I recently attended the “Meet the Assignment Editors” event, hosted by the Public Relations Society of America National Capital Channel chapter. The event featured a panel of four industry leaders in the field of journalism: Steven Ginsberg, Deputy Political Editor of The Washington Post; Lisa Matthews, Planning Editor to the Associated Press; Vandana Sinha, Assistant Managing Editor to the Washington Business Journal; and Lois Dyer, Futures Editor of CBS News. The panelists shared what assignment and futures editors look for when they consider covering a story or event. They also provided insight on what makes a successful pitch. Living and working in Washington D.C. has taught me that there are an astronomical number of stories pitched to reporters every day. It is important to understand the ever-changing news industry in order to get your message seen and heard by your key audiences.
The panel provided helpful tips, such as recommendations on the right communication channels to use when pitching to reporters. Nearly the entire panel agreed that the best medium is email, and that voicemails are rarely checked. Email has become the preferred form of initial contact for reporters. One exception of note was Mr. Ginsberg. To him, the quickest way to get attention is to write a tweet, such as “you won’t believe this story,” with a link to your press release. This method of tweeting to reporters serves as yet another example of the way social media is playing an integral role in both personal and professional lives. I’m looking forward to giving this a try, and will be sure to reach out to Mr. Ginsberg as my first guinea pig.
Some other helpful questions to ask before pitching a reporter are:
- Have you researched the best day and time for pitching the publication you are targeting, based on when it is published?
- Have you researched various reporters and their stories to find the best person to contact?
- Is your pitch relevant to this publication?
- Does the publication’s target audience align with the audience you hope to reach?
- Before hitting send, do you know your pitch inside and out? Is everything spelled correctly? Is your subject line simple and direct?
If you’ve done all of these things, then it’s time to hit send and cross your fingers! Remember, the key is to pitch a story that a reporter can use. This is the best way to build your personal reputation and increase the likelihood that your email will be opened. Don’t forget the panel’s stance that email is always the best way to get in touch with a reporter initially. And whatever you do, don’t call twenty minutes after sending an email to see if it was received.