Gini Dietrich

How to Pitch Journalists During a Pandemic, According to Research

By: Gini Dietrich | May 28, 2020 | 
0

How to Pitch Journalists During a PandemicI have some good news and I have some bad news.

It’s always preferable (at least for me) to start with the bad news.

Journalists do not want you to call them.

Ever.

According to the Muck Rack State of Journalism survey, 70% said, “Please do not call me. Like, ever.”

(OK, I made that quote up, but it’s fitting.)

And most of them prefer you email them, one-on-one, with an actual customized pitch.

That should come as absolutely no surprise to any of you, yet here we are.

We still mass email journalists with the same boring pitch that no one cares about.

(Well, not all of us, but enough of us that is has to be said.)

I have two words for you: STOP. IT.

Now that I have that out of my system, let’s talk about the good news.

So much good news when it comes to earned media during a pandemic!

How to Pitch Journalists

Let’s start with logistically how to pitch journalists.

Email.

The end.

In all seriousness, 93% of journalists prefer one-on-one emails from communicators.

They want them personalized, they want something specific to their publication, and they want them short (less than three paragraphs).

They also say pitching them before noon is ideal—32% say between 5 and 9 a.m. and 32% says between 9 a.m. and noon.

For the most part, they don’t mind if you follow-up to a pitch you sent, but only one time and only three to seven days later.

While we’ve been told for several years that journalists prefer Twitter, they don’t love it if you pitch them there.

Follow them there. Engage with them. Share their content. But don’t pitch them. Leave the pitching to email.

How to Guarantee Success

If you want to be certain your pitch gains traction, there are a few things to consider:

  • Connect your story to a trending subject, but not at the cost of coming across as a creep (i.e. What COVID-19 Can Teach You About Selling Your Online Course).
  • Use images to support your pitch and help a journalist  tell your story.
  • Personalize each email to the journalist you are pitching. If you mass distribute a news release, it will not work.
  • Be brief and to the point. If they like your pitch, they’ll ask for more details.
  • Do not send attachments. If you’re sending images or supporting materials, link to them.
  • Consider exclusives—or at least different stories for each outlet. Three-fourths said that is somewhat or much more likely to get their attention.

Did I mention not mass distributing your news release? Don’t do that.😁

Make Sure your Outreach Is Updated

There were a few other things that stood out to me, including how outdated most communicators are when it comes to sharing information with journalists.

They prefer to speak with academic subject matter experts and CEOs when covering a story.

The will also speak with internal communications professionals, at least to source their information.

They’re not super keen to work with agencies (gulp).

It also made me laugh to read that they don’t want to talk to “self-appointed experts”.

To boot, they almost always review an organization’s social media updates before they consider them as a source.

And they track how many times their stories are shared on social media.

This is all good news for you…if your organization (or that of your client’s) has robust social networks.

They want to know that you’ll be able to share their content and help increase their shares and views.

If your social networks aren’t robust, it gives you some data to go back to the powers that be to explain why it’s important.

(I realize it’s 2020 and we shouldn’t still be having conversations about using social media to grow an organization, but you’d be surprised. The Spin Sucks Community is rife with discussions about how to prove its importance.)

My Own Two Cents

Because I am pitched multiple times a day to appear on this humble little blog, I will add my own two cents:

  • Do not send me a pitch that is more than three sentences. I realize I fight the trend on this one—the survey showed less than three paragraphs is good—but I will not read it if it’s longer than that. It might be because my attention is constantly interrupted as I homeschool on top of run a business, but you won’t tear me away if it’s long.
  • Like the journalists in this survey, I want a personalized pitch. Lie to me, if you have to. Tell me I’m pretty and smart and there is no better blog about communications on the internet. I will respond to you, if you do that.
  • We will not run a guest article if you’ve sent it to multiple publications and blogs. If it’s not exclusive to us, don’t expect a response.
  • I do not care about the cannabis online course you’ve just launched or why you agency was just named agency of record for a barber shop in Alaska. I especially don’t care when it’s sent to me in an email version of your letterhead.
  • It’s really not hard to figure out what we write about here. There is this magical tool called Google that allows you to search a site fairly easily. If you go to a Google search bar and type in site: spinsucks.com and add your topic (i.e. site: spinsucks.com media relations), it’s ridiculously easy to figure out how to pitch us.
  • Do not send me multiple follow-up emails. I know some sales person at one time recommended everyone send follow-ups that go something like this, “Hey, Gini. I haven’t heard from you. That must mean a) you don’t care to hear from me; b) you care to hear from me, but are busy; c) you’re stuck under a large filing cabinet and need some help; or d) you’re ignoring me, which is very rude.” That is not how you win friends and influence others. Stop it.
  • Under no circumstance, we will consider adding your link to any of our articles. Don’t even try.

It’s All Good News

All-in-all, this is very good news.

The journalists surveyed are very bullish about their jobs right now.

And they’ve given you an exact roadmap to successfully pitch them.

Of course, there will be some outliers, but this gives you a good start.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.