Let’s be real. If you contact reporters only when you have a fully-baked, timely, and honestly- compelling story, you’d probably send a handful of emails a year. But we all know, it takes a lot more than that to keep you and your client top of mind in a sea of expert sources. Contacting a reporter when you DON’T have a fully-baked story is okay – if you use the right tactic. It’s time to break the rules of media relations that we’ve all been taught.
The tips below are presented under the assumption that you aren’t breaking the #1 rule in media relations. Meaning, you’ve thoroughly researched your target’s recent work, you understand his/her beat, and you know that your client can offer insight relevant to their reporting interests. With that warning out of the way, here are four tactics for pitching when you don’t have a fully-baked story.
1. Feed your best blog content to key trade publications.
Okay, so technically your story is fully- baked (or should be) if you have a complete blog post on hand. But the goal here isn’t to share the content with an expectation that the reporter publishes it word-for-word (an ideal, yet unlikely, outcome). Instead, you’re presenting the content as a piece of helpful background information that could support her reporting—AKA don’t send a fluff piece! By sharing a well-researched, thoughtful blog post, you’re showing the type of insights your source can offer. Hopefully the reporter keeps that in mind when contacting sources for her next piece.
2. If you miss the boat, jump in and swim after it.
Stories aligned with your client will be published without your client in them. It’s inevitable—and it’s okay (I promise). When it does happen, it gives you a reason to engage with the reporter who published the piece. In your follow-up note to them, reference the story. Offer up an angle that wasn’t originally included, or highlight a thread that could have been explored in greater depth, and how. Maybe you even have a relevant piece of thought leadership to share (just be sure it isn’t self-serving!). Show the author that you read her stories and have related sources that could offer her a unique perspective down the road. Chances are the reporter won’t write a follow-up piece immediately (or ever, maybe), but you’re drawing a connection between the topic and your source, demonstrating the unique insight that could be brought to the conversation should she report on the topic again.
3. Use social media as a supplement.
Follow your list of key reporters on Twitter. Share their content, include some commentary, and every once in a while, tag them. This can help with name recognition when done tactfully.
4. Ed cals exist for a reason!
Editorial calendars offer up a menu of stories already in the baking process. Use these to your advantage! You know the article is going to be written, and you’ll have a general idea of the topic. Contact the editor. Include some detail on the angle(s) your source could bring to the piece, include his/her credentials and ask to be connected with the reporter who was assigned the piece. Keep these emails short and sweet. After all, you’re not pitching a whole story!
Some rules are meant to be broken. How are you challenging the norm with your PR and media relation strategies? Let us know in the comments!