Have you ever had something great happen at your company and thought “people should know about this, because it’s such an amazing story?”
You want others to know about the great things your employees are doing or how successful your business is, so you send an email to a general email address at your local newspaper or paper television station. But, it
doesn’t go anywhere. You don’t know how to follow up with or what to do next.
Your story idea may indeed be great, but without the necessary preparation, research and media insider knowledge, your company’s fantastic story may go untold.
We recently offered up some tips to help you discover story ideas within your organization. But to tell those stories through the news media, you have to know the right way to approach members of the media to convince them to tell your story.
Here are six key elements to every story, six steps for getting it into the hands of reporters, so your story doesn’t go untold.
Key Ingredients for Every Story Idea
No matter which type of story you want to pursue, all stories must have a few key ingredients:
A local angle.
If you’re pitching a local publication or news outlet, make sure that the story is based in your area. It can be a local perspective on a national/state issue or an exclusively local story.
A face/name associated with the story.
Someone from your company — maybe the CEO or the PR contact — will be one face/name associated with the story, but be prepared to present a client who fits the profile of your story idea.
If you are pitching a story idea, be prepared for an interview by a reporter if she likes your story. This may be face-to-face, over the phone or on camera.
Be prepared with all of your data and contacts before pursuing a story. This will help if/when the media want to actually pursue the story. This means you should make sure everyone who could be involved with the story is on board and prepared to talk to reporters.
Images and supporting materials.
Story ideas are often stronger if you can give the reporter relevant images, videos, graphics or data. If you don’t have anything at the ready, you can simply offer up suggestions for possible photos, videos or graphics to accompany the article.
Accessibility and patience.
Sometimes reporters have very short timetables to produce their stories. If you present a story idea, the reporter may want to pursue the story at that very moment so be prepared to act on it.
Or, you may be told that it’s an interesting idea but it can’t be done right now. In that case, practice patience and perseverance.
How to Pitch Reporters
Now that you have some ideas for finding stories and the required ingredients, it’s time to pitch members of the media (or work with your PR team to make it happen). Here’s how to sell your story or your expertise:
Research, research, research.
Determine the best media outlet and contact to receive your story idea by doing a lot of research. Read, watch and listen to news on your given topic to see who might be interested in your pitch. Find the one reporter who is covering your topic and who would be most receptive to your idea. If the reporter works in print or online publications, you can approach her directly. If the reporter is on TV or the radio, you will probably have to go through a producer or news director, who will filter the story down to the reporter.
The most effective way to get reporters to listen to your idea is to make friends with them in advance. Reach out to them via email or Twitter before you ever “want” something from them. Offer to help them find information about whatever they’re working on currently. Start following them on Twitter and engage them in a conversation. Or just introduce yourself virtually.
Gather up all of your supporting materials.
Compile your data, anecdotes and permissions in one place so you can refer to them easily for the next step.
Make the pitch!
Most reporters prefer to get materials via email these days. Some like to hear ideas via Twitter. If you already have an established relationship with the reporter, then you can pick up the phone and call. Since you’re most likely to make your pitch in writing, you will spend some time typing out your ideas. Make your letter short, sweet and convincing. Write a real letter to a real person — avoid sounding like a sales rep and avoid exclamation points unless completely necessary! Include all of your contact information and hit “send.”
Be Responsive of Follow Up.
If you get a response, make sure to pick up the phone or return the email as soon as possible. You’ve got your opportunity –
don’t lose it by being slow to respond! If you don’t automatically get a response, follow up in a few days. Try email or Twitter again. Some reporters HATE follow-up phone calls and some like them, so err on the side of caution if you don’t know the reporter very well.
Go through this process for each reporter you think might be interested in your story, and for each story idea you have. It may take a lot of tries to land your first story, or it may hit on your first attempt. Once again, practice patience and perseverance in all things media relations.
Now that you have some story ideas, the necessary ingredients and an overview of the process, you have the foundations for a media relations campaign to get your story to the public.
Have you successfully pitched story ideas to reporters? What tips have worked best for you?