Ever spent a significant amount of time on a pitch or press release and sent it off to various newsrooms only to hear static on the other end? Well, don’t despair. We have some tips that will help pull your message from digital limbo and pique the interests of discerning journalists.
So what’s it like in a newsroom?
If you’ve never worked in news, HBO’s The Newsroom might have falsely shaped your understanding of what it’s like to be a journalist. The average newspaper or TV station is a far cry from the action, romance and drama that goes on behind the scenes of Will McAvoy’s on-air performances. Journalists work long hours, often with no breaks, and receive hundreds of emails every day. If your press release is about a topic that is way off base from the types of stories that an individual journalist or news organization covers, it will be dragged to the trash in seconds.
So to help you avoid pitching into an abyss, here are three tips that will increase your message’s chance of success: know how journalists decide WHAT stories to cover, understand that each media organization has a different AUDIENCE and consider the PLATFORM that is best suited to your story.
Values of newsworthiness
News organizations follow a set of guidelines when deciding what stories are relevant to their audience. We’ve all heard the saying, “if it bleeds, it leads.” Well, that’s fairly accurate in daily news. This idiom comes from a list of values that help the media determine what to cover. Factors like impact, timeliness, prominence, proximity, conflict, currency, human interest and anything out of the ordinary are the beacons for daily news journalists. If your pitch covers any of these factors, it will likely attract interest.
Know the audience
Just because your story is newsworthy doesn’t guarantee that the media will pick it up. Let’s say you have a great pitch about an organization that does research on refugees and has discovered that human trafficking is on the rise in Canada. You write up your pitch and send it off to Discovery Channel among a long list of other media organizations. If a Discovery producer or reporter even bothers to open your message, they will likely mock you for wasting their time with a story they would never cover.
Match the medium
Just like the topic of your pitch, it is equally important to consider the platform that each media organization uses to present their stories. Different stories are better suited to different mediums (radio, TV, print/web). Stories with zero potential for visual elements do not make good television. No one wants to watch a bunch of back-to-back, sit-down interviews or “talking heads.” So a story with fewer visuals might be better suited to a daily newspaper or even radio.
These simple rules can make a huge difference in the success of your media pitching.