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As we learn to live in this “new normal” of media overflowing with stories about COVID-19, protests and civil unrest it’s sometimes overwhelming to think about pitching stories to journalists.
How can we pitch stories to press about our businesses when the world has turned upside down?
Journalists are looking for stories, and there are plenty of ways to provide the content they are seeking. You just need to know how to discover what they are looking for, and the most effective ways to present yourself as a resource.
In this article, I’m going to break down three ways you can figure out what journalists need and pique their interest.
1. Respond to journalists seeking sources on Covid-19
Forget about pitching journalists an idea you came up with on your own or with your team — do the research on what journalists are asking about for their stories every single day.
Newsletters such as HelpAReporterOut, ProfNet, JournoRequests, RadioGuestList, SpotAGuest aggregate these queries from journalists and send you up to ten emails a day with these asks and queries. Here is what they look like:
The trick here is to find an overarching topic that many journalists are asking about, and to respond in a timely manner. In my recent experience, many journalists have been looking for sources around topics such as remote work, productivity and entrepreneurship.
Take note of the sub-topics that could potentially relate to your business underneath the broad Covid-19 coverage. For example, look at this request:
It is important to find out what aspect of remote work are journalists specifically interested in. Looking at these queries day after day we found that the following specific asks come up each and every day:
The challenge of balancing remote work with kids
Productivity during remote work
Privacy issues related to teleconferencing while working remotely
If you see common questions that relate to your web site or service, it’s time to compile data about your business to show how you are a qualified expert on that topic. Note: don’t force it. If your business is not a good fit, wait for the next opportunity to pitch. You don’t want to waste your time or get flagged in the journalist’s mind as a spammer.
2. Show your value upfront
As you craft your pitch, identify what value you can add. Journalists and bloggers will respond favorably if you have something especially helpful to share with their readers. This can include data, tools or even a unique anecdote about how Covid-19 has affected your business. Let’s take a look at each approach and explore a few examples.
Do you have performance, trend or relevant customer data? Data that pertains to COVID-19 stories doesn’t have to be medical related. For example, DateID, a dating app that does third-party background checks, pitched reporters with research about how the trust that users have in their dates fluctuates based on the virtual or real-life format of the date.
Now it’s not imperative that you actually have the data set completed, simply start compiling the data and pitch the idea to journalists even if you don’t have the full study or data complete.
If journalists respond favorably you can go ahead and complete the study/compiling the data.
Although DateID didn’t have the data at the time that they pitched, they sent a survey to their customers and extracted insights once they knew there was interest.
Pitch Relevant Tools
Are there any digital tools, templates, or guides you could create that would be valuable for readers during this unique time?
For example, there are are a ton of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans that have been given to businesses and many are realizing now that forgiveness of a PPP loan is actually a much tougher and granular process.
A company recently created a PPP Forgiveness Calculator tool to help calculate forgiveness amount for a PPP loan based on your situation.
To find the most relevant journalists to pitch this tool you could find journalists asking about PPP program and respond to them and mentioning the new tool. Here is a great example:
Also, look up journalists who recently wrote about PPP program but did not mention PPP forgiveness and pitch them.
Tools and resources are great assets that journalists build an entire story around or even use to update articles they’ve recently published to add another dimension or feature.
3. Look for broken links[Editor’s note: This tactic works best when broken links are found in recent stories. Stories that are several years old and are outdated in many aspects will take less priority in an editor’s mind.]
This is a hectic time for everyone. People are rushing, and sometimes, broken links happen. Broken links are one of the simplest ways to get featured in a publication. When you find a broken link in a story, this is an excellent opportunity to begin forming a relationship with the journalist.
The process for this is very simple:
1. Identify a great piece of content on the website you want to get mentioned/linked to from other blogs
2. Come up with a “how to do x” phrase which is related to this term
3. Look on Google for broken links
4. Use an assistant or a tool to search for broken links at scale
Take this case study: “We Analyzed 13,124 HubSpot Blog Posts: Here’s What We Learned”
Search for related terms on Google to find broken links: “how to write epic content”
When we Google “how to write epic content” we see a lot of results with content that overlaps. That’s a good sign that there might be broken links in these articles.
Now you need to comb through all these results and find ones that have broken links in their articles. There are a number of broken link finders you can use to help you with this process.
Keep the pitch simple. Let the writer know that the link in their article is broken, and give them a link to a related automate your posting from your website and explain how it would be helpful.
Pitching in this crazy time
With the arrival of Covid-19 everything has changed. From our day-to-day routines to new business obstacles, this is a new, uncertain time for everyone.
As you navigate the media landscape, these three tips will hopefully help increase your reply rates and generate more press by focusing on what journalists are actively seeking. By targeting niche topics, showing value upfront, and looking for broken links, you can create compelling pitches that will resonate with journalists and bloggers alike.