Pitching is about more than sending emails, crossing your fingers, and hoping for the best. When it comes to outreach, the process starts long before you log into your email account.
If you really want to earn coverage, you’ve got to do just that – earn it. The more time you put into researching and creating your pitch materials, the more likely your recipients are to read the email in the first place and better yet, write about it. Read on for my tips on things you can do in the early stages of outreach to maximize your success.
Know What’s Already Been Covered
No matter how innovative and unique the content you’re pitching is, there’s probably something similar already on the internet. Do a little digging and get familiar with what’s out there. What’s been done, when was it done, and who covered it?
Asking questions like this will help you figure out where your opportunities to earn coverage are. You’ll get a feeling of what journalists find newsworthy about your particular topic and what kinds of sites and reporters will be the most interested.
You don’t have to find exact matches to the content you’ll be pitching. Instead, look for related topics that your content will supplement. For example: if you’re pitching ‘the most popular houseplant in each state’, look for articles on gardening and home decor trends. This will point you to a slew of authors who will care about your content and thus, be more likely to report on it.
If you do find a lot of similar topics in the news, don’t fret. To provide value to journalists, you’ll need to pitch something they haven’t covered before, even if it’s another angle or update to their previous work. Ask yourself: what makes your content different? Is it recently updated data, or does it have some extra information the existing articles missed? Highlight these points to make your content stand out and your pitch will go a long way.
Think Outside of the Box
Most digital PR specialists use media databases to start their outreach lists, but it’s important to remember that these tools are not the end-all-be-all. They’re a great resource to get started, but there are endless outlets and reporters that are not a part of these databases. Writers can opt-out of these platforms to avoid getting spammed by mass pitches, but that doesn’t always mean they don’t want to hear from you.
Get creative when finding journalists to pitch. Use tools like Google News to search for outlets that may not already be on your outreach list. You can also subscribe to source request platforms, such as HARO, to familiarize yourself with new outlets. It may take a little manual labor to find new sources, but it will be worth it when you earn coverage.
You can also consider different types of outlets beyond the traditional online news publication sites. For example, your campaign might be a hit with bloggers, radio sites, or industry trade sites. Additionally, pitch beyond ‘writers’; you may find producers, assignment editors, or station managers that will cover your content. Each of these adds new opportunities for coverage and expands your possibilities for success.
Have a Plan B on Hand… And a Plan C, D, and E.
Just because you think a campaign is interesting doesn’t mean reporters will. It’s important to have a few backup plans in case things don’t go as expected.
Start with perfecting your pitch. I always have at least three subject line options for every outreach message so I can easily swap them out if I’m not getting the responses I’d hoped for. On top of that, I like to write a few versions of the same pitch. They can be as simple as changing the data points highlighted or the structure of the pitch, but these small adjustments can go a long way in resonating with a reporter.
Additionally, think about what other opportunities you have and look for ways you can reframe the campaign to appeal to multiple coverage areas. Is there a particular data point you can craft a new angle around? If you’re pitching a broad analysis campaign, you may be able to target the finance beat with specific cost-related data. If you’re pitching a pop-culture campaign, you may be able to narrow in on a specific celebrity and target entertainment columnists who keep up with that star. There are plenty of ways you can restructure a pitch – you just have to find them.
Finally, consider what options you have to pivot the campaign itself. Think about quick adjustments you could make to add a new angle and increase newsworthiness. Can you add in local data? Have you pulled the most recent stats?
Ask Yourself What You’re Missing
Once you’ve prepared your materials and are ready to start pitching, take one more step back before you hit send.
Go in with a fresh set of eyes and make sure all your bases are covered. Now is also a good time to think about what you’ve done for your outreach in the past. What worked then, and are you using those same strategies? What didn’t work, and have you made changes to avoid repeating problems?
It can be helpful to put yourself in the shoes of a reporter and evaluate your materials from their perspective. Act as if you’re planning on writing a story on this campaign. What would you want to know? How would you want to be approached? This will give you a fresh look at your pitch and allow you to catch things you may have missed the first time around. Be extra critical – you may only get one shot with a reporter’s attention and you don’t want to mess it up with a minor blunder.
A campaign is rarely perfect from the beginning. That’s why taking these steps to be extra-prepared before outreach begins can have a big impact on success. Being prepared is all about getting ahead of problems before they happen, and that goes double when it comes to pitching content. Open up as many opportunities as possible and you’ll be securing coverage before you know it.