The first thing you need to know about pitching is that everyone fails at it.
We've all heard about JK Rowling sending Harry Potter to a zillion publishers before it was picked up. You have to approach pitching a story in much the same way.
It can take months, especially if you're aiming at the nationals.
As a small, rural business, you're much more likely to have success at pitching (or selling in) your story to a local newspaper or magazine, so if you're new to the game, give that a go first.
Here's a checklist of things to do to pitch your story to the local press:
- Identify your audience - who is it you're trying to reach?
- With that audience in mind, choose a publication to work with that targets your demographic.
- Research the publication. What stories do they like to tell?
- Choose your angle. You might think this would be the first thing to do and in some cases, it might be, but to pitch to a specific title, you'll need to work around them. And bear in mind that most magazines have three-month leads, so it's not good pitching a Christmas story at the beginning of December. Plan in advance.
- Draft your release and source images/photos. Remember to keep it news focused and not a sales pitch.
- Pitch. Put in a phone call or email to the editor, explain who you are and that you have a story you think will interest their readers because, above all, that's what they need to know. How will your story affect their audience and why should they care? Copy and paste your release and attach the photo as a jpeg (about 1MB) so they can get a better idea of what your story is.
- Give them time. They might reply straight away and tell you to send over the copy, or they might take weeks to respond. It depends on the lead time for the publications-newspapers have a much quicker turnaround than most magazines, so give them a couple of weeks to plan their issue and how you might fit in.
- Follow-up. If you haven't heard back from them within a couple of weeks, follow-up with a polite email. As busy people, they might have just forgotten to let you know they're using it, or seeing a follow-up might jog their memory.
- Ask for feedback. If they say no at this point, ask them what it is they're looking for in a pitch and how you might fit into their publication. They might offer you a different feature angle or some tips on pitching in future.
- Try again. Use the feedback they've given you and adapt your article accordingly. Or move onto another publication.
I'd like to reiterate a point I've made before about local vs national coverage. If your small business has a local audience, you're much better off putting in the time and effort to build relationships with journalists in the local area, rather than wasting time trying to pitch to the nationals. And you're much more likely to have a higher return rate.
Rural Roots offers full PR packages and one-to-one training sessions, so if you'd like to know more, get in touch.