Nothing beats media coverage in amplifying your content marketing and thought leadership, and generally building your brand. And a key tool for winning media coverage is the humble media release – which these days might be a conventional document, an email, a social media message or a carrier pigeon. Anything that gets your news to a journalist.
Whatever your approach, the trick is to identify the right journalists to target and then create a compelling package they’ll want to unwrap for their readers. To help you out, the former journalists on our team have put their heads together to come up with some tips.
1. Do your homework
To give your media release the best chance of success, start by researching the publications and sites you’re interested in approaching and make sure your story is relevant to their audience. Find out if they’ve run any similar stories to the one you want to place and if they have, come up with a new angle.
Also look for journalists who cover the type of story you want to place and familiarise yourself with their work. Tailoring a media release to a specific journalist’s area of expertise or style of writing can increase the likelihood of them picking it up.
These steps matter because journalists are inundated with media releases and other ideas. The 2021 Global State of the Media survey by Cision found that 53 per cent of journalists receive more than 50 story proposals each week. More than a quarter receive more than 100 pitches every week. But most of the pitches end up in the virtual trash because they simply aren’t relevant to the journalists.
The good news is that the survey found that most journalists (78 per cent) do want to receive news announcements and press releases from organisations. Sixty-eight per cent want to receive original research reports, 45 per cent want invitations to events (even if it’s only so they can enjoy a few drinks with their friends on your tab) and 43 per cent want story ideas they can develop.
Source: Cision, 2021 Global State of the Media Report
2. Find the angles most likely to generate interest
Make sure the story or angle you’re pitching is timely. In today’s fast-moving media environment, stories can get stale quickly.
There’s no doubt, for example, that the slow start to Australia’s vaccination campaign was an important story in early 2021. But now, with states reaching vaccination targets and relaxing many COVID-19 restrictions, the focus is firmly on economic recovery.
Story ideas with an ‘it factor’ that will translate into web traffic and social shares – and ultimately, ad revenue – are also likely to attract journalists’ attention. This might be a fresh angle on a story that’s already trending, a compelling data point or a strong opinion that will generate discussion around the water cooler.
3. Cut the fluff
According to Greentarget’s Disrupting the Press Release study, most journalists will only spend one minute reading a press release, so you need to cut to the chase.
We’ve written a whole other blog on how to write a media release, but basically it comes down to this: be precise, be economical and get to the point.
Remember, you’re not trying to write an article a journalist will publish word for word. You’re simply supplying building blocks that a journalist can use to construct their own story: an angle, interesting facts, original opinions, compelling statistics and people to quote or interview.
4. Be transparent
Journalists need to be good at finding things out to do their jobs properly. This makes it even more important to be transparent when dealing with them.
This means being upfront about commercial relationships that might undermine the objectivity of your story and including verifiable sources for any statistics or quotes you use.
If you’re pitching to more than one journalist in an organisation, let everyone know that’s what you’ve done, so there are no surprises for anyone.
5. Think about how you can add value
Once you’ve drafted your media release, consider how else you can add value. Do you have an infographic or video package you can share? Is there a subject matter expert available who can speak with journalists who want more details?
With almost half of journalists (45 per cent) filing seven or more stories a week, according to the Cision survey, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that journos appreciate proposals that make their jobs easier.
Supplying all the information they need up front – such as data, infographics, images and suggestions of experts to interview – reduces the pressure on journalists to source these critical details themselves and increases the likelihood of them covering your story.
At the very least include a logo and an image (when was the last time you read an article without a photo?), to save journalists time later.
6. Follow up
Unless there’s a good reason for urgency, give journalists a couple of days before you follow up your pitch with a phone call or second email. And don’t be a stalker – especially if you’ve ignored tip one and sent your media release to journalists who might not find it relevant.
Other common irritants for journalists include spam, pitches that sound like marketing brochures, lack of transparency and repeatedly following up a story idea that’s not relevant.
7. Be responsive to enquiries
Many journalists work to tight deadlines, which makes it important to respond to questions or requests for more information quickly. When sending out a media releases it’s critical to include a media contact. Include a mobile phone number and email or social details so they can be easily contacted even if they’re working remotely.
Line up subject matter experts ahead of time, so they’re already fully briefed if a journalist wants to speak with them. Also, make sure the person who speaks to the media is the person most qualified to do so.
If you’ve put in a little effort ahead of pitching your idea, there’s a good chance it will rise to the top of the pile of other ideas they’re considering. But even if it doesn’t make the cut this time, building strong relationships with the journalists in your sector can pay off if they need an expert to comment for future stories.