How to Find the Right Reporters to Pitch

July 26, 2018

How to Find the Right Reporters to Pitch

July 26, 2018


Next in our series of blog posts from Group Gordon’s summer interns, Renee Weisz leverages skills learned at school to find the perfect reporter to pitch.

In PR, it can be disheartening to send out a pitch only to have every reporter respond in a chorus of “thanks, but no thanks.” You probably spent hours putting together a media list, so why didn’t your efforts convert to coverage?

The fast-paced nature of news coverage means the pressure’s on to nail down promising reporters the first time, before the opportunity window for pitching a client’s story closes. During my time at Group Gordon, I’ve built comprehensive media lists of reporters covering a range of topics, from celebrity real estate to changes in economic and fiscal policy. As I’ve shuffled through hundreds of articles and news outlets, I’ve leaned on my academic and extracurricular experiences to guide my reporter research. The tricks below have served me well, and I hope they lead to pitching successes for you, too.

Pay attention to reporters’ preferences

I’m part of the marketing committee at school for a mattress rental startup. Within our team, we strategize our outreach to potential customers in a similar manner based on their preferred communications channels. For example, we may use Facebook messenger to contact students who are particularly active on Facebook, therefore a more likely platform to grab their attention and interest. Recognizing these hooks for contact leads to more receptive customers.

When researching reporters, gauge how and by what means a reporter is interested in news tips and story ideas. Many reporters will include phrases in their Twitter or LinkedIn biographies such as “send tips to” or “looking for new stories at” followed by their email address, phone number, or other preferred contact method. By paying attention to a reporter’s preferences, you can begin a reporter relationship on the right track.

Study past coverage, beats, and interests

As an editor for multiple school publications, my thought process in matching writers to articles also revolves around a writer’s interest and background experience with the topic. A writer that has an interest in a specific topic usually produces a more informed and nuanced piece.

In PR, an easy way to start off on the wrong foot with a reporter is to send them irrelevant pitches that don’t reflect their current beats. A media contacts database may list a reporter under a certain beat, but in today’s quickly shifting media industry, it’s important to read a few recent headlines and articles to make sure reporters still cover the same topics. In addition, reporters tend to be more open to a pitch when you connect their past coverage to the story you’re pitching. Many reporters will include their coverage focus in their Twitter, LinkedIn, and website bios, and their social media activity can highlight other topics they may be interested in.

Read between the lines

As a linguistics major, I’ve learned to recognize subtleties of tone and language. I’ve used these skills in the PR realm to examine the tone and tenor of a reporters’ writing on a topic, which is integral to determining their attitudes and how these may affect the impact of an article. Doing so has helped me ensure my targets are best suited to convey the client’s message and priorities.

I’ve also realized that it’s just as important to decide who not to include as it is who to include in your media list. For example, at first glance a reporter covering workforce issues seemed suitable for the topic we were pitching. After looking into their past coverage, we realized that the reporter’s distinct tone when reporting on the topic risked portraying the client’s message in an undesired light and decided to keep them off our pitch list.

The news world is filled with so many different reporters and outlets that it can be overwhelming to decide whom to include in a media pitch list. However, keeping these tips in mind will make your research more effective and, hopefully, lead to fewer reporters saying “no thank you” and more saying “absolutely!”