By: Chez Chezak
Earned media is an important piece of your marketing strategy, but it takes time and effort to do well. Below we explore how to identify your best story prospects, how to research media outlets, how to pitch to media, and how to land them!
Build the Relationship
Your goal when you meet qualified media isn’t to land a story – it’s to land many of them. Thus, you need to take a long-term approach to the relationship, build it over time and become, over time, a trusted resource (perhaps to the point where the media even start to contact you).
Note that building this relationship, or any relationship, is going to take a personalized approach. Don’t just add the media’s email to your consumer newsletter and think that you’re really going to be ‘getting in front’ of them in any meaningful manner. This is about one-on-one, thoughtful and considerate communications.
Find Your Story
Try to step into the shoes of the media that you’re pitching and consider things from their angle. Then ask yourself what’s a good story FOR THEM. Don’t pitch your story or something that’s necessarily even your own favorite angle. Think about what they are going to want to report on and what’s the best possible fit for their outlet(s).
New products are always good, of course. Anything that differentiates you from all the other local outfitters is good too, as is something timely, like a significant anniversary, celebration or trend. Consider what your company does differently or something that you or your staff are trying expert in. And don’t forget to leverage the personalities on your team and pitch (when appropriate) to their hometown publications, college alumni magazines, specialty magazines (for example, if you have a guide that’s an Eagle Scout or is in the National Guard you can pitch a story about the guide to the publications that cover those audiences).
First, consider who your ideal clients are, based on demographics, and then consider the sorts of publications that they read. Then find out who writes for those outlets (and who writes for their competitors too). Once you’ve ID’d the key media that you want to pitch to, follow them to get to know what sort of topics they generally cover. Follow their social, set up a Google alert for their byline and – I can’t stress this enough – actually read their stuff! This will all give you a better sense of who they are, what their passions are, what they focus on in their writing and just generally give you a better idea of what to pitch to them. If they just did a weeklong trip on the Grand, for example, you shouldn’t pitch them on the same (or a similar trip) any time soon.
Any time that you can offer a full and diverse itinerary for a press trip, they are going to be much more interested in visiting your region. This is especially true for freelancers who look to get as many story ideas out of a single trip as possible.
So rather than just reaching out to a key media person and suggesting that they come to your property for a day trip, work with your tourism boards, local accommodations and restaurants, other regional outfitters and partners to build out an entire, multi-day itinerary. As you can imagine, it’s much more enticing when someone in the media reads, “You’re invited to come to our region for a fully-hosted four-day multi-sport adventure!,” than something like, “You’re invited to come do a day trip with us! Lunch is included.” The bigger, more enticing the offer you can put on the table, the more enticing it will be to media – and to bigger media at better outlets too.
Here’s the Pitch
When you do pitch, keep it short, punchy, focused and – did I mention short? Get right to the point but then stay flexible and accommodating with their response. You might pitch a full feature and they come back to suggest a shorter sidebar piece. Don’t push back, just take the sidebar while you can and be appreciative!
Remember that the ultimate goal is to build that relationship. So, follow up. Don’t go crazy, certainly don’t bombard your contacts, but just check in periodically in a professional manner and when you really have something to share. You can even share with them information and other stories that aren’t even about your company to stay in touch, prove that you’re a good resource and, ideally, help them conceptualize their next story.
If your story runs, then consider sending them a follow-up thank you note and perhaps a small gift.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Once you’ve pitched and followed up a few times, whether you get a story out of it or not, you start all over again, from the top; trying to discern your next story, then pitching it, then following up, then you get a story or don’t, then you start all over AGAIN. It’s just like any other ‘sales’ cycle in that once you close a deal, you start the process all over again to build toward that next sale and ultimately building a long-term relationship.
If you follow these suggestions and are consistent, patient, professional and respectful, you can build upon and expand your media hits. With the right coverage and in the right outlets, these hits will ultimately result in more sales for your company.
About the Author
‘Chez’ Chesak is a freelance travel writer, 15-year veteran of the travel industry, Executive Director of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, board member of the Society of American Travel Writers, and Co-Chair of the Planning Committee for their annual Convention. You can learn more about or contact him at www.chezconnects.com.