Over the past couple of days, we’ve walked through media 101, delved into the power of your story, and done a little digging into the profiles of our target audiences to find out exactly where they consume media.
I can’t believe we’re coming to the end of the challenge. If your head is spinning, YOU ARE NORMAL. We’ve covered a lot of ground together, you and I.
Today we’re going to touch on romance and etiquette. No, not the kind that involves an inordinate number of knives and forks with specific purposes. We’re going to go over the etiquette required when pitching your story.
We’ll explore timing, deadlines, romance and gift guides and all of the tools you need (and don’t need!) to get your story to the world through all of your favourite outlets.
Really, if you get all of these things right you’re well on the way to a beautiful romance.
Don’t we all want a lover who is thoughtful, caring, knows our schedules and only brings high quality stories to the conversation...haha or is that just me?
timing is everything
If you’ve poured all of this energy into building your brand and honing your story, the value of making sure that everything lands at the right time can’t be underestimated. Timing is an essential part of your success.
It is so helpful to stay on top of trends and news in your industry so that you can proactively pitch. By that I mean, if you see a headline in the media and you think to yourself, ‘I can add another layer or perspective to this story’ whip out that pen because your story is immediately timely because it’s topical.
So... read the news! (At least while you’re pitching!).
A quick daily scan each morning will set you up for the day.
By harnessing the power of good timing you’ll create a strong narrative that fits into a wider conversation. It’s a current topic, people want to know about it, and you are able to position your product or service smack bang in the middle of all the action.
Think ahead, be prepared, and be consistent.
That slow (multi channel) romance
When it comes to timing and choosing targets to romance, I really like to have a mix of short (digital and radio) and longer (print and TV) lead targets. Having a mixed-channel strategy (of print, digital, and TV) means you have more chances to reach your peeps, multiple times. This allows you to be seen in all of the important places when your consumers are gathering information and choosing to work with you or buy your product.
Oh sweet deadlines
When working with journalists, make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row before pitching to them. I’m talking about channeling some real fortune-teller voodoo here. Go hard on the research so that you can anticipate all the things that are influencing the conversations around your industry and in turn the journalists covering these topics.
Plot the obvious events and dates into your calendar (like Christmas, Mother’s Day, the Australian Open Fashion Week, or Mardi Gras, or Earth day) so that you can craft and crack on with your pitches well ahead of the game.
And seriously, make connections with the relevant people wellllll in advance of when you need them. The more you can project what is going to be relevant in the future and align your pitching with publications and deadlines, the hotter your ticket is going to be. Starting your romance 6-12 months before you need to call of the journalist for a piece of coverage is the absolute sweet spot.
Typically journalists won’t care about you by default, they don’t know you from the next person and they’re swamped enough as it is. But if you are proven to be an expert of value (got the creds, the statistics and the insightful and interesting angles), they will tuck your contact details into their little black book of experts for when they have a related story appear on the horizon. Don’t be surprised if the media release you sent them about a new clinic opening that got crickets turns into an interview opportunity a few months down the track because they’ve flagged you as an expert in gut health.
So you’re planning ahead (yey!) and you’re getting said ducks in said row...here’s some key insights about media flow. These are general in nature and things do vary from title to title and program to program...so do your research but use these insights as a starting point.
News print (Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun, Courier Mail etc) deadlines are typically in the arvo, so an email sent in the afternoon will likely be lost. (Read a day in the life of the SMH editor). Ideas can be pitched a few weeks or months in advance but often for news stories they’re pitched in the week (or less) prior to print. This is an area where a more timely story could bump your story from the agenda so be flexible and agile if a journalist tells you that the story that was going to run has been pushed back. Often the journalist doesn’t know if the piece will run until it’s in the paper.
Print glossy deadlines for major magazine titles work anywhere between 3-6 months in advance. A glossy might include the likes of Gourmet Traveller, Vogue, Nourish and GQ or Women’s Health. Because they’re working so far in advance, it’s important to understand that you’re pitching summer stories in late winter - I’ll admit that it feels very odd talking about the latest beach accessories while rugged up in your snow jackets, but this is the reality! The editions will follow seasonal trends and often they’re chasing similar themes each year so exploring back issues will give you a great idea of what topics might be covered through winter etc (remember to check those media kits).
Print magazines news title weekend lift-outs like the Good Weekend and Stellar work between 3 months and 2 weeks ahead. They plan their magazines around themes and are often linked to seasonal or topical issues so pitching with a few months up your sleeve will get your foot in the door when they’re in the planning phase, rather than having your story slot in as an afterthought. They typically have several very topical columns that relate to current issues or events.
Online news and daily outlets like News.com.au, WHIMN, Yahoo7 and Kidspot typically schedule a week or two ahead, along with some on the day or a few days before. These digital outlets have some of the fastest turnaround times, the news desks might have a mandate for 5-10 pieces of coverage per day so they’re going to be on the hunt for content including interviews with experts or interesting people. Digital outlets tend to love an opinion article. This helps them out immensely as it takes a whole article off their to-do list. They’re generally very open to well written, and well rounded opinion editorial from thought leaders and experts in their field with interesting insights tailored for their readers. If you’re angling for digital publications, stalk the reporter, find out when their newsletters go out, and be prepared to work in line with their daily email newsletter deadline.
Radio is a fast moving beast and one where you really need an interesting, ‘newsy’ or quirky story for their FAST and short deadlines. Most radio stations have various segments with different hosts and producers across AM, midday and PM time slots.The program producer is who you need to connect with (remember you can likely find them on LinkedIn by their job title and the program name). Never pitch during the time of their program...a) they’re busy and b) you’ve immediately told them that you don’t listen to their show! For daily news you can pitch on the day or up to the week prior to your ‘news event’ and for deeper investigative audio (20-40 minute program - think ABC’s Radio National) pieces you might like to pitch in a month or two in advance.
TV is about as broad as it comes. Most of the stories for the nightly news will be influenced by ‘news of the day’ while the rest will be either pitched up to a month in advance and at times, pitched on the day. A segment for The Morning Show or The Project could be scheduled in months in advance (although many of their stories will be linked to issues that have arisen that day or week). Be warned that this is a moving beast. The scheduling for TV, particularly live to air, is like conducting and orchestra of cats on heat. They are compiling news stories on the spot, scheduling programming and dancing on the tightrope so don’t expect that your story will always run. It could get bumped several times over if it isn’t particularly time sensitive.
Podcasts are one of the fastest growing media platforms, and if you’re up on this, you know the joys of finding one that gets inside your brain. Podcasts are all so varied, so it helps to look up their publishing schedule, figure out how often and when they publish, and tailor your approach to suit that. Get in touch with the host and ask them about how far ahead they create their podcasts, when they create or brainstorm ideas, and tailor your approach accordingly.
Help Them Help You
Well written content, video pieces, and beautiful high-res images save time for busy journalists working on deadline. Make life easier for them by providing them with the goods in the form of simple images that can slide seamlessly into their existing layout (from your Dropbox or Google drive…naht as email attachments!).
You might like to consider inviting them to tour your venue, send them samples of your product, or invite them to jump in on one of your sessions free of charge so that they can experience your offering first-hand.
So you send a pitch, and all you hear is the deafening sounds of crickets chirping.
How soon afterwards should you get in touch again?
Consider that maybe your pitch didn’t hit the mark because there was something slightly off with your angle, or timing, or the information you gathered didn’t quite hit home. This is where you double down on your sleuthing. Go deeper on getting to know the media outlet, their audience, and their agenda, what did you miss? You could also consider reaching out to people who have previously featured in their articles and ask how they secured their opportunity.
Got new news? It’s probably fair enough to circle back every second month or quarterly with new ideas (read: NEW ideas, tied into relevant, newsworthy conversations).
I love to send a quick email -
‘Hey xyz, I loved the piece you wrote on xyz - it really hit a chord for me because xyz. How are the dogs/kids/that holiday? I’m sending a little update, some news from our studio and some topics that I thought might be of interest to your audiences of xyz. Here’s some ideas…
Let me know if any of these jump out to you.’
Still crickets? Let it go…
Thereafter, you can send a bi-monthly update with news and angles or new product announcements with epic stories.
With lifestyle products like fashion or beauty, it makes sense to pitch as each new season drops, but in a way that showcases the products PLUS creative stories that go beyond features - consider, how does your new campaign fit in with broader conversations, seasons or trends?
Including stories that speak of body diversity, gender diversity, and/or cultural diversity allows outlets to connect into important social conversations that may be under-represented (hence an opportunity!). When planning your photography shoots for products consider what models might catch the eye of the fashion or beauty editors. Can you break the stereotypical mould and use an up-and-coming model or an interesting new face?
Considering an investment in a strategic influencer, ambassador or model who has media equity of their own can be a great play to ‘stop the presses’. In addition to this, creative and strategic collaborations with other brands to create conversations, leverage reach and influence and build hype is a smart and cost effective way to score headline coverage. If you haven’t already set up an account with Collabosaurus, get around it - it’s the best way to find other brands who are looking to collaborate on campaigns or creative executions.
WHAT THE FLIPPIN’ HECK IS A GIFT GUIDE?
Now, given it is September, now is at the tail end of pitching products for upcoming Christmas gift guides. If you move fast you’re in with a chance. You might be wondering, what is a gift guide? Well almost EVERY publication these days includes a wrap up of their fave products to give for him, for her, for mum and dad...and for the kids, for every major event - think Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
As the timeline for print is a few months ahead, you’re in with a chance to secure a gig in one of the best features for products. Run by the newsagent (or you did that on Monday!) and flick through each of the magazines you have picked up. You will no doubt find a section that features a gallery of products that are highlighted with where to buy them.
To secure a ‘gift guide’ gig, follow these steps:
Find out who manages the gift guide. Phone through to the general line to ask who manages this. Make sure you address them by name in your pitch.
Supply high resolution images of your product on a white background (you want portrait and landscape - in the packaging, out of the packaging and potentially in use too).
Write a short email pitch with links to your website and socials.
Offer to send your product for them to play with and try (they’re not always going to say yes, but it’s good to offer).
Make the subject line count ‘(product description) for gift guide (insert personal link to outlet) + high res images’.
Don’t send attachments, instead send links to Google Drive or Dropbox with your additional images.
Go get ‘em tiger, you better be quick for Christmas guides (in print, you’re good for digital!).
OVER TO YOU
Now that you’re all over what it takes to woo your chosen journalist or media outlet with finesse, it’s time to post up at your action stations!
Block out your diary and map out your flow over the next 6-12 months. Who are you going to contact, and when? (i.e. in September, I will contact xyz about xyz topics).
What kinds of events will you tie your pitches to? Map those dates into your diary so that you have those reminders of who you’re reaching out to and when you’re looping back in for follow up and add your new BFFs to your Christmas card list.
And…If you’re a product based business, select your targets for gift guides and start framing up a pitch to secure the holy grail of media coverage.