2 easy ways to write an attention-grabbing media pitch

This may surprise you, but journalists really want to hear your story ideas. We can’t be everywhere, and we depend on our community to let us know what’s going on.

But as much as we want and need these ideas, sometimes they can be overwhelming. At Cary Magazine, I get dozens of press releases, alerts and story pitches every day. When I worked for newspapers, more than a hundred pitches a day would hit my inbox.

In all that noise, how can you make your story pitch stand out? Here are two things to consider the next time you have an idea for a story:

  1. Do your homework.Research is vital when you’re trying to get publicity for your idea, event or business. A few minutes on the media outlet’s website will save you time and increase your chances of getting the exposure you want.

    Find out the name of the person you want to reach and address them personally. “Dear Amber” might be casual, but it’s much better than the generic “Dear Editor.” And any email addressed to former employees are likely to be trashed.

    Scan past stories to see what subjects they’ve already been written about, and try to understand whom the writer is trying to reach. Cary Magazine focuses on people, places and events in Western Wake County. If your business is based in California or London, I’m unlikely to be interested. Even if it’s based in Wake Forest, I probably won’t write about it.

    Magazines typically work months in advance, so check the editorial calendar and plan ahead. I want to hear about singing Santa Clauses in August, not in November.

One of the best press releases I’ve ever gotten addressed me by name, and explained that my health-oriented readers would love to know more about a new vitamin water. She mentioned a shopping feature I edit, and she included several local retail outlets.

Although I didn’t feature her product, I did send her a personal note describing what kind of stories we would be interested in. The time she invested in research helped her build a relationship that may lead to other story placements in the future.

  1. Don’t make me work too hard.I’d love to spend five minutes with each press release, but it’s more likely to be a few seconds. So explain your idea as concisely as you can, tell me why my audience will care, and include what you want me to do — otherwise known as a call to action.

    Instead of the generic “Press Release” or “Story Idea” subject line, use descriptive words such as “Introducing Bubbly Brunch at Piedmont!” The writer who sent that press release knows we do a lot of restaurant coverage, and wanted to alert us to a new brunch menu with wine pairings.

    Include contact information and a website for more information. Please, just do it.

I recently received a 200-word email, and nowhere did it say what the writer wanted. Was this a new business? Did they want to advertise? Or did they want a mention on our Instagram?

The writer didn’t include a website or a location either — just a phone number. The subject line did include the business name, so I was able to Google it. But I wouldn’t have bothered if I hadn’t had this blog article to write.

If all this seems like a lot of work just to send an email, you might consider hiring a public relations professional to manage your media relations. They can help your story stand out, and you can focus on building your business or planning your event.

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