Media relations or “earned media” is an area of focus and a key support area for the overwhelming majority of our clients. As a team, we spend a good chunk of our time discussing, researching and tracking media, as well as crafting well-received pitches.
We thought it might be interesting to offer our clients a peek into the art of the pitch. Perhaps some of you may be thinking, is there really such a thing? Don’t you simply send out a few lines and wait for the feature article to appear? How hard is it to work directly with the media?
Pitching the media, especially national business media, is not as easy as it looks. Why is this? For one thing, journalists are truly overwhelmed by pitches, the general public responding to reporting and overall email clutter.
For instance, a typical Mashable reporter can get hundreds, even thousands of pitches every day. Matthew Wald, former Energy Reporter for The New York Times, shared with the Silverline team that his inbox averaged about 500 pitches a day. How many of those become actual, real live stories? Not many. In fact, one journalist surmised after tracking her inbox for a week that she accepted less than 5% of the pitches sent to her by PR folks.
Andrew Rosenthal, former editorial page editor of The New York Times, remarked that in any given year, he could only recall publishing one or two unsolicited op-eds…and that The Times receives about 100-150 unsolicited op-eds per day. This would mean that one’s chances of getting an unsolicited op-ed published by The Times are about 1 in 50,000, or .00002.
To put this in perspective, it turns out the acceptance rate at Princeton University at 6.5% is higher than a chance of getting a pitch or op-ed accepted by a major national business outlet.
So… clearly we’re up against some pretty tough odds. For companies seeking media attention, the key is a solid team of storytellers.
Media pitching is an art form that requires hard work, follow-through and expertise – because it has to be! We counsel our clients that they must do their part: Bring an interesting story, facts (feelings and superlatives are not facts), examples and whenever possible, third party endorsements. Providing journalists with current statistics, analysis and objective data also goes a long way towards building a credible story.
Our tasks when pitching can be divided into three main activities:
- First, RESEARCH. We know our journalists, their beats, their coverage areas and past articles before we pitch them. We know what baseball team they like, where they grew up and a variety of relationship facts that we gather during the course of our careers.
- Second, CREATE. We must craft pitches that will disrupt, that will evoke a response, and that will stand out and get noticed. AND… are timely and relevant, not just cool and interesting.
- Third, FOLLOW UP. It’s all about persistence. As a team, that’s what defines us.