There are lots of ways to connect with media professionals, but not all of them will help you get in the news. Much like a horse whisperer, you have to approach reporters and bloggers with a completely different mindset than if you were trying to sell a product or purchase a newspaper ad.
Much like wild mustangs, media professionals fiercely defend their independence, in this case editorial independence. They live by rules and standards that preclude them from taking payments or favors in exchange for news coverage. They have a tendency toward idealism, or at least toward righting the wrongs perpetrated by those in power. They like a good story, a strong human angle, a long shot fighting from behind.
Because a very small number of stories pitched to the media will see the light of day, you will want to adopt some of the practices of a good media whisperer. With that in mind, follow some of these techniques when pitching your startup or small business to a busy reporter or editor:
Be selective: discover which media outlets and reporters are most likely to be receptive to your story idea. Not every reporter is going to cover you, but if you are lucky you will strike pay dirt with a couple influential ones.
Simple message: keep your pitch simple and don’t run on. If pitching by email, answer the who-what-where-why question as quickly as possible. Don’t use long paragraphs, either, as the eye prefers white space when taking in content.
Trust: just like a wild horse must trust before it can submit, media professionals will throw off a story idea if it feels forced. Be sure you communicate a sincere desire to help a reporter educate or illuminate its audience.
Consistency: you will have more luck getting news coverage if you keep reaching out consistently over time. While you may get lucky the first time up, it’s far more likely you won’t succeed straight away.
Respect: treat media professionals with respect, even if they are hard to get a hold of and appear a tad brusque on the phone – it’s often because they work in a newsroom that is understaffed and over worked.
Charitable: it’s not a bad idea to help reporters out even when you don’t have a pony in the race, so to speak. Tip a reporter off on a hot trend or bit of news you overhear that you know could benefit the reporter. It will earn you a great deal of appreciation from a reporter, who relies on the help from friends when sourcing good material.
Reward: just like rewarding a wild bronco once it ceases to buck, be sure to offer a hearty thanks to any reporters who cover your brand. Remember, reporters are not obligated to cover your news and very likely they passed up some equally interesting news to cover your company.
About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech startup PR firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave about the PR over Coffee blog, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.