After pitching radio media for more than ten years, we have noticed three things that media representatives should be on top of in order to build and keep strong relationships with the media. Simply put, they should know who they are pitching, what they are pitching, and why they are pitching a particular reporter/producer.
To the first point, the “who.” Media reps need to have a complete picture of the producers/reporters they are pitching and be sensitive to their likes and dislikes. They should tap into their professional as well as personal side. Having this knowledge can often separate a successful pitch from one that fails to connect. On the professional side, media reps should note whether the producer/reporter covers hard news or soft news, breaking news or features, is interested in social issues, political issues, health, technology, consumer news, human interest or entertainment. Gaining this knowledge takes some work and a natural curiosity. In today’s newsrooms, it can be difficult to keep track of who covers what, but this can make a pitch standout from the hundreds of others they get daily.
On the personal side, as you get to know your media contacts, note whether they are married or single; have children, pets, special hobbies, participate in sports; whether they are African American, Asian, Hispanic, Caucasian; are they serious and to the point or do they like to chit-chat and take the time to talk about life? Once you have that type of background information, you can match your pitching style to the personality and interests of the reporter/producer. And, after a few hits with that reporter/producer, don’t be afraid to explore “other” topics – new areas of possible interest.
Second, media reps must be fully versed in the topic they are pitching and should be prepared to answer any question a reporter/producer may ask. This involves reading the background material and anticipating areas that may elicit questions. Essentially this is the time that a media rep gets to play reporter by imagining all of the questions that any good reporter might ask. The key is to be direct and to the point, position yourself as a resource and not a nuisance. Don’t be lazy in your pitch and send volumes of background material, but rather pull out the highlights, the most important and attention-grabbing information the reporter/producer will need, and send it in a clear and easy to read format. This of course means in the body of an email, and not as an attachment.
And finally, media reps need to be able to explain “why” a reporter/producer should book the interview or run the story that is being offered. Is it because it’s timely and current, of local interest, fits the format, fits the demographics, or a reporter’s personal interests? To successfully book an interview, media reps must have credibility. And having a good, strong basis for your pitch gives you that credibility.
The most important thing and the underlying element to every pitch is honesty. Don’t spin and stretch the pitch to the point that you lose the trust of a reporter or producer. Gracefully accept a “No,” “I’m not interested, “or “I’ll pass on this one.” Don’t take it personally. Remember, these are business decisions, and you want to keep the door open for future bookings.