Everyone working in the field of communication is familiar with the phenomenon. You and your client have identified a good topic, the briefing has taken place, all of the drafts have been approved and your communication has been sent. And after all that there is no response from the other end. Figuring out the media can sometimes seem like black magic.
At the other end there is a journalist or editor with an inbox full of pitches and press releases. I know from experience that at least 90 per cent of them will be deleted immediately, and that phone calls and e-mails are more likely to cause annoyance than generate interest.
With this in mind, several tips for improving the response rate are provided below.
Ensure you have a story and stick to the point.
The media and journalists look at the story rather than the product or results. You therefore need to ensure that your client’s story can be placed in a narrative or be framed in a way that is in keeping with the media you intend to contact.
Be as clear as possible: woolly language and jargon are to be avoided at all costs.
Select your target group and tailor your text.
Not every pitch or story works effectively in all media. This may seem obvious, but this fact is often overlooked. There is little point in notifying a regional media organisation in Brussels of an event that will take place in that city but otherwise has nothing to do with Brussels.
Your client also needs to be aware of this. An IT company that wants to publicise a technical story would do best not to focus on the major national media, unless the company intends to launch the next revolution in IT of course.
Address the journalist you contact by his or her name and refer to the media organisation for which he or she works. Add some references to previous articles for the record. By doing this, you make it clear immediately that in contacting them you were not simply shooting in the dark and that you have done your homework.
In many cases, a client has a distinguishing characteristic which yields stories that are unique. Try to leave the well-trodden paths whenever you can in your communications. Rather than concentrating on the lengthy CV of your client’s new CEO, focus on a hobby or passion that stands out.
Make the most of current events
If reports on your client’s activity or sector appear in the media, don’t be afraid to contact the journalist in question and offer your client as a source. Even if your initial offer is not accepted, your client might be contacted later on. Nothing is more invaluable than being included in a journalist’s address book as an expert on a particular matter.
Be cautious when it comes to promotion
It’s not about you. The media are primarily on the lookout for reports and items that are of interest to their readers or are socially relevant. This means that the story or product that your client wants to promote is not necessarily the most important factor.
Besides being flexible about timing and your client’s availability, you also need to be flexible when it comes to your story. Allow journalists to give a pitch their own spin, so that the final content is more in keeping with the expectations of their audience.