6 Things Learned in Pitching to the Press by @HeidiDalzell

by Heidi J. Dalzell, PsyD.

Building your brand? Want to increase your presence? Most of all, do you have something important to say? A great way to showcase your knowledge and talents is by sharing them with media outlets who then share your voice widely.

There are a number of free and paid sites where you can find media opportunities (sometimes called “queries”). One of the best and most widely used is HARO, Help A Reporter Out. HARO is a type of matchmaking service, which pairs the media with expert sources like you. It’s free, and easy to use.

Some big outlets use HARO, including Forbes, the New York Times and the Huffington Post. The requesting source is generally listed in the query description. Some say “anonymous,” which could mean anything, although I’ve been told it’s usually a bigger outlet looking to limit responses.

I prefer the digest service, which delivers opportunities to my mailbox 3 times a day. Scanning usually takes 5 minutes or so. If I see something I like, I flag it to return to later. If not, I throw it away and wait until the next time. A day or two could go by without anything of interest, then 2 or 3 in a day.

Media requests are grouped into categories that correspond with your business focus, such as Healthcare, Finance, Education and Lifestyle. Reporters typically post a brief description of what they are seeking your expertise on. Here’s how it works: suppose a reporter wants to know about great travel destinations for families seeking a beach vacation. You are a travel expert with some favorite spots, and can speak knowledgably about this. There you have an ideal match. Send your “pitch,” which can range from answering a question or two, to being available for a more in depth interview. Press send, and your work is complete.

If you are pitching, know that you will strike out – frequently. On a query like the one I described, reporters are likely to get many responses. Yours must stand out in some way. To increase your chances of a home run, follow these tips:

Respond to what the reporter is asking for. Don’t tell them why families should visit Disney instead, or pitch romantic vacation spots. The queries are really specific, and wasting the reporter’s time is frustrating for them, and does not get you placed. Many of the queries are also specific about who they are seeking responses from, which may include being of a certain demographic. Lately there have been many reporters seeking to amplify Black voices. If there’s a specific request like this, please be respectful.

Don’t over respond. It’s tempting to be an expert on everything at first. You’re not, so don’t send responses to everything. I recommend choosing no more than 5 specialty areas. These are things you’re good at, or passionate about. For instance, I have many year’s experience in the field of eating disorders (years add to credibility) but have a true passion for mindfulness practices. I’ve had great responses to these areas, in large part because I really love them.

Sell your expertise, leave your ego behind. There’s a fine line between expertise and ego. If you are offering a quote about something, don’t spend most of your allocated 150 words selling yourself. I usually provide an up-to-date brief bio following the requested information, and include links to my website. Don’t expect that you will merit more than a brief description (usually it’s something like “eating disorders psychologist). I also include my title in the subject line and may say something like “eating disorders psychologist debunking fad diets.” Even with a brief mention in the article itself, potential clients find you when what you say resonates. Have the online presence that makes that easy.

A unique voice sells. After doing this for a while, I can now tell when I’ve hit a homerun, a double or possibly walked. Keep your voice yours – reporters can get the same old responses all over the Net – and have a unique perspective. If you are an expert on something, and the pitch really resonates, tell the reporter why. For instance, if a reporter is seeking tips on dealing with insomnia, and you are an expert in this area and have struggled yourself, that adds a different perspective. Don’t be afraid to say something pithy, such as “I always lose count when I try counting sheep.”

Be attuned to deadlines. They are clearly listed in the query, and often tight. If you can’t meet them, don’t bother. Reporters are off to the next big story, not sitting around waiting for you. Most reporters are working on deadline, so it’s rare that you get a response back to a pitch, unless they need more information. That may mean they are not interested in what you are pitching, or it may mean they have enough information from your email. A completed story may be your first contact back. When I strike out, I still keep a copy of what I sent to revise for future pitches.

Share widely. When reporters feature you in an article, they send a link to the story. Return the favor by sharing the story widely, crediting the reporter of course. I’ve made some great contacts, and some friends in the media, but sharing on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Linkedin.

In addition to HARO, some other services you can check out are SourceBottle, Profnet and Kiti.

I hope to see other She Owns It readers on major media outlets soon. Happy pitching!

 

 

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