How to get free press coverage (and the top 5 journalist pet hates)

Would you like to get your business some all important free press coverage? Have you tried to get into the press but not had much success so far? Here I spill the beans on journalists’ top 5 pet hates when being pitched to…and what you can do to avoid making these mistakes when pitching to the press.

  1. Never call up and say “Hello! Did you get my email?”
  2. Don’t be tempted to ask: “I emailed you last week, did you get it?”
  3. Never write essays!
  4. Avoid sending attachments and links
  5. Don’t send blanket emails and cut and paste the target journo’s name
  6. I will now go into more detail on the above points and give my ideas on how to avoid committing a ‘journalist pet-hate crime’!

1. Never call up and say “Hello! Did you get my email?”

Journalists are extremely busy. That’s the nature of their business — they are the ones breaking and reporting the news.

The Oxford Dictionary definition for news is:

“Newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events:

‘I’ve got some good news for you’ “

Journalists can receive up to 150+ unsolicited emails a day. At my PR Workshop event in London, industry expert, Harriet Minter of The Guardian told us that she receives 300+ emails a day, and these aren’t even the emails to emails she has sent out. So can you imagine how frustrating it is for them to have someone call them and ask that?

I totally understand why we, the entrepreneur, the pitcher, want to ask that question, as our world revolves around OUR company and its success on being #VISIBLE but if all 300 people call up and ask if their email has been received it may be perceived as frustrating.

Which leads me onto point No 2…

2. Don’t be tempted to ask: “I emailed you last week, did you get it?”

Now you may realise why they don’t like that question as much as the first.

So what is the solution?

In my experience the best ice breaker when calling a journalist is to ask them if they have time to speak. This shows that you class the journalist as a fellow human being, not a commodity who must read every email sent. They will either say ‘”No, sorry I am on deadline” to which you could ask when would be the best day and time to call, or you will have a little window to speak…

So in this window (of not being rebuffed), having a strong 8 word ‘elevator pitch’ will get you past the dreaded 30 seconds barrier of whether they want to hear more from you or not. Read here about how you can ‘Nail it in 8’ so you can pique interest during your pitch!

Don’t forget to try and talk about something you may have in common with the journalist — this could make you memorable and make the conversation a little less uncomfortable!

3. Never write essays!

By now you will have gathered that the journalist is very pressed for time plus they have hundreds of emails to get through (if they have compelling subject boxes — but that’s another newsletter altogether) so my advice is that you are:

  • Succinct
  • To the point
  • Use bullet points!

Just do 3 bullet points for your pitch followed by a short paragraph. The use of correct statistics is always helpful.

4. Avoid sending attachments and links

Don’t clog up the inboxes with heavy attachments that will invariably get blocked by the server. At the end of your email, you can say you have low resolution images you can send over.

Links to other sites tend to be a no-no as the busy journalist will not want to be diverted, so try to include all the key facts in the email. If you have to include a link, do, but take into account it may not get clicked on.

5. Don’t send blanket emails and cut and paste the target journo’s name

You may be running your PR campaign and have quite a few journalists on your hit list, but if you don’t personalise your message, then you will come across as ‘pitch-happy’ and could run the risk of not being listened to or rather read as you are emailing!

So I recommend you research your target journalist, address them by their first name ie Hi Suzi….then mention that you have read their latest article, and tell them what resonated with you, then add your 3 bullet points as suggested above.

These are just a few of the Do’s and Don’ts of how to pitch to the press.

Come to my next live PR training event in London on April 20th and learn much much more! PLUS you have the chance to pitch to journalist Helen Croydon, so you will get feedback in a ‘safe environment’!