You have news you want to share and want to get media coverage about it. So you’ve created a press release and put it on the wire, and now you wait until the media hits roll in, right? Well, sort of. When you place a press release on the wire you may get a few press hits from the various news sites that pick up the release and run it as is. But to garner the feature story, the one that includes an interview and really tells the story of the company/news you are trying to share, you’ll need to pitch the story to the editors, writers, and reporters. Every PR person will tell you, the pitch is the single most important part of the media outreach process and often makes the difference between oodles of feature stories or no coverage at all.
First things first, you’ll want to make sure you have a robust media list with appropriate contacts from all types of outlets including online, print, podcasts, and TV spanning local, regional, national, industry-focused publications. Don’t forget industry influencers as part of your outreach list, they can be very useful in helping to generate awareness for your news among target audiences. Draft notes on each media contact and their areas of focus or beat. Pitching a story about a new tech gadget to a reporter who covers politics will yield only crickets (and annoyances). Know your reporters, find out who covers your product/area of expertise/topic, and target your list accordingly. Once your lists are ready to roll, you can begin pitching. For optimal results, we recommend the following steps.
- Catchy headline: When emailing your press contacts, use a catchy subject heading on your email. The email subject line is your first and best opportunity to catch their attention and pique their interest. We all receive way too many emails each day, to ensure yours gets opened by the reporter, make a good first impression.
- Include the correct pitch anatomy: Your pitch is an introduction to further capture the reporter’s attention and interest. It should not be a novel, nor should it spell out all the information provided in the press release in the same sterile language. Keep your email personable and approachable. Within a few sentences you should tell the reporter the following:
- The Who/What/Where/Why/When of the news you are sharing
- Why the news is timely and why they should cover the story now
- What is the value to their readers or audience? Why does the world need to know this news?
- A call to action – would the reporter like to schedule an interview, learn more information or need additional background on the topic in order to write the story?
- Tailor the pitch: Reporters are individuals just like you and me. And though their beat might widely be described as “tech,” research will show that they likely have sub-interests under the larger category umbrella. Look through past articles they’ve written, check out their Twitter and LinkedIn feeds, and try to hone in on their particular interest areas. Then tailor your pitch to speak to these interest areas. You might say something like, “I saw your recent article on XYZ topic and thought you would be interested to learn about ABC and how it directly relates to XYZ.”
- Provide additional assets: Include links and all materials (within reason!) that they might need to write the story. Make their job easy. In addition to your press release, let them know that you have images or graphics you can share with them. Pro tip: Collect all assets in a Dropbox folder and include a link to the folder in your email so they have easy access.
As with everyone else, reporters are busy folks. Don’t be afraid to follow up one or two times to ensure they saw the original pitch email. Often, reporters will have flagged the email and forgotten to respond. Or perhaps the story isn’t a good fit for their readers/publication. Either way, offer yourself as a resource should they ever want/need to cover your specific topic area in the future, and if you don’t get a response within a couple of tries, by all means, stop bugging them. Happy pitching!
For CEOs and subject matter experts who are looking for ways to increase awareness of their brand and become an authority in their field, writing and publishing articles is a fantastic way to share expertise, insights, and opinions. Byline articles (articles in which you are the author) can cover just about any topic and can be specific to an industry and thus shared with trade publications or as educational or inspirational articles for mainstream media. There are myriad publications and websites looking for well-written content and offer the opportunity to build your reputation as an industry leader and sought-after expert. Contributed articles typically include a short bio of the author and a link to their website which creates great backlinks, search results, and builds clout for corporate leadership.
Below we’ve outlined a step-by-step guide to help you map out your contributed article strategy and get your first article published. The key steps to creating a contributed article strategy include:
1. Define your objective: The first step in creating a contributed article strategy is to ask yourself “why?” What are you hoping to achieve with this strategy? Are you looking to build social proof and credibility? Perhaps you’d like to build awareness for yourself, your unique perspectives, or your product or service. Are you trying to generate leads, draw in potential customers or drive sales? Is your goal to increase traffic to a blog or website? A contributed article strategy can accomplish any of these objectives with variations in the content and publication focus. The first step is always to clearly understand what you’re trying to achieve as this goal will then define the parameters of the strategy.
2. Define your expert identity: Once you’ve identified the objective, the next step is to define your expert identity. Why should people listen to you? What is your unique perspective or expertise that no one else has? Editors receive submissions from many highly qualified writers, why should they choose to publish your work over someone else’s? To define your expert identity we recommend utilizing a worksheet to answer several key questions such as “What do you stand for?”, “What are the conversations you want to start?”, or “What do you know that other people need to know?”
3. Define your audience: The next step in your contributed article strategy is to figure out who exactly you want to write for. Think about the following: who do you want to help or who do you serve? What are the demographics of this specific individual? What are they reading, watching, following? What are their interests? What trends do they follow? Really defining the audience will be instrumental in determining which publications to pitch to and will help define the tone, area of focus, and content for your articles.
4. Create your media list: Media lists can include thousands of online outlets, blogs, and publications. There are a plethora of outlets covering every topic under the sun and in any medium you can think of – print, online, broadcast, podcast, social, etc. Working from a 1,000 contact media list is overwhelming for anyone, so we always recommend identifying 10-15 top targets first. Include some low hanging fruit to garner early wins. Think about media targets in local, national, niche, and trade publications. And don’t forget, there are several open platforms such as LinkedIn and Medium where you can publish content at will.
5. Create your list of potential articles: Before you begin pitching story ideas to editors, create synopses for several potential article topics. Articles could include seasonal and timely elements, listicles (Top 5 things to know about…), bold perspectives, emotional/personal shares, spotlights, or lessons learned (The one thing I did/I know/that/to do…)
6. Sell yourself: Next comes the pitch to the editors, the opportunity to sell your ideas with the goal of getting their approval to have your article published. Before you write the full article, email a pitch to editors and include information about yourself, your expertise and your unique perspective, as well as some background information such as your website and/or links to past articles you’ve published so that they can research you and monitor your clout. You’ll also want to include a sample title as well as a brief two-three sentence synopsis of the article. Be open and ready to the editor’s request for tweaks to your idea or for them to ask you to go in a new direction when writing the article to adjust to their audience and publication’s interests.
If and when you get the green light to begin writing, definitely pause to congratulate yourself, you’re on your way to becoming a published author! Nice! As you write, be sure to follow each publication’s specific guidelines for contributed content. Many have limits on word count, so be aware! Finally, as part of a contributed article strategy, it is just as important to maximize the audience of the article once it is published as it is to get the article published in the first place. Be sure to post the link on social sites, send it out in e-newsletters, and post on self-publishing sites such as LinkedIn, Medium, and Thrive Global (as long as there aren’t exclusivity restrictions!). And finally, don’t forget to thank the editor who published your piece. Building a strong relationship with your editorial partners ensures you will have more opportunities to share content down the road. Happy writing!