Targeting Pitches and Reporters: Why and How
E-mail is often the preferred method of contact for most reporters and writers. So it may seem quick and easy to stick as many e-mail addresses as you can find in the To: field, hoping a few of the recipients will care about your story idea or press release. Easy for you? Yes. But it’s not the best way to build relationships with writers. Instead, it’s important to focus your message to a select group of recipients—those who would most likely be interested in your idea.
- No spamming. When you send irrelevant pitches or story ideas to reporters, you appear as a spammer, even though it’s not your intent. First off-topic story idea—you may get your suggestion passed along to the appropriate contact. Or the message may be simply deleted. Become a repeat offender, and you risk being marked as junk mail or blocked by the spam filters.
- Read, watch and get to know the media outlets. Whether a local newspaper, morning radio show, or monthly magazine, it’s important to become familiar with the outlet first. Get a sense for what type of stories they cover and who reports them. If a local talk radio program only covers local sports, for example, that wouldn’t be the best place to try to pitch on a story about managing stress related to the economy.
- Pay attention to the names of reporters or writers in bylines. If you see a health-related story or notice that a particular reporter has taken an interest in something related to public education topics, make a note of the name. Use any of these names as the start of a media list. You’ll often find their e-mail addresses or phone numbers attached to a story. If not, you can call the newsroom and ask for contact details.
- Look at the mastheads of magazines or publications. This is the section that is often at the front of publication and lists the names and titles of people working on the publication. They often list the names of editors handling various topics, such as health and fitness or lifestyles. On a Web site, you may find this information in an “about us” section.
- Try to focus on one reporter per outlet or publication. If you’re not certain about the best contact for a particular media outlet (e.g. several health reporters, a features editor, lifestyle editor), call the switchboard and ask for the newsroom. Then explain your story and ask who would be most likely to cover this.
- Write to real people, not generic e-mail accounts. Some publications or websites may request that you submit your ideas to a generic e-mail account—such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Sometimes, it’s your only option. But it may take longer to get in front of the right eyes. Do your best to find the contact information for the specific person you want to reach.
- Send one personalized press release to only one reporter at a time. Even after you’ve narrowed your list to five or six potential writers, you want to avoid the temptation to put all those e-mail addresses into a To: or CC: field. It’s OK to send a copy-and-pasted similar message to each reporter, but try to personalize or tailor the message.
- Be patient. Finding the right reporter for your story can take some time, and maybe even a few notes of rejection. And turnover in newsrooms is faster than ever. But be patient and keep trying. If you need help finding the right people, contact any of us in Practice PR.
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