Pitching the media can be a difficult — even maddening — exercise. But a thoughtfully crafted and executed pitch can help build a rapport with a journalist, while driving news coverage that shines positive light on the subject of the pitch.
So when is the best time to contact a journalist? Should it be done via email or over the phone? Will following up be helpful or annoying?
Best practices for pitching the media are often subjective and situation-specific. That said, after working with the media over the years, I’ve developed an understanding of how to approach this tricky endeavor. Here are my top legal PR pitching tips.
Understand the law firm’s PR goals
When pitching for law firms and attorneys, as with any industry, the first step is to have a clear understanding of the law firm’s public relations goals. Does it want high-profile interviews on breaking topics or targeted commentary on a very specific issue in legal publications? Or would the firm prefer to provide bylined articles to trade publications that get in front of its potential clients? Additionally, the media relations goals should be tied to clear business objectives. Is the firm working to grow its business within a certain industry? Trying to repair its reputation following a crisis? Take these goals and objectives into account when developing a comprehensive media strategy.
Pitch with the audience in mind
It’s a common mistake among communicators to simply focus on the story they are trying to tell when pitching the media. While the PR person’s goals, and the goals of the client, are important, I have found it’s critical to craft my pitches with my audiences’ needs in mind. This includes both the reporter and their readers, listeners or viewers. What information are they seeking? What value can my client provide them? Furthermore, it’s critical to communicate with reporters using the channels they prefer. Do they respond best to email and phone calls, or do they prefer being contacted via Twitter?
Be relevant, timely and forward-looking
My most successful pitches are those that are tied to an issue or trend that is currently being discussed, or a news story that is breaking. While evergreen topics are useful, the best opportunities stem from understanding what’s going on within a reporter’s beat and offering them a source at the exact moment they need one.
Target PR pitches
While speed and timeliness are crucial factors to a pitch’s success, so is getting in front of the right people. Take a moment to research what reporters write about the topic and/or have recently written about the specific issue being pitched. If they have written about it recently, tweak the pitch to acknowledge that coverage, which also demonstrates familiarity with their work.
Offer clear value in a pitch
When pitching, it’s important to offer a clear “so what” proposition. A lawsuit just got filed or a piece of news just broke. So what? What value does a spokesperson being offered for third-party commentary bring to the table? Think this through and be sure to offer something of real value that they can comment on to help the reporter.
The art of the follow-up (call vs. email)
Following up can make or break a pitch. Reporters are busy and are often bombarded with emails, so sometimes things slip through the cracks. Additionally, it’s important for PR professionals to understand when to email and when to call. If a story is breaking, not picking up the phone could mean missing the window for success. Conversely, if a topic involves a bit more nuance, email may be the best option.
Build a relationship
PR people who focus on a particular industry or region are likely to pitch the same reporters regularly. When I pitch someone, I always keep in mind that my goals are twofold: first, to get my client interviewed on this specific topic, and second, to build a relationship with the reporter for future stories. All of these tips work with that in mind, and by incorporating them — even if a client isn’t immediately interviewed — public relations professionals can build a solid relationship that will bear fruit later on.