7 pointers for pitching 

Unusual view of Tyne bridge and the sage from the Vermont steps
Unusual view of Tyne bridge and the sage from the Vermont steps

The latest CIPR North East event brought together the usual audience of regional PRs with freelance journalist Ian Wylie, who provided a fascinating whistlestop tour of where our local media has come from and more importantly where it is going.

It proved to be a really thought provoking couple of hours on the nature of modern media and what it means for all of us, both professionally and as consumers. As well as being a freelance journalist on some big national titles Ian is also a founder of The Northern Correspondent, a new(ish) print magazine dedicated to long form writing that promises to tell the stories of the North East that are now often forgotten by the mainstream press.

You can check it out here: http://northerncorrespondent.com/

The session had a real existential feel for where the media is and where it could be going, advertised with slightly provocative tagline: how are our lives and communities in the north east reflected and debated by local and London-centric national media outlets?

Many of the issues Ian covered were really of the moment, particularly with the national narrative around regional devolution and the drawn out, at times painful, decline of the local news desk.

I’ll blog about that in more detail once I’ve thought it through but one really interesting show-within-a-show was Ian’s advice on pitching to the nationals (from his standpoint as a former Guardian staffer). I thought this section offered some really useful, practical advice especially if you’re not a former journalist or haven’t done it before.

7 Pointers for pitching to the nationals

1. Manage expectations. Just because fewer people read newspapers now it doesn’t mean they are any less discerning in their news values. Is your latest amazing story really that amazing? Part of our role as PRs is explaining this to clients and ensuring they have a credible story that’s being told in the right place. The bonkers ideas shouldn’t get past our desks, let alone be pitched to the nationals. It only makes everyone look foolish and frustrated.

2. Don’t just target the national papers. Trade and niche titles can often speak to your audience much more effectively and if your story is that good it will often break out into the nationals as a result of being featured here.

3. Relationships are key. A basic one but still true. It’s a people business and networks are still vital. Try to get to know your targets even if that’s online.

4. Understand the audience of the publication. It’s the age of the sniper not the shotgun.

5. Offer solutions to that title, not just a generic press release. Sounds obvious but tell interesting stories, be opinionated, become an expert on your subject and you’ll get more coverage.

6. Think digital (but don’t be snobbish about print)

7. DIY – Finally if all else fails do it yourself. Don’t be afraid to bypass the media if you have the channels to tell your own stories. There’s so much that you can do (and measure) that will help start the conversation or get exposure for your brand.

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