You should know that reporters, editors, and producers NEED story ideas. In other words, they need you as much as you need them!
Yes, it’s perfectly okay to reach out to media pros, though before you do make sure you have a news-worthy pitch. A new book release rarely qualifies as news-worthy if you aren’t a celebrity, so the key is to find a topic of interest that is loosely related to your book. As a result of landing any kind of media coverage, your book should and will be mentioned.
Ideally you should tie your media pitch into a topic that is timely. When you can link your story idea into something relevant that’s happening in the news such as a holiday (Valentine’s Day or Veteran’s Day), an event (like the Olympics), or other current trends (politics, new technology, what Millennials are talking about, etc.), that can grab attention of reporters, editors and producers. Keep in mind that their goal is to bring interesting and relevant stories to their audience.
How to Craft Your Media Pitch
When sending a pitch directly to a media source, it’s easiest to start with email and most importantly, keep it brief. Reporters, editors, and producers are busy people who receive a lot of email. They scan quickly and are used to hitting the delete key, so get to your point right away. It doesn’t hurt to mention familiarity with their work too. A simple paragraph or two with a compelling pitch works best. Here’s an example:
I recently came across your article about how retailers are using Facebook to get more customers and I thought it was really well done. With National Small Business Week approaching (May 21-25), I’d like to propose an article on new ways that small businesses are benefiting from Pinterest. As you may have heard, Pinterest is now the third largest social media network based on the number of visitors. I am the author of The XYZ Pinterest Guide and I’d love to share with you some concrete examples and strategies that your readers can use to promote their businesses on Pinterest during Small Business Week.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Once you have a great pitch, then you can begin to reach out to media sources. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:
Newspapers – Depending on when they are published, newspaper reporters need content daily or weekly, which means they are always on the hunt for good stories. Make sure you contact the right reporter for your topic. If your pitch is about Small Business Week, don’t waste the Lifestyle or Travel reporter’s time.
Magazines – Depending on the circulation size, magazines have a much longer lead time before going to press. That means that they are usually running three to six months ahead of schedule. If you want to pitch your book as an ideal holiday gift, you should start in July.
Local Newpapers and Magazines – Always start by building your media portfolio locally. It’s far easier to get local coverage than national coverage, and often times the larger publications pay attention to stories from smaller publications, so you never know what opportunities can arise later. Also, your hometown newspaper may syndicate some of its content nationally.
Local TV News – Provided you can craft your pitch to fit in with the tone of your local programming, this can be a great way to build local exposure. TV news likes to cover local stories with a visual component, so whatever you pitch there will get more attention if you keep this in mind. For example, if you’d authored a book about how your dog saved your life, you could offer to bring your dog to the studio and give some dog training tips or pet safety tips.
National TV News – It’s often easier to go national after you’ve landed some local coverage. The bigger shows like Good Morning America and the Today Show want to see clips and know that you are a good bet to have on air.
Radio – Most authors should focus on the news talk radio programs, such as NPR. Most radio interviews are brief (5 to 10 minutes), unless you’re invited into the studio to chat with a host for a longer period. The great thing about radio is you don’t have to be local—you can call in to stations across the country. Make sure you have access to a good land line!
How to Build a List of Media Contacts
Nearly all of the major media outlets have websites with easy access to contact information for reporters, editors, and producers. In fact, they make it almost ridiculously easy to find email information because the reality is, as I’ve already mentioned, they need story ideas! While contact information may be easy to locate, the research can take time.
Use the search engine to search for media sources, and it’s always a good idea to start local. Your neighborhood news outlets are going to be most interested in your pitches because you are part of the community.
For example, if you want to reach media in your home town, you can search Google for “newspaper Indianapolis,” “news Indianapolis,” “radio Indianapolis,” etc. You can also search for terms like “list of weekly newspapers.” My search for that term turned up a list of weeklies across the U.S. (minus contact information): http://www.xpresspress.com/weekly-newspaper-media-list.
Just about anyone who is anyone is on LinkedIn now. You can use the Advanced Search feature to locate users by keywords, company name, publication name, or job title. If you’re not yet connected, you’ll need to either request an introduction from a mutual friend or pay to upgrade your LinkedIn account so that you can email contacts outside of your network. You can also track down a contact name, return to Google, and search for an email address.
You can skip all the time-consuming research and buy a media list. Two reputable sources: Bacon’s Media Directories or Gebbie Press (a more affordable choice). There is also a subscription service where you can search through media sources via Muckrack.com.
You can also subscribe to the free service Help a Reporter Out (also known as HARO), which shares pitches from media pros seeking guests to interview. A popular paid media service is ProfNet, which allows authors and other experts to pay for placement in a database where media pros submit pitches.
Be on the Lookout
Whether you’re surfing social media or reading a magazine in your doctor’s office lobby, keep an eye out for reporters who write about topics that relate to what you do. Most reporters have a specialty area of focus. If a reporter writes about the stock market, he probably won’t be writing about the latest in cake decorating. So, find the reporters who can connect with your message and reach out. Even if you’re simply offering a compliment on a great story with a quick note that says you’re available as a source if the reporter writes a follow-up article, you have opened up a line of communication. It might sound crazy, but reporters have databases of contacts and you never know when you might rise from the archives.
If you like this blog post, you’ll love our DIY Traditional Publicity Course! Learn more about our courses for authors here.