As a former business reporter, I was on the receiving end of many press releases and pitches. So I have an understanding of what a reporter is looking for under the constant pressure of deadlines.
Despite what editors say as panelists at media conferences, they DO look to PR people for story ideas. The way that a company distributes news about its products, services and executives boils down to these three techniques:
• Twitpich (yes, on Twitter)
• Pitch letter
• Press release
The “Twitpitch” is beginning to replace the pitch letter. More reporters are opening Twitter accounts to monitor companies, individuals and breaking news. We all remember that Twitter was basically the only source for real-time news from Iran during the recent uprising. The Twitpitch takes skill because you have only 140 characters to command the attention of a reporter. As with other people you are following on Twitter, you can learn about a reporter’s hot buttons and begin to establish a relationship. You can find reporters on Twitter by searching Media On Twitter. Another site Muck Rack compiles reporter’s tweets and lets you search for reporters by media outlet.
Editors are beginning to share ideas on Twitter by directly communicating with each other every Wednesday from 9-11 p.m. Eastern Time at #editorchat, or go to http://www.editorchat.net/ for transcripts. So, while as a PR person you can’t get in on the conversation you can eavesdrop to get ideas for your next pitch,
Increasingly, the pitch letter is replacing the press release. The pitch letter is a short email to a reporter with a super compelling headline and a pithy paragraph describing a story you’d like the reporter to write. Often it pitches a corporate executive who can comment on a new development or industry trend that turns into a feature story.
The press release announces news about a company and can be several pages, depending on the topic, allowing for much more detail than a Twitpitch or pitch letter. The press release needs an exciting headline – or grabber – to draw a reporter into the body of the release. It is the “wow” factor. The release can also include a sub-head just below the grabber that briefly summarizes the news. A press release — and even that term is giving way to the term “news release” — is more of a for-the-record document.
Just remember, though, that no matter the type of pitch you are using, it is essential to research what reporters are writing about in order to tailor pitches to their current interests.