11 Media Relations and Pitching Tips from HuffPo’s Nate Hindman

Nate Hindman

Today's Today's media pros are dealing with brutal deadlines and severe budgetary constraints, and they need PR's content and your storytelling skills. However, they don't need to be inundated with spammy or off-the-mark pitches that aren't relevant to their beat or their audience. At PR News' One-day Bootcamp for Emerging PR Stars, held on Nov. 29 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Nate Hindman, small business editor for the Huffington Post, provided 11 tips for PR pros to improve their pitching and relationships with the media.  

  • Do not call journalists to pitch—ever: "We're usually up against one of many deadlines, and these calls throw us off track," said Hindman. "I'd strongly suggest to always e-mail pitches. Twitter also works for pitching, but Facebook is too personal."

  • Use their name—don't send pitches with "Dear Blogger" or "Dear Journalist":  "Journalists are narcissists—we didn't get into this business to make money, we did it to see our name in a byline," said Hindman. "If you send out blanketed pitches to journalists and don't use their names, you're doing yourself a disservice.”

  • Use flattery: Go to his or her media site's archive page and find a story written by the targeted journalist who relates to your client. "Consider opening the e-mail with, 'I loved your story on this, it changed my way of thinking on this issue…'" said Hindman. "Then say, 'by the way, this is my client and I think this will...'"

  • Consider pitching journalists after hours and in the evening: "There's a lot less incoming e-mail traffic and you likely won't get them at peak work hours of writing," said Hindman.

  • Do the work for them: Many journalists are hesitant to write about a specific company, but they will write about a trend. "Don't just tell me the existence about your client, or that he's in town. Tell me what they're doing to unseat or kill off a corporate giant (especially in the small-business space). You can even attempt, in the e-mail, to write the story—give me what you think my lead should be," said Hindman.

  • Keep it short: Never have a pitch be longer than two paragraphs. "I rarely ever read anything longer than that," said Hindman.

  • Tell the journalist who you are: Unless your company or client is really well known, don't assume that journalists know them, said Hindman. "Remember, you're trying to craft a headline and draw them in as a reader of the e-mail, just as reporters do with their stories," he said.

  • Following up is okay: "You can follow up once, but don't follow up 30 times on an e-mail," said Hindman.

  • Develop real relationships first: It's great to be able to keep up with people through social media, but hard to start a real relationship. "The best relationships I've had with PR pros have been developed face to face. Any chance you have to get a beer or a coffee with a journalist is very valuable," said Hindman.

  • Don't promise what you can't deliver: "Don't make empty promises and say you can get us something when you can't," said Hindman. "Don't promise statements from sources or supporting data that you're not going to get." 

  • Follow up and share: Tell a journalist how good you thought their piece was and that you'll be sharing it on your own social networks. "This makes them feel honored and important, and makes them more likely to work with you in the future," said Hindman.

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg

7 responses to “11 Media Relations and Pitching Tips from HuffPo’s Nate Hindman

  1. A tip from another editor: If you send a press release, don’t call to see “if I received it or need any other information.” Most editors are smart enough to read the release, and if they have questions, to contact you. Your call is a SURE way that I will FIND the press release and DELETE it–after all, your call already interrupted my work, I need to feel SOME sense of closure.

  2. Thanks Bill and Nate for sharing this valuable information. I will definitely be tweeting this!

  3. Great tips. Simple and to the point, much like our pitches need to be!

  4. As a TV reporter for more than 15 years, it may be annoying, but you can follow up a press release with a call. What if I missed it? sometimes the sqeaky wheel, with a good pitch, gets the oil.

  5. Really knowing the media and their preferences is the key to success. In some cases, phone pitches are still okay and some media, especially in busy TV newsrooms ask to be called on the day of the event again as a reminder. Take note of what each contact prefers and needs and then cater to those specifics to achieve maximum results.

  6. Great article, I’d take issue with the comment about never phone pitching. This is still effective in our experience, especially with a good story or angle. It needs to be supplemented by email, but can still give an edge if done properly.

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