Are you thinking of approaching a journalist with a pitch or story idea and need to know the best way to go about it?
Every day journalists are sent hundreds of press releases, invitations and messages and inboxes are so busy that e mails can get lost.
The reality is that many go unopened because they aren’t what that particular writer is looking for.
But with a little research, you can vastly improve your chance of success.
The way you approach the journalist matters, and there are a number of routes you can take to make it more likely for your story to land.
If you’d like to listen to this post, you can tune into my podcast here:
Here are seven ways to approach a journalist:
Follow the #journorequest hashtag on Twitter
This hashtag is journalists calling out for people to help them and to be featured and is such an easy way to get coverage.
You don’t need to go through the lengthy and often painful process of pitching or writing a press release. All you need to do is respond to a tweet.
This morning, I had a look at #journorequest and pets in a Twitter search and found loads of requests which would be perfect for pet business owners.
Join Facebook groups
These are dedicated groups where journalist go looking for experts and case studies.
Again, because pets are such a huge part of our lives, many reporters are writing about them, and if they need an expert comment, they post on group pages like Feature Me and Lightbulb Entrepreneur and Press Hangout.
For example, I recently put forward Sue McCabe, a dog trainer who runs Muttamorphosis in Newcastle, to give expert comment on the impact of relationship break ups on dogs.
She appeared in the Telegraph and her business was mentioned.
You can read it here: Telegraph: Who gets the dog?
Answer requests in the publication
Read the publication you want to be featured in. Last weekend I went home and read the Warrington Guardian and saw lots of ‘come ons’ in the paper.
On the Business page was a big box at the top titled ‘We want to hear from you’ and the e mail address and the phone number of the reporter dealing with that section.
If you’re feeling nervous about pitching, this helps you reframe your mindset. You’re helping the journalist by getting in touch.
It’s unlikely you’ll find a journalist at a BNI meeting but if you’re at an event and meet a journalist, start relationship building. Take business cards, get their e mail address and follow up.
Have an ‘Elevator’ pitch explaining what you do clear in your mind, so you don’t find yourself waffling on and miss an opportunity to pique their interest.
For example, Karen Rhodes who runs Luxury Dog Hampers is currently working with me on the Publicity for Pet Businesses online coaching programme.
If she was to meet a journalist she would introduce herself as the owner of a luxury dog hamper business – think Fortnum and Mason for dogs.
It’s simple, punchy, and would make an impression. If they were writing about pampered pets in future, Karen would be front of mind.
Friend or family recommendation
Do you know anyone who know a journalist who might be able to introduce you?
A personal recommendation means you don’t have to fight with all the other brands and PRs who are vying for their attention in their inbox.
Like in the example above, make sure you can explain what you do succinctly and try to think about how you can give value to their readers.
Don’t assume because you have a mutual connection that they will write about you – you have to give them something of interest that is newsworthy.
Look at their regular pages and pitch an idea
If there’s a particular journalist you want to connect with, make sure you read their articles first so you know what they’re interested in.
Perhaps they run a gadget column each week where they feature cat tech products and you make cat doors which are activated by the pet’s microchip.
Show that you have taken the time to read their work. Your e mail might say something like: “I enjoyed reading about the cat activity tracker in your column this week.
“I’ve recently launched a cat door which is opened by the cat’s microchip and I wondered if this might make an interesting feature?”
Send a press release
Finally, you can send a press release. This is often the first thing business owners think they need to do if they want to approach the media.
A press release is a document containing the vital information the journalist needs to know so they can decide whether or not the story is of interest.
A good press release can be copied and pasted in its original form and used as a story.
I have a free press release mini-course on how to write your press release which comes with a series of tips on where and how to pitch your story.
Plus case studies of people who have had their press releases featured in local, regional and national newspapers, TV and radio shows.
You can get it delivered to your inbox here: Pet Business Press Release series.
The more creative you can be in the way you approach journalists the more likely it is that your story will be covered.
It might sound like you need to do a lot of work to get in front of a writer, but remember, you’re not looking to get publicity every week.
I usually suggest to clients they try to come up with a handful of story ideas each year and build relationships so they reach the point where journalists are approaching them.
It takes time but it can be done.
You can pick up lots of tips and tricks on the Pet Business Press Release series here.