Whether you’re using a media database or putting something together from scratch, one of the most difficult aspects of compiling a media list is figuring out exactly who to include and who to pitch to. With multiple editors, reporters and producers present at countless media outlets and publications, pitching to just one wrong person can make your chances of coverage fall as flat as yesterday’s can of fizzy drink. So how do prevent this from happening? And more importantly who should and shouldn’t you pitch to?
While there is no foolproof way to select the right contacts for all markets (the size of reporting staff differs from outlet to outlet), here are a few fast rules of thumb.
Do pitch to reporters. Many outlets categorise their reporters according to the type of stories they cover. More often than not, these reporters specialise in specific topics or areas of interest. Make the most of this by pitching to those journalists who fit your story and audience, or who have covered stories on your beat, industry or organisation in the past. While this doesn’t guarantee that your story will be published, engaging with these beat-specific reporters does increase the chances of them reading your pitch and showing interest. But make sure you take the time to learn about their needs and the type of stories they’re interested in, rather than just pushing your own agenda.
Do pitch to the producer. When pitching to radio programs or television, make sure you touch base with the producer. These are the people who actually conceive and prepare segments, and oversee all aspects of a radio or television program. Basically, they have a say in what will make it onto air – not the host or anchor.
Do pitch to editors (and assistant editors). While pitching to editors is a must, it is almost as important to pitch to their assistants and associates. They are often more likely to answer your emails and are also in a position to recommend your story to their superiors.
Do pitch to freelance writers. Freelance writers have the freedom to contribute to a number of media outlets, either online or in traditional media. Have a look at their past editorials, columns and articles. If they fit well with your topic, go ahead and pitch away. If you’re lucky enough to have them love your story, they may re-purpose it to work with several different publications!
Don’t pitch to the News Desk. By sending pitches to generic emails such as media@, you’re essentially kissing your chances of coverage goodbye. When possible, it is always better to send your release to an actual person, rather than a news desk. Not only does this help when conducting follow up calls, but it also minimises the chances of your email getting lost in a spam filter.
Don’t pitch to the Editor In Chief. While Editors in Chief are responsible for signing off on stories that are complete, it isn’t their job to actually develop individual ideas or handle day-to-day story assignments. However, when targeting small publications, it may be worthwhile to double check if the Editor in Chief is actually writing articles. Editorial teams in smaller outlets sometimes consist of 1-3 people, and in these cases, the Editor in Chief may be the correct contact to reach out to.
Don’t pitch to advertising or marketing contacts. Some media databases often include contacts from the marketing department. Be sure not to pitch to these people – they sell ad space, not stories.
While much emphasis is placed on writing media releases correctly and developing the right angle or hook, it is just as important to reach out to the right contacts. After all, if you’re not pitching to the correct journalists, then chances are your story isn’t going to be covered, no matter how great it is.