Sophie Everett is the Head of PR at Prodo and her talk focused on how to package and pitch a story to journalists as part of the ‘Online PR’ series of talks at Brighton SEO.
She started by highlighting the five ways to get your news story out there, which include:
- Personal connections
- Press release via email
- Social media
- Inbound PR – showcasing your story on your own channels
- Word of mouth
Sophie went on to discuss the importance of spending time on your press release pitch before sending it out. I’m going to go over the key points.
Prepare your press release pitch.
- Keep the press release to 400 words tand no more
- Include a contact number and email at the top
- Distil your story – bring all the information into 400 words
- Include spokesperson comment
- Keep to three key messages into a press release
- Encapsulate story into the first paragraph
It’s important to evaluate whether or not you have produced news-ready content. Journalists are extremely busy and won’t necessarily have the time to re-write your content. To ensure coverage then, you should intend on mimicking the style of the publication so it’s easy for them to copy and publish it with very few amends. For example, The Sun has reading age of 9 – so keep the language as simple as possible for the consumer press.
Make sure to always double check you content. Pass it around as many people as possible to get it checked for small grammatical and spelling errors.
Images and video
- A picture paints a thousand words – Select one and include a dropbox link to the others
- Don’t forget video content – think about what interviews you can work into the story
Finding the right people
Half the difficulty of pitching a press release successfully is to do with finding the right people. Utilise media databases such as Gorkana if you have access to them, or otherwise spend time on each target publications website to find the details and particular editor who will feature your story. Sophie recommended Hold the front page as a free tool which will allows access to a whole directory of publications.
- Think about the timing. Monday and Tuesday are great times to pitch, usually between 9 and 10 in the morning.
- Plan and predict ahead of wider events; some huge event that could throw your story off or might get lost.
- Personalised emails are great, but be realistic about time restraints
- Think about using the BCC field if necessary
- Many journos state the preference of not being called – but the 5% that uptake based on a call will be your best coverage
Preparing for a phone pitch
- Take your first paragraph of your press release and put it into a way that flows naturally into conversation
- Prep a FAQ sheet so you’re ready
- Practise and rehearse out loud and practise with a colleague
Top tips for pitching via phone with the journalist
- When you’re making the call, listen to what the journo us saying
- Receive their feedback, make sure you’re reactive in what you promise to the journalist
- Don’t make too many notes on the phone
- Always follow up and respect the deadlines
- Don’t take rejection too hard – take the criticism and see if there’s any patterns emerging
Finally, Sophie’s end point was don’t fall at the last hurdle – remember to monitor for coverage and links.