. I’ve summarized his advice into 6 main tips.
1. Think of press as another customer
This was the theme of Billy’s entire presentation. Understanding that journalists are customers means that, like any other customer, you have to understand their needs. Quite simply, a journalist needs compelling news. But compelling news isn’t what matters to you. Instead it’s what matters to that journalist’s readers. Therefore, you must make sure you’re targeting the right journalists based on what they cover, who their audience is, and how accessible they are. Then you must feed them relevant, valuable content.
2. Challenge the status quo
If your pitch doesn’t tell how your company is challenging the norm, it probably isn’t a story worth telling.
3. Connect on a human-level
Your startup has a founder, and that is often a good angle to begin pitching your company to press. What are the founder’s quirks? What makes her stand out? What set of interesting experiences led her to start her company?Presumably, the journalist’s readers are human, so what about your founder’s story can connect with them on a human-level?
4. Be a reliable source
It’s unlikely that the journalist knows everything about your field, so it is up to you to fill in the gaps and give him context as to why what you’re doing matters. Stay up to date on trends in your industry and let the reporter know when something new happens. And it’s worth saying again, where you break from those trends is where you are the most newsworthy.
5. Make it easy
A journalist is super-busy, super-bombarded, and the news world moves super-fast. Make his life easier by answering his questions before he asks them, providing statistics to quantify your work and success, providing 3rd party validation from credible sources, and keeping your press releases concise with compartmentalized information that is easily digestible and visual.
6. Make connections count
Press Releases are “old school” but still effective and help to dress you up. But be “new school” too! Tweet at journalists — it’s easier to find their twitter handles than their email addresses, so use that to your advantage. But don’t just tweet them when you have a story to pitch, tweet when you like something they’ve written or to feed them information they might find interesting. Finally, be brave and call reporters, but only after you’ve already sent them an email or press release that you can reference. Just know that they will be evaluating you, trying to determine how credible you are. So make sure you’ve practiced that call a few times.
There you have it. 6 tips from Billy Warden’s Helpfest talk that can improve your chances of getting a “yes” from a reporter. Watch the full talk below for more strategic gems!
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