1. Find your People
First things first, ask yourself, “who cares?” It may seem harsh, but it’s a necessary first step. On the path to getting more coverage on your awesome person, place or thing, you first need to determine who’s interested. If you haven’t clearly defined your potential audience, nothing else matters. Create a profile that describes them to a sharp point and hone that story idea into something they want to see, hear or read about.
With that out of the way, you’re ready to start the next crucial step of focusing on the media that reaches your audience. When searching, go deeper than just “art magazines” or “journalists who cover sports.” Chances are you already have a choice list of sites and writers you regularly visit to stay abreast of your industry, so start with there. In turn, check out who they read and follow on social media. Set up Google Alerts with keywords to let you know whenever your subject matter is in the news. If it’s in the budget, use a service offered by companies such as Cision, Agility PR, and Meltwater who offer media database access. These databases allow you to specifically search and have contact information for journalists, outlets, publications, and influencers who cover your beat. Remember, though, just like us, journalists don’t always stay on the same path. Check-in regularly to make sure they’re still part of your group. Twitter has become a truly excellent resource to follow and connect with journalists, editors, thought-leaders and more.
2. Customize your outreach
Now that you’ve determined your audience and have a killer listing of who’s talking to them already, it’s time to plan how you’ll get in touch. First, you’ll want to do another once-over on that list. Identify your “stars”; the ones who cover your area often and well. Custom pitches are time-consuming, so you’ll want to spend most of your efforts crafting outreach for this group because they’re worth it. Read the last few articles/posts they’ve done. Identify the trend or sentiment and include that trend as part of the reason you’re reaching out to them individually. Next, you’re selling them on why they are uniquely suited to cover your topic for a particular publication. Get to the point, their time is precious and in short supply, but give enough info to make it compelling.
This could be the start of a great relationship, so treat it that way. Be respectful of their time, mindful of their workload, say please and thanks, and stay in touch. Lastly, the journalist/site/publication needs content, and lots of it every day. You have a source of content. So rather than approach like a beggar, approach like the business partner you are.
There’s no cute pun here. Seriously, just follow-up. Journalists and editors get so very many pitches every day. Many are ill-fitting, poorly written, or worse. They do a lot of skimming, ignoring, and deleting, it’s a survival tool. Therefore, when you know you have something worth a second look, don’t be afraid to follow-up. Ask what they thought of the pitch/idea and if they’re interested. Suggest an alternate angle and whether a later date might work better. Even if they’re not currently into it, they could be interested later, so use the opportunity for feedback. If you get interaction, keep or add them to that exclusive list. Start to get to know them better through their writing, and try them again when you have another great idea. If they cover you, be sure to send a thank-you.
4. Stay informed
You can make an educated guess as to whether a journalist might be interested in your story – by staying current. Stay abreast of what’s trending in the news and the world at large, especially within your industry. What are you seeing a lot of articles about? What seems to be the hot topic of the moment? The more in-tune your pitches are with what is currently happening, the more likely your story idea fits into the editorial plan and seen as a valuable source.
5. Analyze the results
Once you’ve gone through a complete cycle, do an analysis. Assess what worked, what didn’t, the feedback you’ve received, and how many responses and subsequent hits you got. Keep track of all results. Google Analytics can help with hard stats about how media coverage is helping to drive traffic for you. The next time, it’ll be more comfortable and more successful, because you’ll have a tried-and-tested blueprint.