I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Public relations is not rocket science. In fact, a lot of it is just common sense.
The first step is to ask yourself what is NEW about your company. In other words, what makes your company worth writing about, and worth writing about right now? Reporters don’t write stories about business as usual. Do you have a new product that you’re launching? Do you have an annual event coming up? If not, can you talk about what you’re doing as part of a trend? Think about how you can make your story newsworthy.
Once you know what you’re story is about, it’s time to write the pitch. Here are some tips to writing a good public relations pitch that is guaranteed to get your story looked at.
1. Send Your Pitch the Right Person
OK, this seems easy, but it's not always easy to do. If you are sending something to a print newspaper, you want to send it to both the reporter who covers your subject matter, as well as the editor who oversees that section. One way to find the right reporter is to do a search for other stories that have a similar focus to yours and look at the person’s byline. Often, reporters will have their email address either in their byline or at the bottom of the article. Another tactic is to go to the publication’s website, click on the “Contact Us” tab, and look for a staff directory or email address to send it to. If all else fails, call the phone number and ask for the person who covers your area (business, theater, health care, etc.).
When contacting people on TV, do NOT send a pitch to the host of a show, unless you happen to be personal friends with them. Producers and assistant producers are the ones who make decisions on stories, not the hosts. This is also true at radio, except at WGN radio and other very small talk stations, where the hosts do decide what they're going to talk about.
2. Personalize the Email
Once I get the name of the person I want to send a press release to, I always address them by name in my email. I highly recommend taking the time to send a personalized email to each reporter, rather than sending out a generic, mass email to everyone. If you can mention their specific section, or reference other things they have covered in the past, they'll know you took the time to think about their publication, and you’ll get much better results.
3. Customize the Angle
Just like you want to change the greeting for each reporter, you always want to vary your pitch based on each publication. If you have an organization that raises money for sick kids on the North Shore, you want to mention kids from Glenview if you send it to the Glenview paper, mention Evanston when you send it to the Evanston papers, and mention kids when you send it to Chicago Parent. Make sure you adjust the subject line of the email to reflect the different angle, too.
4. Start with the Facts
Now, let's talk about the actual email. You don’t need a long introduction about yourself or your company when you send in a pitch. Remember to give the “who, what, when, where, and why” in the very beginning of your email. Keep it short, and you can send a more lengthy press release as an attachment.
4. Include a High-Resolution Photo
This is ESSENTIAL for print newspapers or magazines! Don’t make the reporter do extra work to bug you for a photo later. Make sure you attach a photo that is at least 150 dpi in resolution.
5. Submit News Yourself
These days, lots of websites allow you to post your own content directly to their sites. For example, if you’re promoting an event, you can post it on Metromix, ChicagoParent.com or MakeItBetter.net. You can post articles on Patch.com or Triblocal.com. Check for other sites specific to your industry that have user-generated content, as well.
6. Make It Timely
Reporters and editors are always trying to “peg” stories to other timely events to make them relevant. For example, they’ll be more likely to write about new home sales in May or June, fitness in January, and hotels in the summer. Look for anniversaries, holidays or other significant days of the year to tie your coverage to.
Have a question about how to write a good public relations pitch? Let me know!
Sharp Pencil Marketing