5 Ways to Make Journalists Actually Want to Publish Your Brand’s Stories
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Companies can solve different tasks through media publications: increasing recognition, attracting new users, finding partners or investors, strengthening their founder’s personal brand and so on. But writing a story is only half the job: You should pitch news or columns to journalists so that they want to publish them. According to one study, journalists respond to 3.3% of pitches they receive. How can an entrepreneur get an editor to respond? Here are a few tips:
Put yourself in their shoes
Treat journalists like regular people. I encountered situations where companies or agencies expected editors to respond to emails on the same day or asked correspondents for editorial plans. Some even ended their pitches by saying, “If you don’t answer me within 24 hours, I’ll send the topic to another media outlet.” With such an approach, it is difficult to establish benevolent relationships with editorial staff. It is important to realize that journalists get dozens, sometimes hundreds, of requests per day. According to Fractl research, 46.5% of journalists receive at least 11 pitches per day, and 28.6% receive more than 26 pitches per day. The Financial Times, for example, gets 300-400 columns a week, so it is physically impossible for their editors to respond to every letter individually. They don’t have to write about you, but they do not need to make you an expert.
Try to place yourself in the shoes and thoughts of the person you are writing. If you are the editor of a magazine that interests you, which of the hundreds if letters are you most likely to open? It is helpful to read articles about topics that are relevant to you and to analyze why they were published. What attracted the editor’s attention? What can your company do for them to be excited? What would make them accept the article you are writing? And what might make them reject it? This will help you to choose a topic and a way of pitching it.
Newspapers often ask writers to suggest topics that might interest them. Entrepreneur, The New York Times, Business Insider and many other prominent business websites have guides for writers. Before you start researching topics or preparing your column, I recommend reading the instructions.
Think of your PR as a Rubik’s cube
A Rubik’s cube has many sides of different colors — just like your business. Your side of the cube might look red to you. But it could be blue to your customers, green to your investors and yellow to your employees. For example, if your product is a marketplace you will want to know what features you have, how secure and profitable the transactions are, and whether you can outsource fulfillment or delivery. Users will also be interested in the product’s breadth, whether sellers are checked for counterfeit goods, and if support services are available. And potential investors will be willing to know about product-market fit, market volume, competition, financial performance and your team’s experience. If you are going to publish an article in a media outlet you should first consider who will read it and which Rubik’s cube they will see.
This principle can also be applied to communicating with different editorial boards. Some editors will be interested from a technological perspective in your product, while others will be more interested in your business’ scale, hiring strategies, and marketing strategies. Before pitching to an editor, look closely at materials that have already appeared on the media website. While your topic should be within the media outlet’s sphere of expertise, it shouldn’t be too cliche.
A client of mine prepared a study about cybersecurity. We wanted to promote it in the UAE, a market of particular interest to the company, but we focused on the Middle East when preparing the news publication. Local media outlets didn’t like the news because it covered too many parts of the region. We had to rewrite the article focusing on the Emirates for it to be picked up.
Follow the format of the media outlet
If you send your article without a headline, a lead or subsections, even visually the text will look informal. It’s better to look at how articles look on the website before you send your article. Then, add the appropriate design to your column. The editor will see that you are familiar with the format of a newspaper, and will be more likely read the material.
Editors may ask for articles that are not formatted. However, it is important to break them up into paragraphs, rather than sending them all together. How the letter is written and presented is equally important. Be respectful of differences in mentality, take into account weekends and holidays, as well as being polite. In the headline, I recommend stating the subject at once so that the journalist can catch a glimpse of the letter while looking through their inbox. Sometimes journalists advise writers when and how to pitch their topics. Below are tips from StartupToEnterprise founder, Linda Ashok, as an example:
“I prefer pitches via email. If I don’t have the story to cover, I won’t respond. My ideal email length for emailing is 2-3 sentences. I don’t want to receive any follow-up emails. I check newswires regularly for new story ideas. 1. Name (please don’t misrepresent yourself). Company 2. Line pitch 4. Wait for Response. “
Remember that there will be no second chance to leave the first impression
Often clients insist on sending the letter quickly, even if it is not yet perfected. If you are pitching a topic for the first time, it is better to take a little longer but finish the material. It’s not easy to get an editor’s attention if you make a bad impression of yourself. After receiving letters from agencies that are irrelevant, some correspondents block entire domains. Sometimes they can do this after two unsuccessful pitches.
Some companies send automated mails to dozens media outlets. Instead of personal messages, journalists get emails with “Hi,” Name, or “Hi,” First Name in the title. Sometimes, you may be able to see all email addresses of recipients in such newsletters. This is because the agency or company forgot to hide them. It’s possible that the sender of such emails will be blocked right away.
Another common error is to not consider the relevance of your material. Business news websites often receive pitches that are tied to the end-of-the year in September or even August.
And lying to a reporter is the best way to get blocked. Entrepreneurs sometimes try to exaggerate their achievements and business’s financial performance by calling GMV or expected revenue — actual revenues. As with investors, this will lead to harmful consequences — in all likelihood, media staff will no longer consider your news and columns. You may feel that the media outlet isn’t that important and that this case solves nothing. Remember that journalists are often able to share stories about poor pitching with colleagues and the public. You won’t be able write to them again if a niche journalist becomes a The Washington Post correspondent.
Believe in your idea
Finally, always send a letter with a positive vibe and the belief that you have a worthwhile product and useful experience. Many clients tell me they don’t have anything to write about. Every entrepreneur has to go through a challenging journey. This includes finding their niche, creating a MVP, managing a team, promoting the product, adapting it to customer feedback, raising funding rounds, and scaling up to new markets. Your personal experience and unique ideas will interest journalists if you talk about them in detail and honestly.
Are you having trouble getting effective media coverage? If so, consider what their interests are and try to make a good first impression. These tips will help you make journalists friends with your brand.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.