It has happened to everyone at one point or another. You build your list and pitch your story to the media, and then… Nothing. After a lot of time, and in some cases money, you just don’t get the return you are looking for.
Before you start playing the blame game, let’s have a look at a few reasons why your story may not have been picked up (AKA things to avoid).
- You targeted the wrong media. Not every media outlet is going to be interested in the topic of your story. For example, you wouldn’t send a release about an up and coming football star to a parenting magazine, you would send to a sports magazine. Similarly, you can’t just send to the first editor or journalist you come across. Have a look at what type of articles they have written to make sure that it’s topically a good fit.
- Your subject line wasn’t attention-grabbing. Think about what type of headline would be on an article about your pitch and use that for your subject line. What type of headlines make you stop your newspaper browsing to read the article?
- Your pitch was too long. You don’t need to fit every single detail in your pitch email. The idea is to get the key information in to tell your story and let the media know what you want (ie. A segment idea for a TV show, a product feature, etc). After receiving 50 other pitch emails, your journalist or editor will likely not have time, nor will they want to read a long-winded email about your story.
- You didn’t include any relevant stats/data. Including numbers in your pitch will make it seem more relevant because it shows that you have taken the time to do research. If it is a consumer study, then it shows that you have already tested the relevance to the target audience.
- No connection to current events – why now? The quickest way to make your pitch relevant is to tie it to what is happening in the world right now. Make sure you aren’t too far reaching in your connection though, it has to be believable.
- Not enough lead time. There is a science to picking the right time to pitch media, but you should always make sure you give them enough time to conduct interviews and arrange for reporters and a camera crew if you are having an event. Note that if you are having an event on a weekend, most broadcast media are running with a smaller staff, so lead time is important. Most of the time, reaching out to media one or two days before will likely not cut it and you won’t see the return on your time investment.
- No spokesperson readily available. When you pitch media, be ready with a spokesperson for them to speak to if they want an interview. A reporter sometimes has a short window of time to put a story together to pitch to editors, or to meet a deadline. The other way to look at it is that it’s kind of annoying to media if you dangle this story in front of them and they request an interview but you don’t get back to them for a day or two. They will lose interest, and you will likely not be able to pitch them again.
- Your dates coincide with a major event. If you are planning for an event or a product launch, best to do some research about what is going to be happening around that time. If the royal baby is born and you are trying to pitch a consumer product to lifestyle media, don’t bother. They’re focus will be on that major event (spoken from experience). The same can be said about political elections or major corporate announcement, etc.
- Your story isn’t newsworthy. This can be the hardest to hear for many people. Just because you think your story is unique and newsworthy doesn’t mean someone else will. It needs to be relevant to the media so they in turn can make it relevant for their readers.