Research – The Key to Interview Pitches
I was once previously an editor of a business trade magazine. The occasional pitch will show up in my inbox. After some time, these emails started reading the same.
This is what my company does.
You should interview my CEO
He is an industry expert.
What do you think?
Callously, I’d drag and drop the mail into the “Trash” bin.
Today, I have switched from journalism and transitioned into the public relations (PR) field. Like many in the industry who strive to secure media coverage, we know that a good story is one that intrigues readers. We are also aware that an article in a top publication can make or break a company’s reputation. However, most PR people seek the easy way out, and instead, bang out bland pitches – those that underscore the company’s success, while neglecting their relevance to the publication’s audience.
The result – an appalling response rate.
The sales pitch, blanket emails, excessive buzz words… these will not suffice. However, this does need not be the outcome. Simply, sufficient research is what can make a difference.
Some of the tips I have learnt since moving over to the “dark side” is to:
- Stay updated
The media lives off trending topics. A pitch that contains these topics will make the journalist more compelled to move forward with the conversation. A habit that I have to stay on top of the current news is to subscribe to google alerts, monitor social media and receive push notifications from news and industry apps. These tools have allowed me to keep up with some of the latest developments across industries.
- Define your target audience
As communicators, the majority of our work involves conveying key messages to the right audience. A story about the latest cybersecurity solution will sound awkward to a stay-at-home mom. Take time to understand the publication and editor’s interests, preferences, and media consumption behaviour. This will create a more accurate picture of the editor and media title, to share a pitch with.
- Research on the journalist
Each journalist covers a different beat. Researching on a media contact prior to reaching out will help align a pitch with what the reporter covers. A practice I have is to read previous stories by the journalist prior to drafting the pitch. This gives me a sense of the person behind the story, an indication of how I might proceed with the pitch, and whether he or she is the right person to cover the story.
The role of a PR specialist is not only about building brands and defending a company ’s reputation. We are here to partner with journalists to produce high-quality articles and content that matter to their readers. Provide exclusive stories that are valuable to a publication’s reader; give access to spokespeople to fill columns; offer soundbites that will present a balanced story.
A successful pitch requires investment in time and effort. Besides bragging “This is what my company does”, we can do so much more.