If you want to see your company get media attention, the least effective thing you can do is call up the newsroom and ask to speak to “a reporter.”
Rather, you should ask to speak to a specific reporter by name and, more importantly, the right reporter or columnist.
Most reporters specialize in certain areas (called “beats”): business, rural issues, city hall, technology, and so on. Trying to pitch the financial columnist on your company’s fascinating new tractor equipment won’t work.
When I worked full-time for CBC, I would get at least 40 or 50 news releases a week from companies who clearly believed I was the business reporter – at least, that’s what I assumed, because they were sending me their quarterly financials. I gace up replying to say “I’m the technology guy, not the business guy”; in time, I just hit delete. A simple visit to my column’s web site would have shown that I never, ever, covered business developments like new hires, awards a company has won (zzzzzzzz), or how you met your sales targets for the year.
How do you know who is the right person to pitch?
- Listen to the station.
- Watch their newscasts.
- Read several issues of their publication.
There are no shortcuts. In short order, you’ll figure out what each reporter covers and what they consider interesting.
Part of this also means pitching to the right location. Many Americans seem to believe that I work in Toronto (I don’t; I work in Vancouver). I think this is because the CBC’s “head office” is in Toronto, so everyone must be there. So they send me invitations to attend events near Bloor Street, then call afterwards to ask why I didn’t show up.
Note: This series was originally written and published in 2008.