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Pitching stories: How to be a better ally for journalists

Reporters and editors are always looking for news. You can make their jobs easier by developing and packaging story ideas. This is usually a win-win scenario, because journalists get content and you get to push your messaging out there. Just be mindful of their deadlines and need for balanced straightforward news.

When pitching stories, it’s important to be targeted in your outreach because reporters are usually crunched for time, especially in this era of shrinking newsrooms. Before you approach media, identify your goals, audience and target outlets. Highlight the most newsworthy points of your story, and prepare background materials that anticipate questions. Make sure you are contacting a reporter that covers related topics, and when in doubt, go for the Editor or News Director.

There are a number of ways you can reach out to media - whether you’re offering a story to print, TV or radio outlets – and this is where media relations come in handy. If you have a good relationship with the journalist and are a confident spokesperson, you could pitch a story over the phone. However, we recommend emailing your story ideaand waiting for a reply before following up with a phone call. Having information in writing reduces chances of mistakes.

If you’ve already established a relation with a reporter, chances are they’ll recognize your name in their inbox and associate you to your brand. But be reasonable, keep emails casual and to-the-point. And if your idea gets turned down, ask for feedbackbecause this improves the working relationship and helps you know what the journalist is interested in.

Other ways of approaching media include press releases – which we have covered here– and media advisories, which can be sent two days before your event. Just remember that reporters care about timeliness, relevance, proximity andhuman interestwhen choosing stories.

Positioning yourself as a relevant and trustworthy source of informationis key to establishing and maintaininggood media relations. This will not only help you pitch stories more easily, but it will also make you the ‘go-to’ spokesperson when reporters have questions.

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