News moves fast in the age of the internet, and it is never guaranteed that a pitch will land. Whether it’s a cluttered inbox, more pressing story needs, the latest trends in the news cycle, or something as simple as a reporter taking a vacation day, there are myriad factors that could prevent your pitch from being seen and picked up.
It happens. It’s a natural part of the media cycle. We experienced this with a couple of clients recently. One had planned an event featuring multiple members of Congress speaking about a crucial issue on Capitol Hill. The problem? The date of the event coincided with a budget standoff and the more pressing story for the press corps was whether or not the government would shut down. Another client hosted a discussion with a member of Congress and a prominent think tank voice on critical foreign policy issues. We had secured multiple RSVPs to attend the event and I was looking forward to having a bevy of stories to work with coming out of the event. Alas, that turned out to be the same day that the House of Representatives elected Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House. Two-thirds of the RSVP’d media were reassigned at the last minute.
Events and pitches don’t always go our way and many times it’s due to events outside of our control. That doesn’t mean all is lost, however. On the contrary, there are opportunities and things to learn every time a pitch doesn’t land. I’ve boiled it down to the three R’s of pitching – Refocus, Recycle, and Retry
Let’s think a little more about the pitch itself. Did I get the point across as directly as I could have? Could I be more direct and define the story more? Did my pitch effectively communicate to the reporter the headline I am looking for?
Taking a deeper dive into the content of the pitch can give you insight into what is working and what isn’t. Sometimes your pitch might just need some minor tweaks, edits to make it more clear or concise, or even a total rewrite to approach the story from a different angle. Taking in all of these possibilities and not being married to the original pitch can make a world of difference.
What if the problem weren’t the pitch itself, but where you were sending it? Your story might just not fit with the original outlets you approached. Maybe instead of a national media outlet, you shift your focus to more localized markets, focusing on the local impact rather than a broad national trend.
Approaching a more localized audience also provides opportunities to “roll up” a story. Securing coverage in one or two towns could open a door to a state or regional outlet that then opens opportunities to additional states or national media. The power of local news can’t be understated. National reporters can’t have ears on the ground everywhere, and quality coverage in a focused market can pay big dividends down the road.
Don’t get discouraged! Your pitch and your target might be dead on but just didn’t make it through the bevy of emails reporters, editors, producers, and everyone in between receive every single day. Persistence is key when it comes to pitching, and breaking through might just take that extra phone call or text message or email that hits at the right time.
Taking the time to make that extra push or dig a little deeper into a media outlet’s staff to find a reporter who covers the topic you are pitching a little more in-depth can make all the difference. And when all else fails, you can always ask! I had a reporter meeting recently where I flat-out asked “How can I make my pitches more interesting to you and your colleagues.” Reporters want to find interesting stories too, and being upfront can help you to help them to help your client!