Cultivating a reporter’s interest in a story about your public library can be challenging. For one thing, changes in the media industry have made it harder to be heard. There are fewer journalists, which means the remaining reporters, editors and producers receive many more pitches from local organizations than ever before.
But those who pitch the media for a living know that both persistence and the ability to develop a good relationship with the journalist often pay off in coverage. Persistence can be simple: Keep following up. But developing a strong relationship with a reporter can be trickier.
Those new to the pitching game are likely to make a few rookie mistakes. Fortunately, once you know what they are, they’re easy to avoid. The five that follow are common. Continue reading to learn how to turn these mistakes into winning strategies.
1. Don’t send the same pitch to everyone on your media list.
It takes time for journalists to review dozens of pitches and decide which is worth pursuing. That’s why they get frustrated when most of those pitches seem to willfully ignore the topics they typically cover.
Do your research. Take the time to read or watch the latest stories the journalist has published. Does your story seem to fit their interests or their beat? For example, if the journalist typically covers charity events, there’s a very good chance she’ll be interested in your annual fundraiser. But if he or she primarily covers the statehouse, it’s unlikely you’ll get a call back about that story.
2. Don’t ignore the deadline.
In the journalism world, deadlines are sacrosanct. A reporter can’t ask for an extension, so if the requested information doesn’t arrive before the cutoff, it likely won’t make it into the article. This simply may mean a missed opportunity, but it also could create negative consequences. When an article is missing key facts or your perspective, readers may arrive at inaccurate conclusions.
When a reporter reaches out, your first question should be: “What’s your deadline?” Then, prioritize getting the answer quickly – ideally with a couple of hours to spare.
3. Provide more than just the facts.
Along with covering more beats, journalists are often responsible for creating accompanying images or handling marketing tasks. Thus, many take their own photos and promote their own work on social media.
When pitching a story, be sure to include additional materials to help the reporter put the story together. Providing the journalist with photos, images and charts will reduce the workload and streamline the process, making your story much more attractive to the journalist.
4. Don’t ask to review the article before publication.
Even if you have a very good relationship with a journalist, it’s never a good idea to ask to review articles about your library before publication. Journalists highly value their independence, and – more importantly – they continuously strive for objectivity. If a reporter asks you to review a passage for accuracy, certainly be accommodating and helpful. But you risk damaging a relationship if you’re the one asking for a pre-publication copy.
5. Invite them to your events.
At times, it can seem risky to invite journalists to your events. Maybe you’re worried they will overhear complaints or learn unfavorable information about your library.
But by not inviting them, you’re also missing an important opportunity to educate the media on who you are and what you do. Usually, there’s much more to gain by encouraging them to attend.
Ultimately, avoiding these errors will help you establish and cultivate good working relationships with local journalists. If you succeed, not only will you have an easier time capturing the media’s attention, but you’ll also have a better chance to tell your side of the story if troubles do arise.