Michael Smart

90 Minutes to Pitch Top Tier Media with 100% Success

By: Michael Smart | March 20, 2018 | 
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Pitch Top Tier MediaRecently, I had the opportunity to interview a national morning show producer.

I shared 19 actual media pitches with her and then recorded her reactions to them.

The pitches I shared first were the ones I thought she’d like best.

It turns out I whiffed on the pitch I had in the number two slot—she didn’t care for it. But she did ask for more info about five of the top six.

If I can guess right five out of six times, so can you.

In this article, I will make a case for the way I prepared for my interaction with this discerning producer.

And I’ll show you how to do it yourself.

Five Key Takeaways from a Morning Show Producer

I put together a one-page worksheet highlighting five key takeaways from the interview.

You can download that for free here.

It was very generous of the producer to share her time with me.

And it was a great opportunity to understand the pressures placed on her and her colleagues.

Many of the insights I gained relate just as much to pitching top tier newspaper and magazine journalists.

As you would expect, she emphasized how important it is to prove you know about her show. And she lamented how rarely she gets pitches that do this.

Do NOT Do This

Believe it or not, she still receives emails addressed to “Dear NAME” or “Hi XXX”!!!

It should go without saying that blasting generic pitches to top tier media is a waste of time.

In fact, it’s more than a waste—it actively hurts you and your organization.

She told me she processes her emails quickly and when someone makes that mistake, she makes a note to ignore future outreach from them.

Beyond getting the producer’s name right at the beginning of the email, you need to prove that you understand how your pitch fits into the way they structure their program.

The Minimum Standard for Pitching

The minimum standard for pitching national television is to mention the host’s name(s) and the type of segment in which you see your story.

The equivalent of pitching a magazine or a newspaper or agenda-setting website is the same—you need to reference where and how your idea fits into the specific voice and feel of the outlet.

“But Michael,” you protest, “that means I’ve gotta actually watch the show! And read the magazines and websites I want to pitch. How can I possibly do this and still do my work?”

That is a legit concern. And that’s why so few PR people do their homework before pitching these top journalists.

It’s not because you’re lazy, it’s because you’re busy, and the idea of watching, say, a two- or three-hour show initially feels impossible.

But there is a way around this. I used it to prepare for her interview, and that’s how I was able to predict the five out of six in which she would be interested.

(She liked one that I had buried at number 11).

And Don’t Do This

We often view complicated top tier media, such as network morning shows, as these impenetrable fortresses.

They seem so mysterious that we don’t know how to get through, so we just throw our usual pitch together and send it off, crossing our fingers.

You can do the same prep I did, and then you’ll have the same ability to predict what interests your top tier media outlets.

Here is a quick checklist for doing this, and I’ll apply this checklist to the most time-consuming type of media to research—national morning shows.

You’ll see how you can adapt it to magazines and newspapers and websites.

How to Pitch Top Tier Media

I’ve also broken it out according to how much time you are willing to invest in giving your pitch the best chance of success.

  • Ten seconds —Google the morning show, note the hosts. Include them in your pitch.
  • Three minutes—DVR the show or look up and glance at it while you’re at the gym. Fast forward until you see the segment name, and include it in your pitch.
  • 30 minutes—DVR the show or stream it. Fast forward through the first hour, this is usually the stuff you can’t pitch, such as White House news, terrorism, and so on. Skip the commercials. Move past the celebrity news and interviews. Then, watch what’s left to determine if it’s irrelevant to your organization, or otherwise not suitable for pitching. Based on what’s left, you’ll know which segment is the best match. Include that (and the host’s name) in your pitch.
  • 90 minutes—This is what I did to prepare for my interview. DVR the show three days in a row. See above instructions to watch all three episodes in 90 minutes. Warning—you will feel the same feeling of guilty pleasure that you did when you skipped class in high school. You’ll say to yourself, “I should be working right now—I hope no one notices me.” Ignore this, You are working very hard and very smart. You’ll be close to certain which segment you belong in, and you’ll have one or more examples you can cite in your pitch.

Obviously, I’m half-joking with the first two.

But I Don’t Have the Time!

If you believe your idea is worth consideration by some of the busiest and most stressed people on the planet (morning show producers), the least you can do is spend 30 minutes preparing.

If you read that and thought:

There’s no way I can spend that much time on just one outlet. And 90 minutes, what a joke.”

That’s fine.

You now know that you shouldn’t be pitching a national morning show, so save yourself the time.

There are plenty of other outlets and formats effective at reaching your key audiences.

Are you ready to invest what it takes to land top tier media coverage?

If you would like more of the producer’s helpful tips, most of which are related to any top tier media outlet, check out this one-pager with other key takeaways.

About Michael Smart


Michael Smart helps PR professionals boost their positive media coverage. He advises brands such as General Motors and Wounded Warrior Project, as well as PR agencies and smaller companies. People who have attended his workshops or taken his online courses consistently land coverage in outlets like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BusinessInsider, Mashable, and the top blogs or trade outlets in their industries.

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