There’s an illusion that I need to break about journalists: they’re often portrayed as these untouchable powerhouses that make all the decisions, and operate on a “Don’t call us; we’ll call you” basis. But the truth is that journalists are hungry for sources and contributors to stories, but they often don’t want to talk to someone who hasn’t had a lot of experience dealing with the media. They’ll have to spend time familiarizing themselves with you to get the information they need, find a story in your business, and that's time they don’t have.
Harsh, but it’s true. It’s like the cool kids in high school who hung out on one table at lunch. You’d never dare go near them, but secretly hope they’d notice you from afar, and invite you over to join them.
Well, listen up. I’ve got your invitation. Here are five sweet ways to cozy up to a journalist and get your name on industry pieces.
1. Do your research
It’s important to research what writers are writing about your industry. By browsing articles online and looking at bylines. Check out the “About Us” or “Contact Us” pages, and find the editor in charge of that section (Business, Arts, Lifestyle, Fashion, etc.). Once you do, read more of their writing, so you get to know what they’re interested in, who they’ve recently covered and who are their go-to sources over time.
2. Make a digital connection
Now that you’ve done your research, and you know who you want to pitch to, start engaging with this individual on social media. Comment intelligently on their articles. Follow them on Twitter, for instance, and connect with them on LinkedIn and share their content there. That way, when you’re ready to pitch, they’ll have an inkling of who you are, and your name will have a little bit more weight to it.
3. Perfect your pitch
When you’re ready to reach out, make sure you’re not using a press release template from 1980. Emotions are what connect ideas and concepts to people. You want to pitch emotions, stories, and impact, not just business numbers, forecasting or where you went to college. Stories are far better at “sticking” with an audience; facts and details are often forgotten. Think about creating a story that informs, inspires or entertains. When you do that, you get the privilege of having your message about your business ride along with that. Perhaps it’s the story of how your company’s co-founders came together (Think Apple: Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniacki), or how your product came about (Think Spanx: Sarah Blakely), or maybe the impact you’ve had on the lives of your customers (Think TOMS: Blake Mycoskie).
4. Package it up
Show the journalist you respect their time and work by opening with something like, “I’ve been following your articles, and based on what I’ve read, I’ve got an idea for a story I think you might be interested in.” Next, break down the idea, add in your industry expert quotes that they can use, and include other reference material like links to websites or other stories. By doing this, you’re cutting the amount of time they have to spend writing an article, as well as helping them write a better, more interesting article than if you had just sent a general press release with an announcement.
5. Use the tools available to you
Finally, there’s another option to connect with journalists- there are websites and services that allow you to sign up as a source and enable you to put yourself out there as an expert. Help A Reporter (HARO) is one of the most well-known and free resources of its kind. If you see something that matches up with you, you can contact the journalist directly, and so it’s an easy way to get quoted, and perhaps get a link to your website in the process.