Take it from me. It’s easy writing the articles. Frankly, if my life were my own I’d sit at home, in my PJs, with a dog on each foot, writing articles. I love it. But what I don’t love (with the possible exception of labrador snores, when I’m trying to write) is having to pitch the content out. I don’t love that old fashioned PR thing of having to pick the phone up and hustle to find people willing to publish my work.
Now, there are some people – and I’m thankful that several are part of the EC Herd – that love this type of excitement… and that are really good at it. I’m particularly glad of this because, in the modern marketplace, it is no longer just a case of picking up the phone. Now we need to worry about how things might spread, virally… how readers might consume the content… how we’re going to measure ROI from this content… and that’s before we wonder if the media database is up to date… it’s little wonder that my PR associates feel the pressure.
So… you’ve written your great piece of thought-leadership… and you’re ready to go… now what?
First, let’s set it out clearly. 81% of journalists prefer to receive a pitch (press release, article, suggestions etc) via email. But with writers at top publications receiving 20 or more pitches a day (which is in excess of 7000 a year) it can be hard to stand out. You can start to understand why loving writing, and having something good to say, doesn’t automatically translate to column inches.
Here are my top tips (and tips from some of the EC team) for getting your article or pitch published:
- Make it relevant. The golden rule is that what you send needs to be relevant to the person receiving it. It might sound obvious but the ‘chuck enough muck at the wall’ approach is going to harm, rather than help your cause.
- Develop a strategic plan. This might sound like overkill but it’s essential. You need to find the right people and then spend time getting their attention. This means engaging with them on social media, in particular. Most importantly, remember point 1. Get their attention because they’re really interested in what you have to say. Jump into their consciousness and conversation with relevant, intelligent comment.
- Look to your database. It stands to reason that you aren’t going to have the time to engage, one-to-one, with every journalist on your target list. In some areas of work there might be hundreds. Whilst this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow them on Twitter, set up a list so you can engage with anything relevant and connect with them on LinkedIn, you will also need to rely on your media database. There are a number of paid for media database tools you can subscribe to (and the big firms/agencies will) but they’re really expensive… most are still relying on a spreadsheet or CRM system. The problem is that as soon as you’ve ticked the box to say it’s created… it’s probably out of date. You thought personal injury claims teams moved jobs regularly? You ain’t seen nothing! So, the way to tackle this is to go back to point 1. Make it relevant. Cut out the ‘maybe they’ll be interested’ and whittle it down to a smaller number of really relevant publications that you can spend time applying point 2 to. We can be a bit technical about this, though… You can use https://moz.com/free-seo-tools or https://adwords.google.com/intl/en_uk/home/tools/keyword-planner/ to see what terms people are most searching for and, importantly, to rank publications in order of influence. A journalist that writes for a publication with a high search score is a more important target for you, because if they publish it your article will most likely show up at the top of a Google search for that subject. Simples. And then, at that point… it’s just a case of doing two things: 1) setting a diary entry to check all contacts on a regular basis; and 2) being disciplined about correcting any bounce backs THE MINUTE YOU RECEIVE THEM! [and yes, I did shout that… it’s important…]
- Don’t forget social media amplification. We wrote about this recently and there are loads of tips available in our article. But don’t overlook this as frivolity. Journalists pay attention to how much an article is shared and what people are saying. And those journalists that write articles with high social engagement know their audiences well. This gives you a good insight, if you do your homework, for point 5.
- Know the audience. If you’re targeting a pitch to a particular journalist make sure you understand the audience they write for. The objective is to present it to them with the right points and headlines brought out, in the right tone of voice or style. This can mean the difference between sending them an infographic or a white paper.
- Tailor your approach. I’m sorry to say that there is little substitute for writing a tailored approach, with reference to points 1 and 5. Journalists will tell you that they rarely get tailored approaches – approaches that demonstrate that you know the publication and what the journalist writes about. Yes, of course, there’s a time issue with this (hence the importance of having a tailored list) but unique, relevant information will always get noticed.
- Build relationships. Journalists are used to getting press release and article pitches. But the best relationships come from ‘helping them out’ when you don’t want anything. It’s the old fashioned equivalent of sticking a post-it note on an article and sending it to them saying “saw this and thought of you”. Providing tips and information when you aren’t trying to get coverage will establish you as a useful source of information, worthy of a developing relationship. More importantly, if you’re clever about it you can do this in such a way as to link it to your key agenda topics and thought-leadership, thereby pushing your white paper or press releases to the top of the pile, when the time comes.
Good luck. In the next article, we’re going to talk about newsjacking and ‘jumping into the conversation’.