So, you’ve been given a new campaign and you have an opportunity to knock this project out of the park. Exciting, right?! Your message and contact list are the peanut butter and jelly of outreach. They’re good separately, but amazing together. A great outreach message won’t make it far if it isn’t reaching the most relevant writers.
Understanding a journalist’s beats and roles is essential to building an effective outreach list. Even as a former journalist, I still struggle with this at times. At the start of a project, and even throughout, you must ask yourself the following questions to ensure you are contacting the correct writers for your campaign.
- If I was a/an ___ writer, would I want to write about this campaign?
- How is this relevant to a/an ___ writer?
- Is there an aspect of this campaign that directly connects to a/an ___ writer?
You can fill in in the blanks with beats such as home decor, entertainment, features, breaking news, or anything under the sun. As a part of the promotion team at Go Fish, I ask myself these questions several times throughout the workweek.
There are also a few other tips I use to ensure no writer is left behind. Check them out below!
Think Outside the Beats!
Some campaigns are pretty straightforward, meaning the idea will only work with one or two specific beats. However, other campaigns provide an opportunity to pitch a variety of beat writers from different angles. This is where you can get creative and think outside of the box!
For example, I recently promoted an illustration campaign called “Imagining the Work From Home Spaces of our Favorite #GirlBosses.” This campaign included iconic TV characters such as Liz Lemon from 30 Rock and Jessica Day from New Girl. Initially, you may think, “I should pick home decor and entertainment writers,” and you’re not wrong.
But let’s dig a little deeper.
This campaign included strong career women, TV shows that aired on national networks, and amazing illustrations.
So, you could pitch the following beats:
- NBC general assignment
- FOX general assignment
Pitching to a wider variety of beats provides more opportunities to gain links.
Are You Missing a Role?
Reporters should be your first option when choosing writers for your pitch list. However, there are other roles in the newsroom that have the authority to pick and assign stories. As a former news producer and digital content producer at a local TV station, I chose between 10-20 stories on a daily basis to fill my half-hour or one-hour show, as opposed to the reporters who chose one big story for the day. See the difference in probability in this scenario? Your story has a higher chance of being picked if you include news producers and digital content producers to your outreach list, especially when you are pitching a local angle. The story will most likely be written by a digital content producer for the TV station’s website, and that’s where our link comes in. Additionally, this can lead to television coverage, which is exciting for the client.
It is also important to include assignment editors, news directors, and editors in your outreach list. These roles are in charge of the newsroom, whether it is an online/print publication or a broadcast station. These roles often assign reporters their stories throughout the day. They also have the ability and time to thoroughly scan emails for great story ideas.
On many occasions, I remember my former news director entering the newsroom saying “Did you guys see that email about ____? Somebody needs to put that in their show!”
Local, Local, Local!
Chances are most of your content campaigns will require local pitching. Always choose a variety of TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, and magazines in that city or state. Add writers from at least one outlet within these different platforms.
For example, if a newspaper doesn’t have time to cover your campaign, a radio station might mention it on-air and then write a quick piece for their website. Expose your campaign to all possibilities.
They Just Wrote About That!
This is a great tip I recently learned from my promotion teammates. Pitch people who have recently written about your topic. All this takes is a quick Google search; simply click on the news tab and find between 3-5 writers who have recently written about your topic. Add those writers to your outreach list and send them a personalized follow-up message. Pick an interesting data point or angle in your campaign that wasn’t covered in their previous article and encourage them to write a follow-up piece.
I hope you’ve gained at least a few new tips on how to build the ultimate outreach list. Remember, it’s never too late to turn a campaign around, even on your last day of pitching. If you have a great idea to add writers from a new beat or journalism role, don’t hesitate to start pitching.
Now go out there and get those links.