Talk about an overstuffed in-box…BuzzTheory reports editors receive an average of 400 pitches per day! That makes getting their attention similar to going to a pond with hundreds of other people—and throwing a hook hoping to catch the lone fish swimming around. For technology public relations professionals, solving this challenge requires a nurturing approach to your list of media contacts—a lot like working on sales prospects.
You need to tune into their needs and their tendencies, putting yourself in their shoes. What problems are they trying to solve, and how can you help them get the answers they need?
Pitching Journalists in the Technology Sector
Focusing on answering these questions just might allow you to be the lucky one that gets that fish. Compared to sales teams going after prospects, when trying to build relationships with editors and reporters, technology public relations teams have an advantage. They can collect intelligence.
It’s easy to track what editors are publishing and what reporters are writing about. Leveraging this information, you can tailor your pitches to resonate with their interests.
When first building a media target list, a database like Cision is s a good place to start. But don’t just take the list and run with it. “Media databases are often outdated or a reporter may have switched beats,” points out Joshua Milne, who owns Joshua Milne PR and is the founder and COO of Boston Sports Partners. “Investigate each editor and reporter to make sure they are covering your specific technology.”
Milne adds to also check if an editor or reporter has covered your technology recently. If so, you can’t expect them to write again about your technology right away. Perhaps just send an email to say you saw the article and give them some ideas for future consideration.
Another key aspect to investigate before pitching is the general approach of each publication.
“Some focus on providing unique content while others just need content to post,” says Thomas LeBlanc, Director of Industry Outreach and Media Channels at NSCA. “Spend time consuming content from the platforms you reach out to in order to understand what they do and what they are looking for. This will make the editors’ jobs easier.”
LeBlanc also notes that in the technology sector, reporters are more likely to come from a journalist background, not a technology background. This makes it critical to provide written explanations of the technical nuances of your product. It’s not only providing the features of the product, but also the bigger picture of how that product fits into the context of the market.
Closing on Media Opportunities
If a reporter or editor shows interest in a pitch, be sure to respond immediately. Let them know you received their inquiry and are working on their request—whether it’s an interview with one of your experts, a discussion with one of your customers, or for some type of background content or an image.
In advance of the pitch you sent, check to make sure your experts and customers are in standby mode and generally available.
Reporters and editors who show interest will usually request a call within 24 or 48 hours. If you can’t meet that timeframe, they will likely interview someone else.
As you continue to close on each opportunity, “keep communications open but don’t put too much pressure on the editor or reporter,” LeBlanc says. “You may risk them not wanting to work with you and turning to one of their other options.”
And once an interview is scheduled, “Send meeting invites to get on their calendar,” says Milne. “You want to make sure the reporter and your expert or customers show up!”
Tactical PR Tips
LeBlanc, a seasoned pro in the public relations arena, offers several tactical tips to fellow practitioners:
- Don’t use mail merge; send personalized emails with the name of the reporter in the subject field to show your email is going only to them.
- Understand what’s going on in the industry before you pitch; if a major technology provider has a huge announcement tomorrow, everyone is likely covering them, so it’s not smart to pitch your message.
- Don’t bait-and-switch, such as offering the CEO for an interview and then scheduling a call with the VP of Marketing. It’s OK to move up the corporate ladder, but not down.
- When pitching, send one email followed by another in a few days or a phone call. Sending pitches three or four times will start to frustrate editors. If your first pitch does not succeed, they are either busy or the wrong target.
- Don’t insist on verbatim marketing language being included. i.e. product names and benefits. The reporter will feel they are not being objective if they use your phrasing.
LeBlanc also adds a key tip: “If you read an article on your product that you think has not been written correctly, take time to consider it from an objective point of view before bringing up concerns. You might burn a bridge if you reach out without considering their point of view.”
Hooking That Fish in the Pond
As you plan to find a way to get that single fish in the big pond to bite your hook, consider a campaign strategy recommended by Milne: “Pitch predictions impacting your industry. December is usually the perfect time to offer insights for the following year, and these types of pitches often lead to interviews, podcasts and contributed articles.”
While continuously nurturing your media contacts, also consider narrowing the list to a workable number, such as 10-20 media targets. Then prioritize your list so you can focus on the top five influencers in your industry.
You may not close on opportunities with each editor and reporter more than once a year, but try to keep in contact every 4-6 weeks. So when they’re hungry for a story, they’ll know where to look for your hook!