As we continue to move through the weeks of lockdown, there’s simply no denying that journalists will be pushed to the limits in ensuring that readers remain up to date with the essential news surrounding Covid-19, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not necessarily on the look-out for new stories.
Pitching to a journalist can be a very tricky business; I can tell you this, because I’ve now experienced it from both sides. Yet, in the midst of the pandemic, building and maintaining relationships with journalists is more important now, than ever before. However, with a more intense workload and a restriction on resources, journalists will be after clear, engaging and to-the-point pitches.
We’ve been absorbing Cision’s 11th annual ‘State of the Media’ Report, where they’ve surveyed 3,253 journalists on the current media landscape. You can download it here but, to save you the bedtime reading, I’ve included my own take and provided some tips on how best to engage with the media during Covid-19 and beyond.
Looking at pitches from a PR perspective, picking up the phone and calling a journalist comes as second nature – the same applies to a journalist calling a company or reader for details on a story – but as the current situation stands, journalists are more than likely too stretched to converse over the phone. This is where emails now become a PRs best friend.
Keeping your pitch short and to the point is the biggest tool for a PR; ensure that you’re bringing something new to the table and grabbing the recipient’s attention from the get-go. The success of your pitch heavily relies on an engaging subject line and an email that is quick and easy to read. And as nice as it is to want to exchange pleasantries, that’s not what you’re aiming for, nor, in the most polite way of putting this, is it probably what the journalist is looking for.
I must reiterate just how important it is to keep your email short and sweet. Think of it as a brief round-up, using the main fact as your hook. Within the first couple of sentences, the recipient should know exactly what you’re trying to gain coverage for, and then have the option to delve further into the story by opening the attached press release. A journalist will publish a minimum of probably 10 stories a week, so give them a reason to make yours one of those 10.
Equally, think carefully about your pitch: are you sending it to the right journalists? Does it fit their demographic? Is the story regional or national? Does it focus the publication’s coverage area? Sending pitch emails to every Tom, Dick and Harry won’t help you in any shape or form. Do your research and you’re more likely to get the coverage you’re looking for.
Back when I was a journalist, I cannot tell you how many times I received emails on subjects that I’ve never covered because they don’t meet my demographic. This only leads to a clogged inbox, resulting in journalists spending crucial time working their way through a mountain of emails to pick out a handful of potential stories that have caught their eye for the right reasons.
It’s also fair to say that there’s never been a better time to pitch a story that does one, or even two, of the following things: 1. Has a positive focus and 2. Has a positive focus that doesn’t relate to the pandemic. While the responsibility of covering COVID-19 remains heavily in the hands of the press, bringing a story to the table that spreads a bit of positivity is a huge bonus to have! Goodness knows it’s what everyone needs in a time where everything else is so uncertain.
PRs and journalists remain a team as the pandemic continues to sweep the nation, but, alongside everything else, both are having to learn to adapt to the new normal to continue to work towards life after lockdown.