Five Tips to Get Major Media Coverage

[Editor’s Note: How often has leadership asked you to get your brand into the NY Times or the Wall Street Journal? Frederik Bjørndal, who leads corporate press in North America and Europe for Novozymes, a Denmark-based biotech company, has delivered on that ask. Last year the NY Times mentioned Novozymes’ technology on page 1; later the company's narrative was featured in the Times Sunday magazine. PRNEWS asked Bjørndal how he’s helped get Novozymes’ story into that paper and the Journal, as well as The Atlantic, The Economist, Forbes, Fortune, National Geographic and on CNN, among other major media. Below are some of his tips. Bjørndal will be one of the featured presenters during PRNEWS' June 27, 2019, webinar, Win Coverage in Today's Multifaceted Media.]

Have Something Relevant to Tell

Obvious, right? Yet, when I talk to journalists and see the pitches they receive, I am blown away by how often what PR pros send them is off, completely off. It's not even close to their beat.

Journalists need compelling ideas relevant to their beat to make their stories stronger and busy lives easier. If, for whatever reason, you don’t have that, then don’t pitch.

A pitch offering nothing to the journalist is noise; it will only make the hill you have to climb steeper. Your profile may get marked as spam and the journalist will never again see your messages. Ask: Is what I’m offering relevant? Is it newsworthy? Exclusive? Does it have angles? Can I offer good visuals and pointed messages? Do I have executives who can deliver those messages? Think in terms of headlines – and, crucially, does my pitch carry a good one?

Start Specialized, Achieve Spillover

Everyone wants to make it into the New York Times or Wall St Journal. Although such ambitions are great, they are a tall order, particularly if you are a small operation and just starting to build a profile.

We know the media landscape is changing. Specialized, digital-only publications are emerging. Some are influential, particularly with certain target audiences. Many major-media reporters on specialized beats also find them very useful. So, consider aiming at specialized outlets. It might be easier to get through to journalists and editors. In addition, it also could be more straightforward for you to craft ideas that resonate with specialized trade media.

Importantly, profiles in specialized media can help you gain entry into bigger publications. Mass-media journalists who read the trades may come to recognize your company’s name. They might even get story ideas from what they’ve read in these pubs. Remember, though, point 1 still applies: a relevant pitch is critical.

Understand How Journalists Work

Again, you've no doubt heard this tip a lot. Perhaps it just washes over you. Stop to think about it. You are busy. So are journalists. We all know stories of journalists receiving perhaps 300 pitches daily. I’ve seen those bombarded inboxes. They made an impression on me.

And journalists need to deliver more with less. They also are asked to produce content almost continuously, while being responsible for providing photos, hosting podcasts and gathering video to support their stories.This is the landscape the journalist is facing. We, as media relations pros, are part of it.

If you want to have a shot against that backdrop, you must prioritize quality in your pitch and keep it concise. A tip: Once you have carefully crafted your compelling, newsworthy pitch, cut it by half. If the pitch flies, you can add details later.

Believe in Your Pitch – or Kill it

If you have an idea and craft a pitch from it, but don’t really think it will work, stop. If you are lukewarm while crafting it, there is almost a 100% chance that your pitch will fail with a journalist.

Take product pitches, for example. If you are pitching a new product, but are unable to offer much else – numbers, quirky takes, consumer angles (aka compelling stories) – then reconsider your pitch. Go back to executives at your company and tell that that you need more meat on the bones to succeed with this pitch.

Never Give Up if You Have the Golden Pitch

If you believe in your pitch, then by all means fire away.

Successful pitching often is about striking that very delicate balance between being on your front foot while also knowing when to hold back.

Some of my most successful pitches came from not giving up on what I believed were very strong pitches. And this is despite a complete lack of response for a long time.

A section front page in The Wall Street Journal came from calling a journalist who I felt strongly was the right match for the pitch. Indeed, she had seen the pitch, but was so busy she hadn’t had a chance to react to it. She appreciated my persistence. Two weeks later, a substantial article published, including in print, online, and as the subject of a podcast.

Sometimes Even the Best Pitch Doesn’t Fly

Thousands of brilliant pitches never make it into coverage. The amount of incredible stories greatly outnumbers the means through which to tell them – even with an increase in specialized media. That is one of the reasons why some brands are creating news platforms.

Don’t over-speculate as to why your pitch never flew.

We’re in a fast-moving, sometimes momentary, business. Perhaps you hit the journalist with your idea while she was having coffee – and came back to 25 new messages. As she already was busy with other stories, she decided to just delete those messages altogether.

Know that if you had a strong idea, even without response, your pitch almost certainly left a mental note with the journalist. 'Here is a PR pro providing interesting perspectives on behalf of a newsworthy brand,' might be the thought. Your journey going forward will become easier – and you will have slightly less of that mountain to climb.

Note:  Click here for more information about the June 27, 2019, webinar, "How to Win Coverage in Today's Multifaceted Media Landscape"   

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Frederik Bjørndal is press chief for N. America and Europe for Novozymes

CONTACT: [email protected]