We believe what we see on TV. We believe what we hear on the radio. There’s no question about whether getting media coverage is impactful for a brand or not; however, the vast majority of press releases trying to earn media coverage go totally unnoticed by journalists. And with good reason. When it comes to press releases, too many people disregard the basic aspects of how to pitch a story to journalists, and that’s where the main issue lies.
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If your press releases are not yielding the results you want, you could be falling victim of several bad practices. The art of pitching a story to reporters is not as easy as one might initially think, and dealing with unhappy clients simply because your press releases are not getting them the results they want (you promised?), well, that’s not pleasant either. But worry not. If you want to get better at the press release game, here are 5 reasons that could explain why your pitches are not getting the attention you want.
You don’t put yourself in the journalist’s place
For a second, pretend you are the reporter. Pretend you are the one who needs to feel like covering the story. Is this topic what you usually cover? Does it relate to the area you’re familiar with? If you answered no to both questions then ask yourself: “Why am I sending this to this person, if this is not what they usually cover?” The answer is quite simple: Because you never put yourself in the journalist’s place.
Too many PR professionals pitch stories to reporters without even considering whether the reporter is familiar with the story, which is why most of them pass on press releases. Think: Who is responsible for finding out the details on a story? You, as a PR professional, or the reporter? That’s right: you. People trying to get exposure should strive to be personal —send an email to just one person and explain how you and that story can provide value to their audience they usually cover. Avoid at all costs to promote yourself. Instead, try to explain why and how you can help them do their job. At the end of the day a journalist’s job is not to promote you or you client no matter how much you both want to be promoted. Help them do their job and be there as a resource, and that’s how you are going to get the coverage you seek.
It isn’t newsworthy, and it’s just too long
The vast majority of press releases are pitched in a wrong way: “Please, give my client media coverage!” There is nothing newsworthy there. Besides, media outlets don’t provide media coverage just because. Instead of pitching the same message to every journalist you know, personalise your pitches accordingly, and strive to educate them on what’s going on.
Do you know how many press releases do journalists get on a daily basis? Chances are, someone else is pitching the same story you’re pitching too, so why should they pick yours above the others? When it comes to being newsworthy you have to differentiate yourself and personalise your message to the individual you’re pitching the story to. Additionally, try to keep it short, enticing and get straight to the point without elaborating too much. If you don’t do that, all the time and energy you put into writing a press release will be wasted.
You disregard the fact that earning media coverage takes time (sometimes, more than you expect)
Simply put: there’s no shortcut. It takes time. But it works! When it comes to earning media, you need to have a long term strategy and a long term goal, which is something you need to be conscious of in the first place. Earning media is not something that happens over night, and even though it has in the past, it’s very rare. A well crafted PR campaign takes months of reaching out and following up, and you, as a company or PR professional, need to be seen pulling the trigger, building interest over time. If you want to see ROI fast, focus on where your audience is hanging out. Not all media outlets are the same.
As for how long will it take for you to get to where you want to get? No one knows! It could take a day, a week, a month, a year… It will happen, but since you don’t control media outlets, it is of paramount importance to always remember that a PR campaign takes time for to yield the results you want. And since every case is different, a long term approach is the most prudent and reasonable way to when it comes to earning media.
You don’t pitch in a timely manner
Pitching at the right time is everything! Pick a time that benefits your story. Imagine you’re pitching a story about a Tex-Mex chain. You would definitely want your chain to be showcased on Tuesday because it’s National Tequila Day and Taco Tuesday. So you should be making your pitch in a timely manner. Follow up every 3 or 4 weeks, and if nothing happens, it’s maybe time for a new pitch or an entire new angle. You don’t need to follow the same angle —try a different angle for a different audience. You will be amazed by how things might turn out.
It wasn’t what the journalist needed, it’s when they needed it
If the person you’re pitching your story to works in TV, what would he or she do with high resolution pictures or quotes? That’s right: nothing. What would be more suitable, then? That’s right: an interview. When it comes to press releases, and given the fact that journalists receive dozens, if not hundreds, of press releases every day, you stand a very small chance of being picked. Unless it’s a special report, all press releases face the same fate.
With that said, you shouldn’t pitch just one person. Pitch a variety, instead. One person cannot cover you all the times you want to be covered. Start building relationships with everybody, and depending on the topic you’re pitching about you will know who will yield the best result.
And remember, sometimes there are alternatives to a press release which may get better results for you.