Pitching Successfully in the ‘News-You-Can-Choose’ Media Environment

newspapers lined up

Today’s news media environment is a direct reflection of consumers’ preference for a choose-your-adventure style of news consumption. For the most part, consumers choose where, how and from whom they get news.

This means they may wind up at very different places. The mix of news people choose is as unique as they are.

Start with social media—most people do these days—and the news you’re served is very different than if you get headlines from the website of a trusted publication or television.

While this means more autonomy for consumers, it’s enough to drive marketers and brand communicators mad when it comes time to place a story. Accordingly, we must pitch differently in today’s news-you-can-choose media environment. Here are tactics media relations pros are finding useful.

Pitch for People, Not Companies

Brand marketers have an agenda—they want to sell products. However, a company’s agenda likely won’t interest audience members, much less journalists, if it isn’t rooted in purpose. When the response to your pitch is so what? you haven’t done your job.

Instead, from the outset consider crafting pitches that matter. This ensures how your brand influences people is the heart of a story. Include data, facts and other tangible examples of how your pitch’s content is important to a media member’s audience.

Keep it Personal

Ideally, each pitch you craft is unique and, as we noted above, considers the interests and needs of a journalist and her readers. What do they consider newsworthy? How do they prefer to receive information? What’s happening in the news cycle that’s important to them?

Another way of keeping things personal concerns relationships. One communicator says her relationships with reporters and editors are so strong, she knows their kids’ names.

While you should pursue such relationships daily, also continue seeking authentic new contacts with media members. Indeed, make yourself an expert on media contacts.

Get to the Point

In today’s shrinking newsrooms, the incidence of burn-out is high as content creators feel pressure to turn around stories quickly. Accordingly, helping busy journalists is critical.

Pitches should connect the dots for media members, supplying critical information they’ll need to build a credible, quality story.

Moreover, brevity is appreciated. Earned media pros understand reporters simply will delete email pitches that don’t get across their point in the subject line. Most want not more than a few lines of information.

As such, craft one-paragraph pitches, two maximum, when possible.

We also recommend brevity in press releases; aim for two- to three-paragraph dispatches.

Moreover, avoid offering formulaic quotes, such as “X brand did X thing and is so excited to announce it.”

You may also want to consider alternatives to press releases. For example, a video release, infographic or live webcast may work better for a particular audience.

Like it or not, the media landscape shows no signs of returning to the way things were. As such, PR pros must monitor news consumption habits and challenges facing media members. Maintain and build relationships with reporters and editors, provide material that’s relevant to them and their readers and do so succinctly.

Linda Descano is an EVP at Red Havas and Ellen Mallernee is a VP there