Want to give your blog, brand, or business a lift? Earned media may be the answer! For more than a decade I fielded all kinds of media pitches—good, bad, and ugly. As a news anchor, part of my job was deciding who made the cut. We had businesses, city leaders, politicians, charities, animal shelters, brands, and bloggers jockeying for position. Each wanted a spot on our morning news program. Feels kind of strange to be the one making pitches now! But that’s why this post should be exceedingly helpful. If you’re wondering how to get media coverage, who better than a former journalist to offer a window into the process?
Prior to launching this blog, I worked at TV stations across Wisconsin and in Michigan. In addition to anchoring and reporting, I was responsible for mapping out/booking our morning guest segments. I vetted countless press releases and email pitches, looking for content that would be educational, engaging, and entertaining for our audience.
Media pitches must bring value. So, let me explain how you can offer it! But first…
When you get media coverage, you are getting high quality promotion for free! What do the perks include?
By landing press spots, you are getting yourself in front of a sizable new audience. This is your opportunity to introduce yourself and your brand to fresh eyeballs. Offer them something of value, while appearing credible/friendly, and you will easily convert these viewers/readers into loyal followers. Also, consider that when you land a TV guest spot, it’s not just 3 minutes on a newscast. Most stations will also place your content on their websites and social media channels too. This is powerful material you can link to as a “proof point” and demonstration of your skills.
In our media-saturated world, experts inevitably rise to the top. Think about your own life for a minute.. Imagine you are looking for information and scan someone’s bio on Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Let’s say it reads “budget travel & lifestyle expert” or something similar. You might ask yourself, what makes that person an expert? Now imagine that same bio says “budget travel & lifestyle expert as seen on @accessonline @nbc @bravotv @evertalktv @ktla5news.” Most people will feel an affinity for the latter. Media placement indicates you are a proven, trustworthy source. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret… One media appearance can easily morph into many! It’s a domino effect.
Journalists are constantly looking for expert sources/voices to inform the topics they cover. If you can demonstrate an ability to speak with authority in your niche, by linking to examples of other past media appearances, journalists will be much more likely to accept your pitch.
Earned media, such as a TV guest spot, can be huge for bumping up your Google search ranking. Every time a trusted news source writes about your business or blog—and links to it—they are telling Google your website is helpful (e.g. a legitimate source of information). Basically, the more sites that link to yours, the more authority Google awards to your content.
First, you need to identify the right outlet and get a firm grasp on the stories they cover. What kind of segments do they include on their programs? What might they be interested in that they aren’t currently including? You need to figure out how to insert yourself into current conversations. This will involve watching/reading a lot of news.
Get to know reporters, anchors, and producers. Learn “the voice” of your target publications/media. How do they approach topics? Who is their audience? If you can demonstrate familiarity with an outlet and what they do in your pitch, it is much more likely to get media coverage.
Also, I highly recommend you start locally. It’s unrealistic to think you can pitch the Today Show or Good Morning America right out of the gate. Instead, turn to your area news sources. Now, it’s time to begin brainstorming… The right pitch can really give your promotional efforts a lift!
Need specific examples? CLICK HERE for my PDF guide of pitches you can tweak for your own use, plus insight from other bloggers/news anchors.
A successful pitch should offer something novel and engaging. Broad generalizations won’t work. You need a specific “angle” that connects to your niche/area of expertise. It should be timely, either linked to current events or relevant to a particular season. Ideally, it should also have some kind of local connection. News outlets want guests who can:
Above all, remember this is not an advertisement! TV stations won’t invite you on to do a product review or to sell your services. It’s a news program, not QVC. You must provide viewer/reader benefit.
If you’re struggling to determine what is newsworthy, it’s helpful to consider the news values. These are the general criteria reporters/media outlets use to assess whether something warrants publication.
When you format your pitch be clear and be brief. Reporters, anchors, and producers are extremely busy. They are always on deadline. Therefore, you want to grab their attention with a compelling subject line. Don’t bury the lead! And don’t call… Media outlets prefer email.
Get to the point within the first few sentences. Explain your idea and why it would be of value to their audience. Next, offer a brief introduction. Provide a bit of background about your credentials, then link to your blog or business website so the producer/reporter/anchor can look for additional information about you. For television segments, you should also discuss the visuals. How will you be illustrating your points (e.g. photos, video, on-set props)? If you land a segment, this post (and this one discussing news anchor attire) will help you through what you should wear.
Think about the news values we just discussed. Can you piggyback on trending, emerging, or seasonal interest topics? Sometimes this will require quick action, responding to breaking/unfolding stories and making a pitch that could appear in the news cycle within that same week.
However, for bloggers and content creators, it’s more likely you will be pitching ideas several weeks in advance, if not a month ahead of time. The shows I worked on booked segments at least two weeks in advance. Occasionally, we would have spots open up last minute and could slip a guest in. However, we preferred pitches to hit our desk 3 weeks in advance.
You must plan ahead to get coverage! If you send an email asking to appear on a morning show within the same week you make your pitch (except in breaking news situations), the producers will laugh at you. It demonstrates a lack of knowledge about TV operations — and can feel discourteous.
For time-sensitive content, pitch emails are most successful when reporters receive them before their daily editorial meetings. These vary from outlet to outlet, but generally happen twice a day. There is an a.m. meeting (around 9-10 a.m.) and an afternoon meeting (around 2 p.m.). Reporters are expected to come to these meetings with several story ideas to pitch.
Some days they have plenty of material. Other days they will be scrambling for story ideas and quite eager for a well-crafted PR pitch. Your goal is to give them ample time to review your idea without that pitch getting lost in the daily shuffle. Personally, I like receiving pitches between 7-8:30 a.m., around the lunch hour, or after 6:30 p.m. when the hustle of the 6 p.m. newscast has ended.
A media pitch is very similar to any cold-call or business pitch. Establish your credentials and idea, but with brevity. I always recommend including a link to your website or an electronic portfolio. You need something that illustrates your expertise. However, do not rely on attachments.
In fact, in your initial pitch, I wouldn’t include an attachment at all. Some news operations have security features that will bounce emails with attachments to their SPAM folder. Additionally, some producers and assignment editors are reluctant to open attachments. A smarter approach is mentioning that you have a media kit and can pass it along if they like your idea. Make sure your contact information is abundantly clear. Offer an email, website and a phone number.
Your first point of contact is a TV station’s assignment editor and assignment desk. You can find that in the “contact us” section of the website. Sometimes you will need to scroll all the way to the bottom of the web page. If you are able to find a name for the assignment editor, make sure you personalize your pitch. Use their name and the station’s call letters to demonstrate familiarity with that outlet.
Do not send pitches to a TV station’s news director or general manager. They will not respond. Rather, reach out to specific reporters, producers and anchors. Get to know them on social media first. Follow and comment on their accounts. Once you build this rapport, they will be much more likely to listen to your pitch. If they can’t give you a “yes” themselves, they can at least make sure your email gets in front of the right people.
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