Pointers for Pitching Stories to the Media

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pitcher200The key to successfully pitching the media is preparation.  Before you pick up the phone, be prepared to answer two implicit questions from the reporter:  How is what you are pitching interesting and relevant to my audience?  If it is interesting and relevant, why should I publish this story now?

The reporter will probably not literally ask you those questions, but their journalistic mind will be oriented that way.  You will have about 30 to 60 seconds to verbalize your story idea, so you need to be able to summarize the ideas and have supporting information handy.  It would be best to e-mail the reporter in advance a short written pitch with supporting documents (e.g., news release) and images attached.

The city with a summer youth swimming program can serve as an example.  A good story has an individual who personifies a societal issue that affects many others.  In this instance, good preparation could include outreach to the swim program staff to find a past participant willing to tell their story.  The preparation would also involve researching the community/societal issue and gathering summary data that documents the phenomena.

In this example, your 30-60 second pitch could go something like this:  I’m Jane Doe with the City of Golden Hills.  I am one of their PR people.  I sent you an e-mail one hour ago about our summer swim program for kids.  The timing is good with the first day of summer one week away.  The program provides real community value for youth:  teaches them how to swim, promotes exercise and healthy interaction with other kids, trains some to become paid lifeguards, and addresses the problem of childhood obesity.  The e-mail has some attachments:  a news release and a photo and mini-profile of a lifeguard named John Doe who learned how to swim through the program.  Also attached is a fact sheet from a national health association that provides some statistics on how kids who start exercising regularly early in life are less likely to suffer from obesity and other health ailments like diabetes as adults than inactive kids.  John, who was formerly overweight but is now fit, is willing to be interviewed, perhaps at a pool teaching a class of kids how to swim.  Might you be interested in doing a story on this?

If a PR person had prepared in this way, their pitch would have given the reporter a powerful and convenient package that would be hard to ignore:  timeliness, a human example willing to be interviewed, a dynamic program that addresses a community problem, data that documents the extent of the problem, and entertaining visuals — plus an enthusiastic PR person willing to connect the reporter to individuals who could be interviewed and also arrange associated logistics.

The PR person provided the reporter with a story idea that would be interesting and relevant to their audience and gave them good reasons to do it now.

Follow the general pointers in the example above for the programs, people, and issues that affect your employer and clients.  Do this consistently and strategically, and reporters from all mediums — print, TV, radio, online – will be pleased to receive your e-mail pitches and follow- up phone calls.  They will view you as a valuable resource rather than an annoyance.

By using these skills, you can mobilize the media to propagate your message into the wider world in a way that is topical, human, entertaining, socially redeeming, and memorable — and which also provides benefit and value to your employer and client.

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