Next month marks two years since I started working at Cookerly, and what an exciting two years it’s been! While there are many things I enjoy about my job, my passion is working with the media.
Media pitching is quite the adrenaline rush because I never know what the outcome may be. Regardless of how confident I feel, I still run the risk of my story idea being turned down. While there are several reasons a reporter may reject my idea – not timely enough, breaking news to cover, etc. – there are steps I take to further pique his or her interest.
To increase my chances of landing that sought after media hit, I always start by taking a step back to think and brainstorm creative ideas. Occasionally I receive “news” from my clients that isn’t necessarily newsworthy from a reporter’s perspective. My job is to figure out how I can make the content unique. I ask myself a few simple questions: Can I take this story and offer a new concept or idea? Can I tie it to something timely, such as a holiday or observance? This gives me several “hooks” in case the reporter doesn’t like my first idea.
My next step is to conduct research. I take time to research each reporter so I know exactly what they write about to determine if they may be interested in my story. I also personalize each email by familiarizing myself with the reporters, their interests, and their recent work. If a reporter wrote an article that I enjoyed reading, I will start my email by referring to that compelling story. I recently landed a national media hit for a client by doing just that! The reporter wrote an article on the importance of taking care of beauty products, so I emailed her and mentioned the article and provided her with statistics from a survey my client conducted. She updated her story that same day to include these statistics and thanked me for helping her improve her story.
Once I identify the reporters for my pitch, I spend my time creating a compelling subject line. According to a recent survey from Greentarget, 79 percent of journalists emphasized that the subject line impacts their interest in reading a press release. So, I like to think of subject lines as the make or break of my pitch and I compose them as the possible headline of an article. I also keep the subject line short and to the point and state up front what content I am providing.
Once my email is ready to go I press send then sit back, relax and hope for the best!
Not quite! My work is far from over. It’s time to follow up. Sending an email pitch without following up is a HUGE loss. As a millennial, I know it’s important to use my resources to get in touch with people, whether it is through social media or by making a phone call. I am amazed at how many reporters tell me that most PR professionals do not follow up via telephone. Reporters receive HUNDREDS of emails a day, so I make sure to use alternative methods to get in touch with them. In fact, I have landed far more media placements from a simple phone call than any email pitch.
Once I speak to a reporter, I know whether or not my story will be covered. If a reporter declines my story idea, that’s okay! I don’t get discouraged. What I do instead is keep in contact. I like to check in with reporters regularly, because I never know when they could use my story idea or if they need assistance with another story. Trust me when I say this: persistence always pays off.
Cortney Johnston is an account executive at Cookerly PR.