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Cision Tip Sheet - Getting Your Pitches Read

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  • 1. us.cision.com  866.639.5087  Copyright © 2013 Cision, Inc. All Rights Reserved.ca.cision.com  877.269.3367 332 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 60604 1100-150 Ferrand Drive Toronto, ON M3C 3E5 With so many social media tools, news feeds, aggregate sites and deadlines competing for a journalist’s attention these days, it can be difficult and downright enigmatic to figure out what makes a successful pitch. PR professionals need to stand out—in a good way—to get their press releases read by a journalist or blogger, let alone seen by the businesses or consumers they wish to reach. But how do you stand out in a journalist’s already inundated inbox without resorting to tricks or gimmicks? Even if a journalist likes your pitch, how do you get your brand’s story recognized in print, broadcast or online media? Here’s what the journalists who attended our Cision Breakfast Panel had to say. 1Do your homework Before you send a pitch, you should know what topics the journalist does and does not cover. “If it’s something that’s generally not my beat, I’m just not going to respond,” says Melanie Eversley, Civil Rights and Social Issues Reporter for USA Today. On the flipside, you should know what stories the journalist has published in previous issues, so you’re not pitching recently covered topics. 2E-mail still wins Sure, a phone call is direct, and the popularity and reach of social media is impressive–but most journalists agree that e-mail is where the pitch should be. “Always start with an e-mail,” says Tonya Garcia, business editor of MadameNoire.com. “I’ll encourage people to talk to me via e-mail first, and that’s usually the best way to get a phone call.” Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer for Columbia University, agrees. “E-mail is still the most useful way in getting work done—not Twitter, not Facebook, but e-mail.” Sreenivasan adds, “A lot of reporters have Facebook fatigue.” 3Say it in the subject line If you can’t summarize your e-mail in the subject line, your pitch stands little chance of being read. Even then, “If you’ve done your homework and know what I’ve written about, hopefully you can put something in the subject line to catch my attention,” says Eversley. When you can import the pitch’s relevance in the subject line, you’ll have a better chance of getting noticed. 4Know the audience The best PR professionals know which journalists to target—but they can also explain why the pitch fits the needs, demographics or interests Tips for getting your pitch read – and reported Tip Sheet 10 Tips from journalists at Columbia University, The New York Times, USA Today and more!
  • 2. us.cision.com  866.639.5087  Copyright © 2013 Cision, Inc. All Rights Reserved.ca.cision.com  877.269.3367 332 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 60604 1100-150 Ferrand Drive Toronto, ON M3C 3E5 Tip Sheet of their readership. Eversley notes that the best PR person she knows “understands the audience, what I’m looking for, and gets right to the point. ‘This is why this issue is important and why your readers should hear.’” If you’re pitching a story that the outlet’s audience wouldn’t care about, you won’t get far. 5Make news of the mundane Sometimes a client wants you to send a press release that doesn’t exactly sell itself. Your job is to make it newsworthy, in a natural way. “Parlaying a not-great story and somehow making it a story—that is again, just being a voracious reader,” says Garcia. “Not just on Twitter and Facebook,” she adds, “but going in and reading the news. Finding a legitimate way, not a fake way, [to relate].” Garcia recommends being honest when it isn’t the best pitch—“just coming right out and saying ‘You know I have to do what my clients says’” can show the journalist you value their time and preserve the relationship. 6Stay accessible Journalists work on tight deadlines, and one of their biggest pet peeves is not being able to reach the PR person who sent them an e-mail. “The difference between someone who replies in five minutes and someone who replies in an hour is just gigantic in my mind,” says Brian Stelter, Media Industry Reporter at the The New York Times. He commends PR pros who use social media to stay connected. “That ability to be in touch in different ways is useful. It gives me the sense that the PR person is omnipresent,” he says. 7Always be helping Relationships are a two-way street, so if you’re looking to build and sustain a rapport with journalists, it’s important that you’re not just contacting them when your company or client wants coverage. “The ones I’m really good friends with are the ones who help me when it’s not their client,” says Sreenivasan. “When they know I’m working on X, they’ll say, ‘Here’s someone I know you can talk to’. They’re helpful every single time—so then when they do have a pitch, I eagerly open it because I now want to help them back,” he notes. 8Don’t send attachments If a journalist requires more information about a product, event or launch, he or she will ask. “Do not send attachments, please!” urges Sreenivasan. “I can’t believe people in 2013 still send attachments.” Resist all temptation to send that high-resolution image or explanatory PDF until the journalist expresses interest in covering the story and requests specific attachments or details. 9Timing is everything A big part of pitching is also knowing when not to pitch. “If you’re writing to me and I’ve just said [on Twitter] ‘I’m at my grandmother’s funeral,’ it’s so ridiculous for you to pitch me that day,” Sreenivasan cautions. “You won’t believe how many times reporters get requests from PR people who don’t bother to check what [we’ve] said on social.” He recommends tools such as Rapportive, that can show a journalist’s most recent tweets when you’re getting ready to send them an e-mail, so you can discern the right time to reach out. 10Be pushy It may sound like counterintuitive advice, but if you’ve done everything else right, you could stand to be a bit more imposing. “I would say, be as pushy as you can,” says Eversley. “Please forgive us if we don’t get back to you or if it seems like we’re being rude. It’s nothing personal, it just depends on how our day is going.” Stelter explains it like this: “E-mail is like a Twitter stream—you’re not going to read everything. You’ve got to push it back to the top for us.” He also admits that it may take multiple e-mails to convince him to cover your pitch. “It’s interesting how, sometimes that story I hated a week ago, I start to really like, and how I need that time to let it percolate,” Stelter says. “Sometimes that’s why I haven’t replied.”