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Here are six sure-fire ways to get the attention of editors, based on my experience of regularly pitching to editors on The Guardian as a contributing blogger (and receiving a ton of pitches from PR agents and bloggers).
In this post I’m going to show you how you can pitch to the media to get press coverage – even if the idea of talking to a journalist (and marketing in general) brings you out in a cold sweat.
1. Know your media
Before you target any paper, radio or TV station, think first about the audience and their likely interests. It would be pointless for book marketing purposes to send a romance book idea to the Financial Times, for example.
Don’t just concentrate on national newspapers. Also consider local papers, specialist magazines and blogs. If your idea for a guest post or interview would fit into a trade magazine, check out Sandra Beckwith’s article on how to get trade journal publicity.
Remember that most media outlets have several editors. For your pitch to have the best chance of success, make sure it goes to the right person. Look on the contacts page of the paper, magazine or journal, or use social media. Which brings me to the second point…
2. Get to know journalists
This is where introverts come into their own.
It used to be that you’d need to spend hours in a pub to get to know journalists and editors, but today you’re as likely to make contacts online. Most people in media are on Twitter and LinkedIn. This is also a good place to check out the company profile to find out who’s who, or who’s recently moved into an editorial job. Contacts are everything.
Don’t just follow journalists and editors on Twitter but become known as a go-to expert in the genre or subject you write on. This will help you when you come to pitch. For example, if you write Cold War thrillers, regularly tweeting your research on Cold War spies or clandestine operations will help to establish you as an authority. (Ideal if your aim is to pitch the editor of a History magazine with a story around your new book on the Cold War, for example.)
3. Get your angle right
For a journalist to write about your story, they need to know what the angle is. In other words, why would their readers be interested? That’s your angle.
If you can give the journalist a good angle, you’re half-way there. A good angle can be an unusual twist to an existing story or news item, or a different perspective.
If in doubt, look for the human story in your pitch. For local media, a local connection is essential. Maybe it’s a local place where you lived, or where your character comes from, for example.
4. Respect deadlines
If you’re pitching a blog or newspaper, your deadline is much tighter than a magazine, which typically has a three-month lead-time. If you’re already known to a journalist, you might even get a request for copy (or a quote) for the same or next day.
5. How to pitch to the media
If you’re pitching by email, make sure your subject line stands out. Avoid the bland “Idea for a news story” and try to get the meat of your idea into the subject line. Instead of “Idea for a story about the CIA and KGB” you’d get more interest with “New evidence uncovers controversial CIA and KGB collusion.”
Don’t write your entire news story in the body of your email. A brief paragraph with the main idea is enough. If you find this difficult, think of the “What’s in it for me?” angle. Why is your idea interesting to the audience?
If you’ve got a time-sensitive pitch for your book, you might even want to speak in person to a journalist. In this excellent interview with Joanna Penn, PR Coach Janet Murray suggests saying “I’m (name) and the author of (book). I just wondered if you had time to talk through a story idea?” This gets the journalist’s attention immediately. Then make sure you get to the point.
6. Be easy to work with
Journalists and editors are busy and under pressure to produce stories. If you establish a reputation for being easy to work with (and available for last-minute comments) then you’re more likely to be the first point of reference for that person. At that point, you’ll have a tame journalist who’ll come back to you for more, making your book marketing even easier.