Suggest the right story to the right journalist at the right time

It’s no secret that successful pitching boils down to suggesting the right story to the right journalist at the right time.

Although media relations is inherently difficult, you do have a couple of things going for you. Web archives help you identify the right journalists for pretty much any topic you pitch. Reviewing what they choose to cover then gives you strong hints to determine the right stories to offer.

Now . . . identifying the right time? That’s a lot harder.

Sure, you can tie your pitches to timely events or breaking news, but those are inherently more competitive, because everyone else is pitching around those events, too.

I’m talking about pitching a USA Today reporter about an Oregon-based company a couple weeks before she departs on a previously scheduled trip to . . . Oregon.

Or pitching a Wired reporter about earthquake visualization software two days BEFORE the Nepal earthquake.

Both of those “coincidences” actually happened to PR pros I know – how did they do it?

No, you don’t have to be clairvoyant to succeed in our business.

But it helps if you are consistently contacting journalists and bloggers with useful info. Not necessarily pitches. Your outreach shouldn’t always be about your company/client.

When you are consistently in your key targets’ inboxes or Twitter mentions with useful info, they are more likely to engage with you. And that’s when they actually tell you things they are looking for or places they are going.

“But Michael,” you might be wondering, “I have 73 reporters on my media list for my next pitch. How could I possibly do that with all of them?”

You can’t. You need to de-couple what I’m recommending here from the one-time transactional pitching process you’re using when you’ve got a list of 73 reporters. Go ahead and follow that approach if that’s what your bosses or clients demand right now.

But separately, over time, cultivate relationships with five to ten absolutely crucial influencers. These are your right journalists.

Following their work will reveal the right stories.

And their receptiveness to your helpful and tactful outreach will reveal the right time.

This article was originally published on May 7, 2015

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