Email is the key for pitching to media
Despite all the chatter about the importance of social media, traditional news media still command the largest audiences. And the most effective way to provide story ideas to journalists is through email pitches.
A recent media survey provides some valuable highlights for communicators. Published in 2013, the Media Landscape Survey conducted by Flagler College and Dalton Agency, surveyed almost 1,500 respondent editors, reporters, producers, writers and others in US media outlets. Similar findings were apparent in the Cision State of the Media Report 2017, which also interviewed 1,500 US and Canadian journalists.
Email pitches favored by reporters
The survey found email pitches were the most common way to provide story ideas to reporters. PR professionals were 7 times more likely to propose a story idea by email than by phoning. Almost 60% of PR practitioners emailed story ideas compared with 9% via social media/wire services and 8% via phone calls/text messages.
Email was also the method most favored by reporters. Around 63% of reporters preferred email pitches compared with phone calls/text messages (5%), social media/wire services (3.5%) and letters (1%).
Most reporters (61%) used media releases to merely provide a useful topic for an article, and used some of the material in the ensuing story. Around 10% used about half of the information in a release and only 3% use a release virtually as received.
Lack of trust in media releases
A majority of reporters found at least some value in receiving media releases, but 40% didn’t trust them, 36% found them poorly written and almost 25% said too many releases arrived too late to be useful.
Social media used for story ideas
Reporters use social media to develop story ideas (30% use Twitter for this, 29% Facebook, 28% blogs and 12% YouTube.
Around 62% of respondents used social media to monitor a topic when working on a story either frequently or sometimes, while 38% said they used it infrequently or not at all to monitor a story topic.
PR relationships worthwhile
Around 53% of respondents said their relationship with PR professionals affected their decision to cover a story. This shows that building a relationship is a valuable way to offset the main objection to media releases, mentioned above, ie that 40% of reporters don’t trust the content. About 39% of respondents said having a positive relationship with a PR professional does not affect their covering of a story,
The most annoying thing for reporters was receiving pitches that are irrelevant to their ‘beat’ (47%), while the other two main annoyances were receiving repeated pitches of the same story (17%) and receiving pitch emails that contained poor spelling and grammar (10%).
Lessons for PR professionals
- Take the time to develop a positive relationship with key reporters. This will lead to trust in your professionalism and most likely increase the acceptance of your material.
- Make key reporters your priority for important material. Nurture them and respect their needs. You can distribute material to others after you have dealt with your key contacts.
- Provide material that is newsworthy, factual, doesn’t exaggerate, has good spelling and grammar, and is delivered in time to meet deadlines.
- Don’t expect a reporter to use only your material or angle. Most of the time they will use it as a starting point for the theme you have proposed to them. They may well talk with competitors and other third parties in the preparation of a story. This is to be expected, but if you have been on the level with the angle and content of your story, your pitch will still have a better chance than otherwise.