EARNED MEDIA: HOW TO PITCH TO JOURNALISTS
How do you build the profile of your organisation if you do not have a big marketing budget? A strong social strategy is one way to reach a larger audience if you can’t pay to advertise or promote your content. Another way to build your brand is through ‘earned’ media. Earned media is coverage you generate without paying, through pitching to journalists and getting your organisation on news sites and blogs.
Earned media can have far greater impact any paid promotion or advertising. A profile in a news outlet or on a blog can reach thousands of active readers, and adds significant credibility to your brand. As the name implies, however, you have to earn it. This isn’t always easy: journalists are inundated with emails pitching stories every day, and without a big brand or strong relationship behind you it can be hard to get them to take notice. There are, however, a few ways to help your pitch stand out from the crowd.
If you want a journalist to write about your organisation you have to provide them with a ‘hook’, a newsworthy event or milestone that will be of interest and relevant to their readers (and, more importantly, to the editors who will have to clear all stories first). The launch of a new initiative, a partnership with a notable organisation or a new hire are all potential news hooks, provided you can make them interesting and relevant to the journalist.
Journalists usually get hundreds of emails per day. Especially if it is a cold approach (i.e. if you don’t already know the journalist you are pitching to) they will not be able to spend very much time on yours. For this reason, keep your initial pitch short – very short. As a rough rule of thumb, 3/4 bullet points should be about as much as you send, or two very brief paragraphs.
Lead with the most interesting and eye catching element – don’t ‘bury the lede’. Try also to tailor it to the journalist based on what they’ve covered before, and what they are likely to respond to. If your organisation is focused on climate justice then try to find journalists that cover a climate beat.
If you’ve written a pitch that’s way too long, be ruthless. Cut whatever is not essential to the story, leave only what will most interest the journalist. This may not always be exactly what you most want the journalist to be writing about, but the point of the initial approach is to get them on the hook. Once they are interested you can make the case for why additional elements are newsworthy.
The most important thing to bear in mind is that journalists want to file interesting stories. This may seem obvious, but it is essential to keep it in mind at all times. The fact that your initiative is worthwhile and valuable and you have worked hard to create it will not necessarily make an interesting story. Try to put yourself in the shoes of journalist who will have to sell any story they write to an editor – why is this interesting, why should it get priority over the deluge of competing stories.
While it can be challenging to get right, earned media is certainly a powerful tool to build your brand and amplify your voice.