I’ve been saying for years that though press releases have long been the standard way to pitch media, they aren’t always the best way. You should know that reporters, editors, and producers NEED story ideas. In other words, they need you as much as you need them.
Yes, it’s perfectly okay to reach out to media pros, though before you do make sure you have a news-worthy pitch. A new book release doesn’t qualify as news-worthy, especially considering there are hundreds of thousands of new book titles released each year. Instead, tie your pitch into a topic that is timely. When you can tie your story idea into something relevant that’s happening in the news such as a holiday (Valentine’s Day), event (like the Olympics), or other current trend (Pinterest anyone?), that can grab attention. For additional ideas, see this article: 50 Reasons to Contact the Media or Send a Press Release.
When sending a pitch directly to a media source, it’s best to start with email and most importantly, keep it brief. Reporters, editors, and producers are busy people who receive a lot of email. They scan quickly and are used to hitting the delete key, so get to your point right away. It doesn’t hurt to mention familiarity with their work too. A simple paragraph or two with a compelling pitch works best. Here’s an example:
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I recently came across your article about how retailers are using Facebook to get more customers and I thought it was really well done. With National Small Business Week approaching (May 21-25), I wanted to propose an article on new ways that small businesses are benefiting from Pinterest. As you may have heard, Pinterest is now the third largest social media network based on the number of visitors. I am the author of The XYZ Social Media Guide and I’d love to share with you some concrete examples and strategies that your readers can use to promote their businesses on Pinterest during Small Business Week.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
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Once you have a great pitch, then you can begin to reach out to media sources. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:
Newspapers – Depending on when they are published, newspaper reporters need content daily or weekly, which means they are always on the hunt for good stories. Make sure you contact the right reporter for your topic. If your pitch is about Small Business Week, don’t waste the Lifestyle reporter’s time.
Magazines – Depending on the circulation size, magazines have a much longer lead time before going to press. That means that they are usually running three to six months ahead of schedule. If you want to pitch your book as an ideal holiday gift, you should start in July.
Local Newpapers and Magazines – Always start by building your media portfolio locally. It’s far easier to get local coverage than national coverage, and often times the larger publications pay attention to stories from smaller publications, so you never know what opportunities can arise later. Also, your hometown newspaper may syndicate some of its content nationally.
Local TV News – Provided you can craft your pitch to fit in with the tone of your local programming, this can be a great way to build local exposure.
National TV News – It’s often easier to go national after you’ve landed some local coverage. The bigger shows like Good Morning America and the Today Show want to see clips and know that you are a good bet to have on air.
Radio – Most authors should focus on the news talk radio programs, such as NPR. Most radio interviews are brief (5 to 10 minutes), unless you’re invited into the studio to chat with a host for a longer period. The great thing about radio is you don’t have to be local—you can call in to stations across the country. Make sure you have access to a good land line!
Check back for Part 2 of this 3-part series, which will cover how to build your list of media contacts, and then how to leverage internet media.