What if you’re working on a story idea or press release and you do a quick Google search and – no!
Someone has just done the same story.
All your hard work has gone down the pan.
Or has it?
Should you contact a journalist who has just written the story you want to pitch?
Just because someone has already written the story you’ve been toiling over doesn’t mean it’s dead in the water.
Because if it’s piqued the interest of a journalist and editor once, chances are that it will again.
In this podcast I’m sharing advice on what to do if a journalist has already covered your story and you can listen in on the player link or read as a blog post.
What to do if your pitch is linked to an Awareness Day?
There are thousands of awareness days that run each year and journalists use these as prompts for story ideas.
For instance, last month it was National Dog Photography Day and Kerry Jordan who founded the day featured in a number of publications for her pet photography business.
If you have a pitch and it’s linked to an awareness day, it’s really important to get in there early because other people may have the same idea.
But what if you pitch and it’s too late? Freelancer Eimear O’Hagan wrote a story about Brain Injury Awareness week last year.
Shortly afterwards, a lady named Emma Stewart got in touch with her with a real life story about how she sustained a brain injury while cycling.
While he was too late to be used around the awareness day in 2019, Eimear covered the story the following year and it was a double page spread in the Daily Express.
She shared this post in the Lightbulb Group which connects journalists with business owners.
Eimear said: “Good things come to those who wait…this time last year Lightbulber Emma Stewart contacted me with her story but had just missed a national ‘awareness’ week which was the perfect hook.
“Today it ran in the Express with a namecheck for her company.”
So if you have a story that links to an awareness day, and you’ve just missed it, don’t despair.
Also, consider other similar awareness days that could tie in with your story. Emma’s was about riding a bike without a helmet.
She used the Brain Injury Awareness Week in May as a hook, but she could also consider Road Safety Week that takes place in November.
What if your pitch is based on a survey or study?
If I had a pound for every press release that’s landed in my inbox about pets and lockdown.
But each week I see the same stories appear in different publications so my advice would be to keep chipping away.
A few years ago I wrote a story about Pet-ernity leave which is where pet owners are given time off by their employers to settle their pet in.
It can be called Paw-ternity leave too and if you do a Google search, loads of stories come up about it.
But this was in April 2016 when it was a new ‘thing’ and I’d been asked to find examples of employers who had given time off.
I interviewed Greg Buchanan who runs Bitsol IT solutions in Urmston and introduced two weeks off for all new pet owners after his partner took time off to settle their dogs.
This was picked up by This Morning and news sites all over the world.
It was based on some research by PetPlan and after the piece ran, I had an email from a PR for another company, Pawshake, who provide pet sitting services.
They’d done similar research and wondered if I might be able to do another piece. I couldn’t, I’d just done that very same story.
Now I know a lot of journalists say they find it ‘annoying’ when PRs do this. But at the time I was writing loads of pet stories for the Sunday Mirror pet page.
So I gave the PR a call and said while it was too soon to cover that story, did they have anything else?
She had a Pawshake pet sitter with a cat that gave Reiki healing, so we did that story.
What if the journalist covers the topic again?
If it’s a timely story – perhaps a Christmas or wedding season angle – then they may write a similar story every year and want a fresh face or angle.
For instance, I’ve written about pets at weddings several times. It’s usually done in June or July as we head into wedding season.
I’ve covered wedding chaperones for pets, couples who have pets as bridesmaids and page boys, and even a woman who married her dog.
Each year, I need some stats to go with that story. So if someone sends me a press release with fresh research, even though I’ve written about it before, I may use it.
Another topic I’ve written about lots is pet influencers. The first story I did was for the Mail on Sunday in May 2017.
But last month, three years on, in July 2020, I did a story on pet models.
When the story came out I had other owners of pet models contact me to say they had a superstar pet and could I consider them next time?
What about product roundups?
Let’s say you’ve just launched a pet activity tracker and you read a review story about another tracker brand.
While the journalist may not be able to do the same story about your tracker, where they review it in exactly the same way, they may cover trackers again.
Their next feature could be a round up of the best pet activity trackers like this one I did for Indy Best.
So if you get in touch and offer to send them one of your trackers to test out, this could be an opportunity for them to review your product.
This is an example from IndyBest of a feature I did prompted by messages about pet trackers.
Can I change the angle of my story?
If you have a story about separation anxiety and owners returning to work, and some data or statistics on this, can you change the angle?
One of my members Kerry Lawson is a dog trainer and runs The Happy Dog Project and she said she wanted to create a press release about separation anxiety.
But she was worried that it had been covered so much. So we flipped the idea around and instead she decided to do a pitch about owners returning to work.
Kerry appeared on the radio and in a newspaper talking about how to prepare your dog for you returning to work.
She also shared advice on how offices can become dog friendly and talked about the benefits for both dogs and owners for having pets at work in the Sunday Express which you can read here:
With Pawshake, the pet-ernity story had already been done, but I kept hold of their data so when I covered the topic again, I had fresh statistics.
Should you send a press release to a journalist who has just covered the exact same story?
My advice would be yes.
As long as you send an email saying you saw the piece and if they cover the topic again, explain what you have to offer them.
Don’t ask for them to update the story to include your quotes, products or data, because they can’t do this and they may find it annoying.
The worst that can happen is that they simply delete it. They’re not going to hold it against you, it will be forgotten in a nano-second.
The best scenario is that they’ll hold onto the story for the future or they might give you a call and see if there’s anything else you can offer them.
For Pawshake, it led to three pieces of national coverage in nine months which is no mean feat.
Ultimately, take whatever opportunity you can to build relationships with journalists and even if you don’t get a yes every time, don’t be disheartened.
If you’re thinking of pitching a story, remember you can never be too early, so you might like to listen to How early do I need to pitch to a journalist.