In the communications field, we regularly “pitch” story topics and experts to journalists. Not every pitch is successful, but we’ve learned a few things that can increase the odds of success. Having the right mindset about that process helps—for both client and journalist. Here are four tips that can help you achieve success:
- Offer something of genuine value. It’s easier to make cold calls with story ideas and interview subjects when you realize that what you’re offering has the potential to meet a real need. Rather than having a stereotypical “used car salesman” mindset, think about your work as offering up a story or interview idea that has the potential to provide the recipient with genuine value. Journalists need story topics and experts. In some instances, you’ll provide them with exactly what they need when they need it. That’s a win for everyone involved. Many other times, the information you’re sharing won’t meet a current need, but by following the next three pointers, you’ll be laying the groundwork for future contacts that do.
- Be courteous and helpful. Reporters and editors often work on tight deadlines. Respect those deadlines. Help interview subjects understand the importance of being on time and following up quickly with any further information that may be needed. Often it works best to ask an interviewee to place the call to the reporter, rather than the other way around. The goal is to make the contact as seamless and helpful as possible.
- Strengthen the relationship by respecting journalists’ needs. Be careful to avoid wasting journalists’ time. That’s important for them and also for you—because a series of irrelevant emails may forever consign your emails to being ignored or even marked as spam. And meandering conversation that doesn’t offer anything of value to a reporter will mean a reporter is less likely to call back.
- Find opportunities to meet journalists in person. Nothing helps build long-term relationships like in-person meetings. Take opportunities to meet editors and reporters at their offices, at conferences, or for coffee meetings.
The bottom line is that the best story and interview pitches shouldn’t feel like “sales pitches” in the traditional sense of the word. They should be about meeting needs, sharing useful information, and building relationships.