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The top 6 things to have in every PR pitch if you want to get good earned media coverage

Getting good press can make a brand or take it to the next level. Whether local media or a global outlet like Forbes, earned media coverage is a huge potential step for your business. The game of public relations and getting good media coverage is all about how human you are and ensuring your pitch is sent to the right person, at the right outlet, with the right message.

We’re counting down the top 6 tips to follow if you want great earned media coverage.

6- Have a real story

getting earned media is about framing your story

Before sending your pitch, be honest and ask if something really is a story. Earned media coverage is all about being interesting, so you want to make sure that what you have to share is put in its best light.

Answer these questions to see if you really have a potential story. There’s no scoring here since a story could be interesting regardless of the answers, but this is information you’ll want to have.

  1. Are stories written about other companies that do what you did or accomplish what you accomplished?
  2. Is your business in an interesting/novel space?
  3. Have you accomplished something totally new that drastically improves a known issue?
  4. What is your “cool factor”?
  5. Do you have a “hook” around a current event or common topic of conversation in your area?

There are many ways to craft a story, so you don’t necessarily need to be in the coolest industry to get a successful hit. However, if you don’t have any hook to grab the reader’s attention, you’re less likely to have your pitch accepted.

This leads into product positioning, which is crucial for your company and for any earned media pitches. Getting earned media is as much about you as it is about the publication.

5- Make your ask clearly for earned media

make your ask clear

It sounds weird, but many earned media pitches don’t actually have a direct ask for coverage in them. Someone will send an email with a bunch of information splashed all over the page, perhaps an attachment, but no ask. You may think you’re being un-pushy by not assuming that someone will cover your story, but keep in mind that journalists receive tons of pitches a day (and some write for many outlets). If you’re not specific, you’ll lose out most of the time.

Make sure you are clear about:

  • Wanting coverage
  • Why you think you have a story
  • What outlet(s) you think it would be good for (that the journalist writes for)

This applies whether you have a relationship with the journalist or not, but especially in cold emails. Whatever you do, don’t ask for a coffee to “get to know” the person when you really just want to pitch them – it’s cheap, it’s lazy, and it’s a trick. Don’t do it.

4- Show that you understand the journalist’s work

show you know the journalist's work

Earned media is a confusing game when it comes to content style, but understanding the journalist’s work is crucial to getting them to accept your pitch.

If a journalist is known for writing cultural commentary and long-form pieces, they are likely not going to accept a run of the mill press release about earnings or fundraising. It’s not their writing style. Same goes on the flip side: a breaking news journalist is less likely to accept a feature profile pitch.

Whenever you’re pitching, make sure you pitch to fit:

  • The journalist’s writing topics
  • Writing style(s) the journalist typically uses

To get this information, look at the journalist’s work online. A Google search will turn up most of what you want to know, but looking at their LinkedIn or MuckRack will also help you understand where else/how else they write.

When crafting an earned media pitch, remember that journalists are busy and are often thinking about a million things at once. Similar to positioning your product well, position your pitch in the context of other the journalist’s other work.

For example, if you want a feature profile article out of your pitch, mention a feature profile article that the journalist has already written in your reach out. Then explain why your story would be great for that format – perhaps it’s someone willing to go “no holds barred” on the record, making for a really interesting story, or perhaps it’s a notable person that people want to read about.

Hinting at possible formats is a good way to help the journalist frame your story. Just don’t be pushy about it if they opt to take a different story angle.

3- Frame your ask in the context of the publication

position your story for the outlet and the journalist

A train magazine will never write about non-train related stories. While it may write about train-adjacent stories like railway hotels and new forms of train station architecture, it likely won’t write about cars. If you have a car story, don’t pitch the train magazine for earned media coverage – it won’t work, it’s a waste of both of your time, and will annoy the journalist.

The same goes for tech and innovation related publications. Each one has an ethos and an angle, so simply having a technology solution does not necessarily make you a fit for every tech publication. Since all publications care about eyeballs at the end of the day, mention in your earned media pitch why you think readers of a specific publication will care about the story.

If you’re not sure about a specific publication, try three things:

  • Read their About Us page – you should be able to get the whole story
  • Google the company and read what shows up in the Google preview – that’s often edited to be a super condensed version of their mission
  • Ask a journalist on staff (the one you eventually want to pitch) – this may backfire, so use it as a last resort

2- Keep your initial pitch short and genuine

example earned media pitch email

When you first reach out for earned media – particularly for cold emails – blasting the whole press release may not be the best idea. Instead, try a shorter approach that asks if the journalist would like more information. In this approach, use a teaser of the information that offers 1-2 sentences of the key story points.

A couple notes about this pitch:

  • It’s short. The “pitch” itself is only one sentence.
  • I introduced myself. No one likes talking to a spam bot.
  • I noted the lens. This helps with simple framing.
  • I mentioned other articles by this journalist. In a real pitch, I’d mention the articles by name.

A side note here for anyone pitching for earned media: technically, everything is on the record with a journalist unless you both agree to have it off the record prior to the journalist receiving the information. Most journalists will respect privacy when they get a pitch, but technically a journalist could publish that XYZ company “is set to announce” global clients and a recent expansion.

If there’s a true embargoed story (one that can’t go out until a certain time and date), always ask the journalist if they agree to the embargo before sending them any details.

1- Use human language to increase your chances of earned media

be human in your pitching

In the pitch, tell me what you’re up to and why it matters. Leave the buzzwords out of it whenever possible – and definitely don’t use buzzwords in lieu of explaining what you’re actually doing.

Here are a few of the most common buzzwords to avoid:

  • Disruptive
  • Innovative
  • Life-changing
  • Future of work

Buzzwords will make your pitch seem less valid or valuable. A common assumption with journalists is that if you have you use buzzwords, you likely don’t have much substance.

Now, buzzwords can have a time and place, which is why this advice is to avoid, not barr completely. However, be very careful that you don’t use a buzzword where another verb should be. For example, “our company is disrupting ABC industry” is weak. “Our company is building XYZ solution to solve DEF major problem in ABC industry” is stronger.

In your pitch as well, avoid superlatives when describing what you are:

  • The only one in the world doing XYZ
  • The best globally
  • The biggest project

If you’re needing to tell journalists how big and awesome you are (instead of showing it with provable numbers or stories), then they will probably assume your story is not as important.

Journalists are humans, too

It can seem like journalists are mythical creatures, but the reality is they are humans too. They have interests, flaws, pet peeves, and deadlines just like anyone else. When pitching them for earned media, remember that.

Journalism is a two-way street. Journalists need good stories as much as companies want good coverage. It’s not a situation where you’re powerless and journalists hold all the cards. Instead, look at it like a human relationship that needs cultivating. Take stock of these top 6 tips for awesome earned media coverage and follow them in your next pitch(es).

Good luck!

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