Advice From Seattle’s Local Media

by Eric Rindal

What is the best way to pitch a story? PR professionals took this question (and others) to eight locally-based movers and shakers in the world of print, broadcast and online media last week. Media participants were each situated at his/her own table, as 70 eager event attendees rotated tables every 15 minutes – speed-dating style – to ask some of our most common questions.

Media participants included:

Becky Bisbee – business editorat The Seattle Times

Ethan Chung – deputy editor at 425 and South Sound magazines, and vice president of the Society of Professional Journalists (Western Washington)

John Cook – co-founder of GeekWire

Greg Lamm – banking and finance reporterat the Puget Sound Business Journal

Holly Smith Peterson – reporter at the Business Examiner and co-host of the Sound South Business Report

Amy Rolph – news gatherer at the SeattlePI.com

Linda Thomas – digital journalist & senior features reporter at KIRO Radio and MyNorthwest.com

Cynthia Wise – senior assignment editor at KING-5 TV (NBC)

It was a great opportunity to put faces with names and learn a few important tips. Here are the top six we took back to the office with us.

1.       Include everything in the body of the email + visuals!

  • Never attach a PDF or Word doc in an email. Most journalists receive 100-700 emails a day and prefer to scroll through the email (some refuse to open attachments)
  • The first two paragraphs in a pitch are vital—most people will stop reading even after the first—stay away from vague, wordy emails
  • Like a first-aid kit, ensure everything is included: pitch, more info, photos, and contact information

2.       When pitching a small business story or start up…

  • Include the CEO/Entrepreneur when sending the initial email directly to the media contact.
  • Key is for business leader to make initial contact.

3.       Email versus Phone call

  • You’re on your computer all day, so is everyone else—rest assured, they will see your email
  • Most likely they did receive your press release…don’t “follow up” with a phone call just to ask “did you get my press release.” When you call, make sure you have something of value to add – additional story angle thoughts, important source availability, etc.

4.       With broadcast, know when they plan their news content!

  • Do not pitch during their respective news planning sessions and/or newscast. Your pitch will not get the attention it deserves!
  • KING-5’s News Planning Sessions
    • 9:30-10:15AM
    • 1:30PM
    • 2:30PM
    • 3:30PM
    • 6:30PM

5.       Know who consumes your news–have a recipient in mind.

  • Visualize the reader, viewer or listener at the outlet you are targeting—this will guide the news hook in your pitch
  • A journalist has their audience in mind, you should too
  • A blind pitch with no understanding of content or audience is futile

6.       Build relationships!

  • Know who you are emailing; it is a person, not a robot
  • Where appropriate, take the time to learn more about your media contacts—inquire on a personal level (i.e. hobbies, interests, etc.)
  • The more you know about the style and interests of media contacts, the better you will be able to tailor a story that fits