How to PR Like a Pro: A Guide to Getting Media Attention

How to PR Like a Pro: A Guide to Getting Media Attention

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I've written about garnering media attention for your business before, but I keep getting requests to delve a little deeper into the topic. So here you go, this will teach you exactly how to get your online store or a product you're selling featured in the press.

As a former journalist (magazines, newspapers, blogs), I can tell you that reporters are always looking for good story ideas. BUT that might not mean the same thing to you as it does to the media. What may be life changing for you doesn't mean it's important to everyone else and deserves a spot on the cover of The New York Times. There have been so many cases where a pitch has popped up in my inbox in which the sender has went on and on about how their company’s story is the perfect fit for my publication, only to have me quickly hit the “delete” button. 

So how do you get the media’s attention?

Here’s a list of 3 do's that you have to follow:

  1. DO check out your target publication’s focus: If it’s a local newspaper, magazine, or website that only covers local companies, focus on that angle. If it’s a national or international publication, look for something that will have broad interest but also has a unique perspective that brings something new to the table. Make it clear why readers in different parts of the country or world would be interested in your story.

  2. DO get to know the players: I have to admit, I used to delete emails really quickly when they were addressed “Dear Business Reporter” or “Dear Sir/Madam.” Just as you’re probably not going to pay as much attention to the flyers sent to your house that are addressed to “Occupant,” it makes a huge difference to personalize your pitch. It also helps to do a quick web search on what sorts of topics the journalist covers.

  3. DO have several suggested angles: If your first approach doesn’t work, it doesn’t hurt to try a different story angle. The key is to get your awesome story out, even if it’s not the first thing you thought would be interesting.

The Pitches

There are two main types of pitches: The short pitch and the long pitch. Every reporter prefers one or the other. It takes some practice and even a little intuition to figure out which works for certain reporters and publications, but you'll get the hang of it. Generally, send bloggers, and super busy reporters the short pitch. Send larger publications and magazines the long pitch.

The Short Pitch

It's quick, clean, and to the point. Everyone has their own style, but here's a good place to start:   

Paragraph 1: Introduce yourself, give them a link to your company, and show them you've done your research with a compliment (2 birds with one stone).

Paragraph 2: Give them the news (link), tell them you have more to offer (bit of a tease), give them another angle in case the 1st one doesn't suit their fancy. 

Paragraph 3: Offer phone or email. Don't say "I look forward to hearing from you" or any of that crap... it's presumptuous. If your pitch is good and they're interested they'll write you back. 

Paragraph 4: Thank them and be sure to use their name again. People love seeing and hearing their name.

Here's an example I wrote for this blog post. It's not the best, but it's a pretty good example of a short pitch:

 
**I just noticed I didn't include my phone number in the example above - which would be handy information for a reporter trying to call you. ;-) 

The Long Pitch

It isn't as quick, but it should be just as clean and to the point! The long pitch is a little more detailed and is appropriate for some reporters and publications. No matter what, keep it under 1 page. It's a long pitch, not a reeeeeally long pitch. You can use the same format as above, simply further expand Paragraph 2 which is the meat of your pitch. If you're listing something use bullet points, and always give obvious links to further info and/or visuals (do not include high-res images with your pitch!)

DON'T DO THIS

Just as important are the things you shouldn't do – the little things that you think will help to make your story more interesting or accurate, but that will really just make reporters roll their eyes and delete your email or ignore your call. I love following Dear PR on Twitter. Basically, it's a journalist letting the public relations industry know what not to do. It's mostly directed to professional PR people but it absolutely pertains to online store owners as well. Here are some of my favorites: 



Also... Don't Do These

  1. DON’T exaggerate: Even if you genuinely believe your new gadget or app will be the greatest innovation since sliced bread, don’t overuse words like “breakthrough” or “revolutionary” in your pitch. Instead, get specific with reasons why people will be interested in your product (e.g. it’ll make doing something easier/faster/cheaper). 

    At the same time,  don’t get bogged down with too many minute, jargon-y details – even if you’re pitching a highly technical publication (and this is where it helps to understand your target’s editorial focus), it’s not that likely that the nitty-gritty will be what grabs their attention first.

  2. DON’T give up: While you don’t want to get to the point of being annoying or pushy, reporters have been known to take a second look at a story if you’re politely and pleasantly persistent. This goes back to the points about preparing several angles for a publication, as well as getting to know the players, since you’re establishing contact with your emails, calls, or Twitter messages. However, it helps to make sure you’re offering something new and timely each time you contact a reporter; if you’re pitching the same old story again and again and the media outlet has already told you it’s not interested, you’ll likely be wasting your time.

  3. DON’T disappear: So you’ve got someone’s attention and they’ve agreed to cover your story. Great! Now is NOT the time to turn off your smartphone or consider your pitching job done. It’s particularly irritating for a journalist who’s received a pitch to suddenly find themselves up the creek at deadline because their contact at the company is nowhere to be found. Even if last-minute issues come up, it definitely helps to keep the reporter informed – it establishes a good relationship and you might still be able to arrange another interview at a more convenient time.

To Conclude

Okay, so after reading all that and having a laugh at some of those funny Tweets, I want to leave you with the PR industries response to Dear PR. It's called Dear Journalist and it's a hilarious collection of complaints against the community of journalists - as told from the PR industry. Always remember... there's two sides to every story. Good luck making headlines. :-) 

9 comments

  • Mili Walker Photography
    Mili Walker Photography
    December 21 2011, 11:17AM

    Wow, so useful article! It’s so refreshing to read something really good and helpful.

    Cheers,

    Mili

  • Shawn Graham
    Shawn Graham
    December 21 2011, 08:40PM

    Love it. It also helps to pitch an idea that’s not solely a self serving press release. Instead, try to focus on something new and exciting—an emerging trend that hasn’t been covered before or some new wrinkle.

    Speaking of wrinkles, when you pitch your idea, try to give it a different spin whenever possible. That will give you your best shot of standing out from the crowd.

  • Tina Schweiger
    Tina Schweiger
    December 22 2011, 08:39AM

    Thanks for this helpful how-to. It will really help me explain to my clients why they need a PR firm or person now that I have a better understanding of the potential pitfalls of certain mistakes. Keeps them focused on what they do best!!

  • Nicole Notario-Risk
    Nicole Notario-Risk
    December 30 2011, 10:59AM

    Fantastic article! Thanks for the practical advice and examples to make an intimidating process a little easier to navigate.

  • Eric Shultz
    Eric Shultz
    December 30 2011, 02:31PM

    Possibly one of the best articles on getting media attention I have read to date.

    Excellent easy to read instructions. I especially found the pitch example useful.

    How did you ‘embed’ the Dear PR tweets into your article like that? I haven’t seen that before.

  • alex
    alex
    January 27 2012, 02:13PM

    Poop

  • Ty
    Ty
    March 19 2012, 12:05AM

    A better magazine theme will make the blog looks nicer:)

  • Sarah
    Sarah
    September 05 2012, 10:01PM

    Thanks for the great tips. I was happy to read that I have done most of what you have suggested (on the to-do list). It’s paid off because I have received national and international media coverage on my store. Short pleasant emails go a long way.

  • Mike the Gardener
    Mike the Gardener
    February 24 2014, 11:07AM

    Thanks for the tips. Since we are on a limited budget, we are always looking for ways to get PR for our company.

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