September 20, 2020

10 Simple Ways to Win Friends in the Media

Marketers can sometimes feel hard done by journalists. Whilst it can be demoralising at times getting the media to cover your content – particularly when they hold a lot of the cards – what they want actually isn’t as unattainable as it may appear.

In this post, I’ve taken a look at how you can win friends in the media and improve your chances of getting coverage for your content.

Whilst these tips won’t always work – and sometimes you just need a nice, fat stroke of luck – hopefully they can help your cause.

Fully Vet Your Ideas

SEMRush discovered in 2019 that over 77% of surveyed companies now say they have a content marketing strategy. HubSpot also discovered in 2020 that today’s marketers are creating content for at least three audience segments.

This effectively means that a crowded space is becoming even more difficult to excel within – and if you aren’t making your content approach multi-faceted, you’re probably being left behind by your competitors.

To make the media notice you above others (your pitch could be one of hundreds on any given day), you simply have to be executing exceptional ideas that offer wide scale appeal to multiple audiences. If you can achieve these goals, you’ll significantly improve your chances of outreach success.

So how do you improve your ideation process? Some great tips to follow include:

  • Involving different departments in ideation (design, data, copywriting etc.). This will help you take forward the most well-rounded ideas
  • Pre-defining what you consider to be the fundamental success points of the content you deliver. Try and hit as many of those as possible when you pick the ideas to take forward
  • Measuring your ideas against other similar content. Rather than doing this to mimic those ideas, do it to see what they’ve missed or what you could do differently
  • Building internal awareness of media contacts/outlets and what they look for. This way you’ll select the ideas with the best chance of success

Be As Widely Read As Possible

The more you engage with the news, the better placed you’ll be to deliver content that’s timely, relevant and worthy of engagement. Read across a variety of media publications, even if you don’t necessarily relate to them on a personal level.

It’s important to improve your knowledge both in areas you’re already interested in, as well as those you aren’t. Opening up insight into different areas can actually help you discover a wealth of new information – and by nature, this will reflect in your content ideation.

A strong grasp of the news and current affairs will improve both your content and your outreach immeasurably. You’ll produce work that’s more relevant and you’ll better understand how to design that content to offer a unique perspective on current news trends.

A great recent example of how the content team here at Evoluted did this was via a home workout tool we created for a client in the personal training space. With COVID-19 causing many people to turn away from gyms, towards home workouts, (myself included), more people than ever are searching for fitness inspiration. We’re now outreaching with this piece of topical, useful content at the perfect time.

Take Audience Research Seriously

If you want an absolutely bulletproof way to irritate journalists, then pitch them irrelevant content that they never cover on their patch, or that their publication’s audience wouldn’t engage with. Or, if you want them to actually take you seriously as a contact, do proper research.

According to a 2017 DMA Insight study, respondents cited lack of strategy as being their biggest challenge in content marketing – and research forms such a key part of this; from the content itself to the coverage you want to secure.

The least you can do for someone if you’re expecting them to cover your content is to ensure that your content relates to the area they write about. You have to make journalists take you seriously. Read their articles. See what subjects make them tick. Offer an intelligent counterpoint. Follow them on social media.

But don’t neglect your research of the publication either. Make sure you regularly read content from the publications you want to cover your content. You’ll then better understand what their audience likes and just as importantly, you’ll start creating content that can be more successful.

Strong audience research was the cornerstone of coverage I secured for a client I work with within the business intelligence space regarding machine learning.

Use Storytelling Intelligently

Everyone loves a great story. It’s why great storytelling is an evergreen theme in the world of marketing. But how well are you actually doing it? When was the last time you evaluated your storytelling process?

No matter how much time passes, journalists I speak with continue to impress the importance of a great story in a pitch – and explain that it’s an area where marketing professionals are lacking.

To construct a great story you need a fundamentally interesting narrative that people actually care about. There are countless examples of this, such as:

  • Rags to riches (unlikely heroes make great story centrepieces)
  • David vs Goliath (who doesn’t love an underdog toppling a giant?)
  • Heartbreak (great for inspiring people to take action)

To get people to care, you have to give them a reason to. Think about this when you’re constructing stories in-house or for your clients.

Showcase Your Professionalism

Professionalism earns respect. Without it, how can you expect to be taken seriously? Whilst any SEO/PR/content pro actively engaging on Twitter could rightfully get a little annoyed about some of the more minor gripes journalists are sometimes compelled to share, they do also have some good points to make.

Every day there seem to be examples being shared by journalists on Twitter of poorly put together email pitches, content being sent that’s totally irrelevant to a journalist’s area of specialism, people failing to follow through on promises and a righteous sense of demand regarding coverage.

Put care into your pitches. Poor grammar, irrelevant information and content inaccuracies will reflect dreadfully on any journalists covering your content. A 2018 Global State of the Media Report by Cision highlighted that 75% of global media specialists cite 100% accuracy in content as the fundamental content principle of their company.

Another way to impress with your professionalism is to go above and beyond for any journalists you make contact with. If you want to work with the journalist/publication, make yourself unforgettable. You could do this through sending out a physical pitch with a gift, or turning around a follow-up request in rapid-fire time.

Put Your Passions/Interest Into Your Content

The more you focus on churning out generic content on dry, boring subject areas, the more it’ll reflect in your work. You need to light a fire to create your best content.

A great way to do this is to link the content you create to areas you’re passionate about. If you do this, you’ll undoubtedly produce more inspirational content. Not only will this benefit those reading your work, it’ll also help you to sell your content more effectively during any outreach. The more you care about the subject at the heart of what you’ve delivered, the more this will come across in your pitches.

Even if you’re working with a dry subject, it’s still possible to tie in your passions to it – you just need to be creative. The key here is to work with clients/stakeholders to explain why you might need to create content that’s a little left-field or more tenuously related to their services.

If the end results look like great brand awareness, links from relevant sources and content that reflects well on your company, it really shouldn’t matter if it’s been achieved in a slightly left-field way.

We’ve got a lot of film buffs here at Evoluted and so we were keen to produce a piece to use in the lead-up to the release of the new James Bond film, No Time To Die. Whilst the outcomes of the study we conducted are now on hold due to COVID-19, we have everything we need to use when the film does launch.

We also already secured nationwide coverage of the competition we ran – as well as exposure on a US TV news channel. Whilst the second phase of the content has had to wait, we’ve been able to translate the approach into a successful outcome.

Importantly, we also invested time explaining to the client why we wanted to take the approach and they absolutely loved the creativity and process. This was a great example of taking a subject our team were passionate about and translating it into some really interesting content with lots of outreach potential.

Don’t Overcomplicate

Journalists deal with a lot of pitches and a hell of a lot of information. They do this every day. It’s very unlikely that they want to read your essay of an email amongst the hundreds of others clogging up their inbox.

This means you can’t afford to overcomplicate your pitches.By including every single aspect of your research, you could actually risk losing interest which may otherwise have been there.

Practice your pitch delivery and learn to select the most important aspects of your content for your pitches. This might mean sacrificing some areas of information that you’ve poured your heart and soul into sourcing, but you just have to accept it doesn’t all have to be there.

Save the extras for your own website or your client’s website. It can still impact users there, rather than being wasted amongst a pitch that never gets heard because of information overload.

Cover the Journalism Fundamentals

There are several aspects with any content that you really can’t do without. They are the fundamentals of great journalism:

  • Quotes and sources: Quotes sell stories. Without them, you lose a personal element so integral for engaging the reader. Make quotes integral to your work. Equally, find strong sources. If they’re unique to your own research, all the better
  • Who, what, where, when, why?: The ‘5 Ws’ are always a great way to ask yourself whether you’ve communicated the key aspects of any content effectively. If you can get them all in the pitches you send to the press/into press releases, you’ll win plenty of friends
  • Inverted pyramid: The age-old principle of putting the lead/most important information at the top of your content, supporting it as you go on and then tying it all back together is what’s known as the inverted pyramid. It’s a great way to get better at producing content designed for placement in the media
  • Take care of grammar and proofread your content: Never underestimate the importance of accurate, well-written content – and how that reflects upon you and the company you’re representing

Obsess Over Your Headlines & Press Releases

You’re always told not to judge a book by its cover. Yet we all do it. Ultimately, if the story you’re selling through your article title/pitch headline promises a lot, but then the content lacks substance, you’re simply going to switch the media off at all angles.

If the headline inspires an eager click, only to leave the clicker being met with disappointment, you’ll irritate the journalists you contact and put them off dealing with you in the future.

The email body is obviously vital too – and press releases remain a fundamental skill here. Journalists I speak with continue to tell me how much they lean on them – and remember that Cision report referenced earlier in this post? 100% of journalists stipulated their number one method of finding stories to be press releases.

Okay, not every journalist is going to use them, but it can’t harm to be good at writing them based on those figures.

Put simply: get better at writing press releases. There are hundreds of resources out there that you can refer to, but as a port of call, ticking off the following areas will certainly stand you in good stead:

  • Title of press release
  • Date of press release
  • Contact details
  • Quotes
  • Bullet point summary of the key points from your pitch – try to limit this to 5
  • More expansive information around the pitch
  • Useful links/supporting information

Happy Pitching!

Hopefully these tips have given you something to think about when looking to better your chances of securing friends in the media. Remember:

  • Thoroughly vet your ideas – are they genuinely exceptional? Do they really deserve coverage?
  • Read widely and research thoroughly. You’ll create a higher standard of content that demands attention
  • Create content around areas you’re passionate about – it’ll reflect in the work you produce
  • Become a better storyteller. This will always be a fundamental of great content
  • Remember the basics. From headlines, to press releases, to quotes – give the journalists what they’d demand from themselves
  • Make a strong impression with your approach and attitude. You’ll be remembered if you do

Final bonus point – be where the journalists need you to be. If they’re calling out on Twitter and welcoming DMs, make sure you take the most of it! It doesn’t always have to be a cold email.

Post from Sean Potter