Pitching story ideas to reporters is a funny business. It’s part sales, part journalism, and can be super frustrating and super rewarding by turns. That’s why you’ve hired Weaving Influence to do it for you!
I’ve sent pitches for clients and employers, received pitches as a freelancer, and for a while even worked as a publicist for a news network. Talk about meta. Having been on the receiving end of successful pitches as well as having sent them, here’s my process for taking your PR strategy and putting it to work!
First—I need to fully understand your message. If I haven’t already read your book or blog in preparation for writing your press release, I’ll do that first thing. You never know what fun anecdotes might pop out that could be used later in a pitch, or could provide an otherwise unknown connection to a journalist.
Second—I need to fully understand your goals. If your dream is to get into the Wall Street Journal, reach the pharmaceutical industry, or give a TED talk, that will drastically affect my pitching plan. Weaving Influence has established relationships with a number of business reporters, leadership bloggers, and career-focused podcasters who are usually happy to hear from us, and that helps a lot. But if there’s a special audience you want to reach, let me know what it is—and how it will help you.
Then, the hardest part—deciding where to start. Cision, the comprehensive media database we use for press release distribution and some of our research, lists almost 4,000 media contacts under the subject of “books and literature” alone! This is why it’s so helpful to have your goals in mind before the process starts; by narrowing down the top-priority outlets, we can save a lot of time weeding out the ones you don’t really care to get into anyway.
Once I have a good list of 10-20 outlets, I’ll pick one and really dive in. And this is the really important part: picking the writer to pitch. Using Cision, Weaving Influence records & colleagues, and good old fashioned Google, I examine staff lists to see who covers what. I check out a reporter’s latest writing to make sure they’re still current with the publication. If they’re on Twitter, I spend time reading their tweets to get a feel for what’s on their mind. I’m looking for the perfect match between their topic interests and your message.
By now it’s pretty easy to draw the connection between the writer and you. I’ll send the reporter a quick note, often mentioning a recent story they’ve written, and why a story on your topic might make an interesting follow-up for their readers. I’ll attach our carefully crafted materials about you—a press release or press kit, maybe—or just offer up a copy of the book, when that’s more appropriate. If I’m pitching a podcaster or TV producer, I might link to a YouTube video of you speaking, just so they can see what an elegant communicator you are!
Basically, whatever the writer or interviewer’s role—blogger, book reviewer, editor, segment booker, freelancer—I take into account, so that what I’m offering them is crystal clear, something they can use, and mentioned high up in the email as well as repeated at the bottom.
The whole process can take quite a while per pitch—but it’s well worth the effort. We track everything on a spreadsheet that you have access to. I and some of my colleagues highlight wins in yellow. Then we share links with you and others on the WI team when these go live so that our social teams can spread them far and wide. And there’s nothing more satisfying than a long spreadsheet with lots and lots of yellow!
Interested in learning more about our PR services? Send us an email with your questions or to schedule a time to chat!
Laura Finch, a native of Wheaton, IL, has eight years of experience in politics and news, including time spent working as a press aide to a U.S. congressman and a stint as a producer for a morning cable news show. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Taylor University in Indiana, a graduate degree in digital journalism from American University in Washington, D.C., and is an alumna of Indiana’s Lugar Series. She has also been published in one book, “The Zambia Project,” about a major student AIDS project completed through WorldVision. In her spare time Laura loves to run along the Potomac and discover new D.C. restaurants with her husband, Andrew.