Let’s talk about why the media release isn’t dead (and how to nail your pitch).
So we hear ‘media release is dead,’ ‘spray and pray is dead.’ Errythang ded. But…let me tell you, the media release is NAHT dead.
There is still a very important role for a well-documented one-pager that explains everything that you need to tell the media, but it is not an advertising document. More on this later.
Today we’re talking about the merits of media releases, how to craft a damn good pitch, and how to manage the nerves that tweak when someone suggests a phone pitch.
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and confuse the heckin’ bajeezus out of you. I would suggest that once you have a solid relationship in place with your journalist it will be the pitch that gets your story over the line, almost every time.
Media release vs. pitch
I know, I know, it can all get very confusing. But, because we love you, here’s a little list of when a media release or a pitch would be appropriate.
Are you running a campaign? Media release
Are you releasing a new product? Media release
Is there key information that will need to be shared with multiple audiences? Media release
Is this a conversation, an op ed? Pitch
Is this a single issue, single focus, but multiple outlets? Media release
Conversation with ONE outlet? Pitch
Am I presenting several ideas that could run at any time of year? Pitch
Merits of THE Media RELEASE
There is still a very important role for a well-documented one-pager that explains everything that you need to tell the media but it is not an advertising document. A media release is designed to communicate essential information with your ideal audiences about your news announcement. It’s not a story telling piece and it’s not a piece of marketing collateral. It’s highly functional.
When you write it, think about the outlet that you’re sending it to. Consider: WHY DO THEY CARE? It should include quotes from spokespeople in your business who will be made available to interview with media outlets. Before you begin, make sure you’re clear on what you’re trying to communicate, it should be a single focus. So, what is the outcome you are hoping to achieve and what is the campaign concept?
media release dna
Catchy headline: The headline of a media release should be catchy, interesting, and summarise the key points of your announcement.
Date of release: For ‘immediate release’ or ‘embargoed’
Opening paragraph: It is essential your first para is interesting, succinct, and explains the main point of your story. It should answer who, what, when, where, why, and how. Ah puh=lease don’t make the lead paragraph too long — 2-3 sentences is plenty.
Remaining paragraphs should be written in the inverted pyramid structure where the most important information is at the top of the release and the least important is at the bottom.
Always write in the third person and use quotes from you or your media spokesperson.’Odette said’ as opposed to ‘I said’.
Close the release with ‘For further media information contact:’ and include your contact name, email, and phone number. (And keep your phone near by - you don’t want to miss a very important phone call!)
Boiler plate (about us): The boiler plate is a paragraph about your business, event, or subject of the media release. This information will give the journalist an overview and isn’t necessarily needed in the release.
the art of crafting your pitch
Just like you and your business, a good pitch has several layers. Several components that make it interesting. Here are a few:
A total length of fewer than 10 sentences.
Address the journalist or editor by name.
Compliment them on recent articles or features.
Introduce yourself and your brand in a sentence or two.
Explain how your product is a good fit for the editor’s magazine or blog. If they’ve featured something similar in the past, mention that.
Demonstrate your UNIQUE point of view…the thing only you know.
Close with a clear call to action to respond to you. This could be a question or a personal note, offer to submit an opinion editorial piece or share a couple of windows where you might be available for a chat.
Before we begin…
You’re not alone!
This is just about every human’s worst nightmare. The phone pitch is an art that few people are naturally comfortable with, but it can be learned. And it is one of the BEST ways to build a strong and lasting relationship.
As my old boss always said, follow the 5Ps: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
Before you pick up the phone, make sure you have researched your journo, you know what they love writing about and that you have your fact sheets handy and that you EVERY DAMN THING about your industry, your product, the trends, your customer, their pet lizard’s name (it’s Lizzie FYI) and their dental hygiene routine!
While a well-crafted email pitch is the best place to begin, a follow-up call will remind them (or prompt them!) to read your email and help them to remember you but succeeding with your phone pitch entirely depends on your research and preparation.
Ensure you have a strong detail-oriented story angle with timely information. A pitch that lacks a compelling story and a timely hook will NAHT generate interest no matter how much time you spend on the phone.
Before you pick up the phone…
While it can be tricky, try to ascertain if the journo is open to phone pitches. You can search for clues on their media bio, website, or LinkedIn - you might see a note ‘open to email pitches’ or ‘no phone calls please.’
You can also pick up some hints by reviewing their recent coverage, for example, a reporter publishing three stories a day will likely only be interested in breaking news and will not have time to answer their phone.
However, a reporter who publishes two or three stories a week will likely have an open window for taking pitches between stories. When building relationships, it is worth asking about their deadlines and asking when they’re available for calls. Take note, write it in your baby BFF database and ensure you only ever call at the very best time for them.
don’t take no for an answer
I mean, sometimes you have to take no for an answer. But I reckon there’s a bit of wiggle room and this is EXACTLY why I suggest brainstorming multiple angles for an outlet so that you have more ideas up your sleeve for this chat.
Now, if the reporter shoots down your first story idea, use the rejection to dodge and offer another angle - or to gently ask about the kinds of stories they’re looking for. You prepared ten angles for this exact journalist for a reason. Now's the time to carefully present a few alternatives.
If it's a firm no, the decline presents a chance to get feedback on your idea…why did it suck? At this point you might uncover other story opportunities that could be the right fit. For example, if a reporter indicates that the pitch does not align with what they’re writing about, you can ask if they have a colleague who would be a better fit for the story or if they have another story they’re working on that might be an area where you could help.
Persistence generally pays off.
AS IN MEDIA SO IN LIFE…(just call me Yoda…or Guru!)
Now I know that you have digested SO much information over the past few days and you should be bluddy proud of yourselves.
It’s A LOT!
Breathe. Take a beat. Come back to the 5 P’s: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. They’ll save you every damn time.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN (AGAIN!)
Today I want you to begin crafting your media release or pitch. Are you launching a campaign or pitching for editorial content? If you’re working on a media release think about: who, what, why, where, how - these should all be stuffed up front in your opening paragraph. When you have fleshed out your media release you can then think about tailoring a pitch to one of your five journalists. Your pitch should be friendly, affable, well informed, and clearly written to the individual not the outlet…remember you’re sending the email to a person not a magazine or podcast!