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Digital PR

A beginners guide to pitching to journalists

Looking to start your career in public relations? Follow these 5 golden rules for building relationships with journalists, and you'll be well on your way to delivering great PR campaigns.

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The Milk Thistle

Delivering great PR campaigns is all about understanding the needs and desires of a golden triangle of the people you are trying to influence:  your client, your audience and the journalists who act as gatekeepers.
If you’re a beginner to PR, it’s best to start with a definition of what we’re talking about. According to Hubspot:
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Let’s take a look at the the first part of the golden triangle: building relationships with journalists.

Step 1: build the right media list

The first step in building high quality media lists is to make sure you are speaking to the right journalists.
The classic beginners mistake is to consider building a media list as an exercise in quantity over quality .  You can always spot a newbie because they take pride in sending their press releases to a huge number of journalists – some of whom have little to no interest in the topic.
So, make sure you are researching the journalists before you outreach. What topics are they currently covering? What are they interested in? Have a quick search of their name on Google and see what they have been talking about and also check out their social media to see what they have been tweeting.
One great way to search what content they are interested in is through tools such as BuzzSumo, where you can search for the author’s name and it will show you their most recent posts. Doing this background research will ensure that you are targeting the right people, with the right content – meaning they are more likely to engage with you and what you have to offer.
buzzsumo content search
Sending content to a mass media not only annoys the journalist but will decrease your engagement, and being a repeat offender may even get you blacklisted.  And although research can be tedious and time-consuming, you’ll notice the benefits when you secure great coverage and connections.

Step 2: engage with journalists on social media

Before you send them your pitch – connect with journalists on social media. Perhaps retweet an article they have posted or engage with one or more of their most recent posts. Not only will this allow them to see that you are interested in their content, but it will hopefully make your name resonate with them when they eventually see your email.
It is also important to keep your social media up-to-date. Make sure your profile shows your current workplace, job title and areas of expertise so that anyone who visits can identify your interests at a glance. Keep sharing content about relevant news in your industry – this shows that you are switched on and knowledgeable about your sector, which is only going to build your credibility and help you to get your content published in the right places.

Step 3: make sure your pitch adds real value

Once you have identified the right journalists and made your social media connections – it is time to start drafting your pitch.
pitch to journalists
The most important thing to remember when pitching is that it needs to add value to the journalist and the readers of that publication. To do this, your content needs to be: high quality, relevant, interesting and engaging.
Don’t ramble. Get straight to the point – tell them why you are contacting them, why your content is a suitable fit for their audience, provide them with said content and leave the pitch with an open chance of discussion.
Make sure the journalist knows how this can be of value – but don’t be forceful.

Step 4: always follow up

Following up on your initial pitch is crucial. Journalists are very busy people and their inboxes get full, meaning they might miss your email, but that doesn’t mean they are not interested – so never forget to follow up with a friendly reminder.
journalist pitch follow up
Whether that’s another email or a quick phone call, it is important to do so. But with that being said, pick your moment well. It is not beneficial for either party to hound them a few hours after your initial contact, but equally, do not wait weeks to get back in touch; four or five days should do the trick.

Step 5: make notes

Once you have had that initial contact with the journalist and they have published your article, make a note of them and the conversations that you had. Did they tell you an area they were also currently researching? Did they mention how often they publish or go to print? Did they comment on any other new stories that they found particularly interesting? Take note.
Keeping a log of journalist interests and requests is only going to help you in the future and is likely to help them too. Once you have your foot in the door, do not let it close and ensure you remember these journalists for future articles.

In summary…

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t hold your breath and hope for a hundred instant responses to your first outreach. Building your network takes time and effort, but in the long run, it’s you who will reap the rewards. Work hard, do endless research, stay up to date and maintain good relationships. It will all be worth it in the end.

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