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  • Writer's pictureMike Petchenik

So, You Want to Be in The Papers, Eh?


When I was a reporter, my inbox flooded daily with pitches from well-meaning public relations practitioners.

Their mission was clear: Convince me to give their client precious airtime on the #1 local television station in the country.


It was mostly a tall order, and their desperation often shown through.


“Hello, ((insert reporter’s name here)),” was a popular opening line clearly generated by software like Meltwater or Muckrack; the poor junior account executive had forgotten to populate it with my name to give the pitch a pinch of personalization.


Don’t get me started on the tone-deaf pitches.


“Hi, Mr. Reporter! Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a sugar daddy?”


Umm, no, can’t say I have.


In fact, I’m a journalist, so it’s more likely I’ll be searching for a “sugar mama” than the other way around.


Had this pitcher done even the slightest bit of homework, they would quickly realize I worked in a run n’ gun, hard news operation.


If the sugar daddy had been shot during a robbery attempt, I might have covered that story.


Maybe.


I recently sat on a webinar panel for the Public Relations Society of America with a stellar group of comms professionals and a veteran reporter at the Wall Street Journal, the overarching theme of which was pitching reporters in this remote/digital environment.


I posited pitching reporters in a “remote” environment isn’t much different than it was when people worked in offices five days a week.


It’s so ridiculously noisy out there these days, that if you want to get a reporter’s attention you’ve got to be strategic, and you better not waste their time.


This holds true whether that reporter is sitting in a cubicle at a major daily or in their pajamas and slippers at the kitchen table.


That said, here are some pitching tips from the point-of-view of a veteran journalist-turned-PR pro:

  • BE A RESOURCE: Reporters are incredibly busy. They could care less about your for-profit client’s existence. Leverage your client’s expertise to help a reporter gain context about an issue. It’s a win-win.

  • NEWSJACK: Keep an eye on the news and find ways to inject your client into the story by offering them as experts on topics in the headlines. (ex. "Hi, reporter! Great story on widgets. I've got a great expert for you who knows everything there is to know about widgets.")

  • DO YOUR HOMEWORK: At least have an idea about what a reporter covers before you pitch them something.

  • TEMPER EXPECTATIONS: Unless you’re paying to play, don’t expect vanity coverage. It’s called “earned media” for a reason. You’ve gotta earn it by offering something of value and relevance. Just because you might have a relationship with a reporter, doesn't mean they're gonna do you a solid and cover a story. You'd better have a story worth telling.

  • PITCH THE TRADES: Don’t overlook a great trade publication. There are thousands of them out there and there's a better chance they’ll cover your client than, say, the Wall Street Journal. They provide great niche audiences especially for B2B clients.

  • KISS: When you do pitch, brevity wins the day! Keep subject lines and pitch copy short and sweet.

  • BE HUMBLE: If a reporter shows interest, be appreciative and helpful!

  • DON’T GROVEL: If a reporter rejects your pitch or doesn’t respond, that's life. I once had a CEO send me a nasty e-mail because I didn’t take the bait. After that, I definitely wasn’t going to cover his company.

  • COLD, HARD TRUTH: Remind your client they have ZERO editorial control over the story before and after it runs. Unless something is factually inaccurate, don’t ask a reporter to change the story. If your client wants to control the narrative, pay-to-play or buy advertising.

Ok, I’ve gotta run. I decided I really do want to know what it’s like to be a “sugar daddy.”


I have to dig that pitch out of my trash can.

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