How to approach the media

8th April 2015

Over the years, I have received thousands of press releases and emails from businesses, organisations and PR agencies, all trying to convince me that their event/ product/ story is one worth writing about. But only a very few of them are successful. So what can you do to get your business noticed? Here are some of my top tips for anyone trying to achieve media coverage.

1. Find your story.

What makes you unique? What hurdles have you overcome or sacrifices have you made? Are you reviving the lost art of paper-cutting? Do you work somewhere very unusual? Or does your story fit in with wider trends or events that are topical at the moment? The more relevant or unusual your story, the more likely it is to be picked up.    

2. Do your research.

It sound obvious, but there is no use in pitching an interiors story to a food website, or an event based in Cornwall to a publication that mainly covers London. Make the effort to find and target publications that have covered this type of story or area before and think about what sort of angle they might be interested in.

3. Find out lead times.

An event happening in two weeks will have no relevance to a magazine that works three months in advance. Some magazines may even work as far as six months ahead of publication, so if you want Christmas coverage, you might need to send an email in June.

4. Make the subject line of your email jump out.

Journalists and editors receive hundreds of emails every day and don’t usually have time to open, never mind read them all, so your leading line is very important. Think about what would catch your eye and, if it helps, what the header might be for the final published article. For example, if you are pitching a new book that covers how to reduce salt in your diet, you might say:

Salt: how much is too much? New book by Dr Sandy Green reveals all.

5. Write a concise introductory email.

If a journo or editor has taken the time to open your email, they want to see at a glance what the crux of the story is and why it is relevant without having to open any attachments or wade through masses of information. Write a brief introductory note summarising your story and why it is relevant along with contact information, including a phone number and a link to your website and/or high resolution imagery.

6. Follow up by phone.

Emails are easily overlooked so, if you haven’t heard back within a week, then follow up with a phone call. My view is that if you have taken the time to research and pitch a story that is considered, relevant and timely, then you are entitled to a response, even if it is a no thank you. On the other hand, if you haven’t bothered to research the publication and target your story appropriately, why should they bother to reply? Manners work both ways!

7. Be contactable.

Journalists work to tight deadlines and often at strange hours. Be available to talk to them personally late at night, early in the morning, at weekends or on holiday!

8. Be ready for more customers.

If you are being featured in a national newspaper or on television, the chances are that you will receive a flood of website traffic and orders. Do you have the resources and/or stock to cope with the influx? If not, that media coverage you have worked so hard to gain may do your business more harm than good, so it’s important to be prepared.

Do you need help putting together a press release? I have written press releases for a wide range of different businesses, organisations and agencies and can help you to sell your story in a way that appeals to your target publications.