10 Ways to Improve Your Small Business Media Pitches

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Contacting the media and garnering coverage can be intimidating, and sometimes tricky business. Maybe you’ve tried it before with no results and don’t want to face the rejection (or being ignored) again. I’m here to tell you to do it again, and again, but in a more intentional, strategic way. Because attention means more visibility for your company.

The inBLOOM team has tons of experience pitching media and gaining great coverage, but we’ve also learned some lessons the hard way. Today I’ll share some of what we’ve learned on the job, with some bonus inside knowledge from the media trenches. (Some of us are even former journalists, so we’ve got some insight into why some pitches fall flat, while others get a quick call back.)

Here are 10 ways to make you and your business stand out through the barrage of emails media get on a daily basis:

1. Have a compelling story

Not every idea is newsworthy. Ask yourself what is unique and different about your story and make that your angle. Example of something not newsworthy, you’re moving your business to a new location. This is a fact you need to advertise, but it’s not a news story. Crafting a pitch around that is a waste of your time and a reporter’s. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a news nugget in that moving story. Does the new location have a unique history? Are you significantly changing your services? Are you being forced to move because of changes in the town or the industry?

2. Focus on people and narratives, not products

If your company founders have deeply rooted qualities that shape the organization – patriotism, innovation, risk taking – then there are stories to tell around their business decisions. Unique angles can come from anywhere. Think about tapping employees and customers to help determine the most newsworthy and creative story and ask them to help you tell that narrative. Like, why did you even start this business? Or why did you close your storefront and move your operation online?

Once you have an angle, it’s time to use narrative to tell your story. In Entrepreneur Magazine, Al Lautenslager uses Nike as an example of a company whose culture and marketing is shaped by stories. “Stories create buzz,” he says. “The more buzz about a product or service, obviously the more awareness there is about that brand.”

3. Offer up thought leaders

Members of the media love to talk to experts in whatever field you’re pitching them, and often won’t consider taking on a story without them. Thought leaders are people who have innovative ideas in their respective industries, and know how to talk about those innovative ideas. Figure out where your thought leadership lies by looking at your business experience. Is it software? Design? Manufacturing? Healthcare? Where ever you are invested through your business is an opportunity for you to be a thought leader. Use your blog or social media, or even your email newsletter, as a forum. Write about what’s bugging you in your industry or comment on the changes in the economy around your industry. If you can relate it to a current event you’ve given a reporter the news hook she needs to pay attention to your pitch.

4. Be a grammarphobe 

An email that comes through riddled with grammar mistakes is the first one tossed out. All the more reason to spell check, double check, and even triple check your pitch. As small as they may seem, mistakes using your and you’re, their, there, and they’re, and other common errors can make or break a pitch. The writers at inBLOOM have years of editing experience and are happy to create tailored pitches free of grammar errors for you and your small business.

5. Avoid over the top language  

Clichés are an everyday way of speaking, and sometimes they can even make their way into writing. But phrases like these — along with over-the-top language, such as world acclaimed, first of its kind, and cutting edge — can clutter a pitch. While these phrases may sound great, journalists can sniff out marketing buzzwords and chose not to pursue the story. It’s best to keep things short and succinct, and most of all, clear.

6. Consider a listicle 

What’s a listicle you say? Just what it sounds like. It’s a list of your main ideas, most commonly in bullet points (kind of like this blog you’re reading). Breaking out the pertinent information can be a great way of getting a reporter’s attention without losing relevant info in wordy paragraphs. If a busy member of the media can glance at your email pitch and pull out the necessary information, along with the unique aspects of your story, they’ll be more likely to pick it up and run with it.

7. Be responsive and available 

The last thing you want is an interested and ready reporter trying to contact you with no response. Just like you, reporters are busy and will move on to another story with someone who answered that phone call or email. Make sure to give the reporter the best means to contact you, whether that’s email, phone, or even Twitter. Once they contact you, be willing to answer their questions and provide any additional information they may ask for. (And don’t ask to review the story before it’s published. Just don’t.)

8. Target the right contacts

Your story isn’t a fit for every media outlet out there, which is why a good strategy is to research specific publications or broadcasts that deal with the topic of your pitch. Own a restaurant? It’s useless to pitch to a boating magazine. The same is true for a reporter. Before you pitch a media person, find out their area of expertise. Read their past stories so you don’t pitch something they’ve done. Your story should be one related to their past experience but focuses on a new idea.

9. Use visuals

Our society is a visual one, and our eyes are drawn to pictures or graphics that get our attention. Consider including an image with a pitch. If you have a great photo of your story in action, include a high-resolution image with the pitch. Don’t have a photo? Think outside the box. Maybe a graphic related to your idea will suffice. If your pitch is regarding a process or product, an attention-getting way to illustrate it might be using an infographic showing the method or development. Be sure to always include proper credit for images as well as a caption.

10. Follow up is key

Once your pitch is perfected and sent to the right contacts, your work still isn’t done. The key to media pick up is most always in the follow up. Emails get lost in the shuffle and voicemails sometimes get ignored. Following up ensures that you stay on a reporter’s radar, and a phone call can allow you to explain the idea in more detail, potentially sealing the deal.

Pitching the media isn’t complicated, but it does require attention to detail, thoughtful execution and time. A quick hit email once in a while isn’t going to garner the media attention you’re hoping for. When we pitch media on behalf of clients we start first with relationships. We nurture our media contacts by keeping in touch regularly on social and via email offering helpful connections, story ideas and feedback, even when it doesn’t benefit us directly. Nurturing those relationships today gives us the privilege of the media’s attention in the future.

If your business has a story to tell (and they all do) we can help you shape, pitch and promote it to the right media, so you can get back to business. Not sure if your story is newsworthy? Drop us a line and we’ll help you figure it out.

cover photo: ceBIT Australia

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Stephanie Eichmeyer
Stephanie is a former journalist turned writer and public relations specialist. Her background includes non-profit work in health care and fundraising, as well as event planning, media and community relations and internal and external communications. But what she really digs is crisis communications. So if you break the internet, call Stephanie.

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