Make It Newsworthy: Tips for Pitching the Media
Do you have some amazing news to share about your business or organization? Before you “alert the media” with a standard press release, let’s look at ways you could drill down to find a stronger story angle that could help you get better, more impactful media coverage that will resonate with your audience.
Here are my tips and techniques to find the right news angle.
While at the American Cancer Society, I was approached by a development officer who was excited that a supporter had made a significant donation to the college scholarship program.
We both thought this would make a great story—except I couldn’t mention the amount of money to the media and the donor was uncomfortable with too much attention. A press conference with him front and center holding a giant novelty check just wouldn’t work.
Time to think like a reporter.
On the surface it's just a "donor gives to a cause" announcement. But after digging deeper... it turns out the donor had cancer during his last year of college and knew first-hand how hard it is to fight the disease while trying to finish school.
Then I found an ACS scholarship recipient, a beneficiary of this recent donation, who was at a local university and battling the same type of cancer the donor had. They had a connection that they didn’t even know about.
I worked with a local TV station and developed a story that brought the two together for the first time. Two guys on the same journey at different times. We took a run-of-the-mill announcement and turned it into a great human interest story.
So how do you apply this to your business?
Look at the WHY, not just the what.
Company going green? Why? Is the CEO an avid hiker who loves nature and wants his/her company to be environmentally aware? Tell that story.
Consider the REAL impact of your news.
Adding Saturday hours to your eye clinic? Focus on how this will help busy families. Find a patient willing to talk about the benefit to them.
Demonstrate the value.
Launching a new product? News shows hate "talking heads" but they LOVE the idea of giving their viewers something interesting to watch. Don’t just tell your news. Show your news.
Personalize your announcement.
Celebrating 25 years in business? Find someone who has been with the company since day one and profile them.
Is your company supporting a cause? Invite the media to come out and see your employees hard at work building a house for Habitat or dropping off canned goods at a food bank. Put them in branded t-shirts.
CHECK YOUR CALENDAR
Timeliness is one of the main pillars of the news. There are a ton of great stories out there that reporters want to cover but those stories, particularly if they are features, will always get bumped for something that has to be covered immediately or within a certain time frame.
Calendars are an amazing way to tap into this for human interest, thought leadership or feature stories.
There is a special recognition day, week or month for almost anything. For example, January is National Walk Your Dog Month. If you are in the dog care business you could write a guest blog or column on the Dos and Don’ts of Dog Walking (leash laws, the best collars and obedience training).
Check out national observances calendars to see if you can find a connection.
Other ways to use the calendar to your advantage:
Tie into seasons or holidays.
Are you a counselor? Mother’s Day is tough for people who have lost a mother or a child. You could offer tips on dealing with the downside of holidays.
Use business cycles to your advantage.
Own a shoe store? Why not showcase the latest in back-to-school styles for kids?
Find an historic connection or milestone to tap into.
A record store owner could pitch the anniversary date of a milestone album, talking about its attributes and impact.
The media likes to take a national story and give it a local news hook. You could provide just that and showcase your expertise and thought leadership. Though you never want to exploit a tragedy and come off as opportunistic. Make sure your localization is in good taste.
For example, say the American Dental Association releases a study on the connection between gum disease and heart disease. If you’re a dentist you could appear on a local morning TV show and add your perspective on the research.
So how do you apply this to your business?
A news story about a corporate or government database being breached is an opportunity for a local IT specialist or business machine distributor to exercise thought leadership
There’s a nationwide flu outbreak (already an annual event); a local clinic or general practitioner could pitch their expertise and experience in managing the flu with their patients