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How to Successfully Pitch a Reporter to Get Interviewed and Obtain Media CoverageWord count: 751 Publishing Guidelines: You have permission to publish this article in an opt-in ezine or on the Web or both, as long as the byline and bio note are included, with all hyperlinks made active. Please let me know where and when you used the article. Thank you.
How to Successfully Pitch a Reporter to Get Interviewed and Obtain Media Coverage
by Marcia Yudkin
When I was up against a book deadline and needed a couple of people to interview who had achieved business results from podcasting, I put out a call through a service called Help a Reporter Out (www.helpareporter.com). This free service functions very much like paid reporter lead services such as Profnet or Travel Publicity Leads. Generally media people put out such calls either when they need interview leads extremely soon (like a deadline in two days) or when they have rather unusual interview needs that canít be satisfied through the usual channels (such as looking for someone who has diabetes, owns pets and is gay or lesbian).
Someday you may be in a position to pitch a reporter, so Iíd like to help you understand what to do and what not to do in this situation, and why, so you can seize the opportunity to meet the reporter's needs and receive valuable media coverage. Here is the meat of the request I made:
"Need phone interviews by end of the week with 3 podcasters who can cite specific, tangible business results achieved through podcasting. Tell me briefly the topic of your podcast, your URL, your results and your phone number. Thanks."
I received 30 replies. Of these, five stood out as excitingly fulfilling my criteria. At least half of the rest put themselves completely out of the running by ignoring my stated requirements, while several others were wasting their time and mine in their reply for other reasons.
Iím not sure how I could have been more clear and explicit about what information I wanted from respondents in order to screen them. I said I wanted potential interviewees to tell me the "specific, tangible business results achieved through podcasting." Anyone who did not say exactly how theyíd gotten new opportunities or earned money from their podcast got eliminated. Perhaps they had a great story to tell, but they hadnít pre-qualified themselves with me to tell it. Instead they said, in effect, "Iím the one you want. Call me." One wrote, "We are number 1 in the world, business results are amazing. I am so busy I would rather speak on the phone." As far as Iím concerned, thatís hot air and does not show willingness to help me with my story.
This may sound "Mickey Mouse," but whatever details are in the reporterís request are there for a reason, and it doesnít work to ignore them. I saw much the same thing happen when I judged a couple of business contests. The application form asked several questions that numerous otherwise appealing candidates left blank. These people were disqualified. The time and in some cases money theyíd spent entering the contest was for naught.
Besides those who neglected to specify their podcasting results, a few people wasted their time by sending me contact information for someone who they said met my criteria, such as their boss, their client or someone they knew of from afar. For someone on a tight deadline who receives sufficient responses directly from interviewees, this doesnít work, either. From the underling or PR representativeís suggestion, I have no way of knowing whether or not their referral is actually available to talk during my time frame. If you know of someone who fits a reporterís request, always forward it to that person and urge them to respond right away instead of replying on their behalf.
Another bunch of people wasted their time writing to me because they did not have a podcast of their own but rather provided podcasting services for a fee. Iíd said, "Tell me briefly the topic of your podcast," and theyíd violated that portion of my request.
One of the top five respondents whom I emailed back right away to set up a time to talk by phone took more than 24 hours to reply. "Sorry, your email landed in my spam folder," he said. "Hereís when Iím available today." Unfortunately, by then Iíd already completed the interviews I needed. Unfortunately too for another respondent who met all of my criteria: He initiated contact after Iíd finished all the interviews.
My advice on getting publicity by replying to reportersí requests boils down to this: Reply promptly. Explicitly address the stated criteria in your reply. Volunteer only yourself. Check for the reporterís email or phone call so you can follow through on having caught his or her interest.
Paradoxically, by treating the media person as a prince or princess, you position yourself to become a star.
Marcia Yudkin is the author of 11 books, including 6 Steps to Free Publicity and Persuading on Paper. For more information on getting a profitable round of visibility for ideas, tips, products, services, events, expertise or controversial views, visit www.pressreleasehelp.com .