June 20, 2012

Expert Advice: How to get the Media to Write about You. ~ Hayley Samuelson

Background (if you’re familiar with LOHAS, skip ahead):

From the LOHAS website: an acronym for “Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability,” describes a marketplace focused on health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living. One in four Americans is part of this group—nearly 41 million people and growing.

Since its inception in 1996, LOHAS has been the catalyst for the adoption of sustainable living and environment-friendly practices for the globally conscious business community. The LOHAS Forum is the leading annual gathering of thought and opinion leaders in the LOHAS marketplace. The LOHAS Forum features highly influential speakers and panelists who address and explore some of today’s most prominent issues and business challenges, in the world of health and wellness. Other events include musical performances, workshops and networking receptions.

The elephant crew and I attended the, “So you think you can pitch?” LOHAS panel that Waylon Lewis spoke on last week and learned valuable information I felt was worth sharing.

Four media savvy panelists contributed to this discussion. They included the sharp and witty freelance journalist Terri Trespicio who previously worked for Martha Stewart Living; the more reserved but influential Pilar Geranismo who founded Experience Life magazine; Waylon Lewis the antsy Editor of elephantjournal.com and David Walker a buyer from  Sam’s Club, a company that recently joined the world of fair trading.

Katy Sager, the lovely moderator, presented the information giving the panelists a chance to voice their opinions by having casual conversation with the audience. They gave their input on pitching stories, ideas and products to the media.

I found the information applicable to my life even though I am not a business person pitching to the media. The tips below apply to my current job search. These ideas are helpful in pitching yourself to a company as well as your product or business.

Here is what I took away from the powerpoint and discussion surrounding it that are sure to help you stand out from the crowd—in terms of pitches.

What makes a great pitch?

  • 1. Knowing who you really are: Pitch your authentic self, not who you’d like to be portrayed as.
  • 2. Where are we and what time is it? Understanding lead time is important. National magazines have 6-8 month lead time. In June, you should be pitching for November/December.
  •  Newspapers and online publications have daily deadlines, so the lead time is a bit more flexible.
  • 3. Knowing your target: What do they write about? What are they  interested in? Know who their audience is, so you can better cater your pitch. Also, follow the media organization or reporter on twitter.
  • 4. What do reporters want? Easy access, fast responses, and industry knowledge.
  • 5. What do you write? Be a human. Have a good title and get to the point quickly, the media industry receives hundreds of pitches a day and not everyone has the time to go through each and every pitch.
  •  In addition, have a couple of angles ready and have a vision for the final result. Make sure to keep it brief, your email may be in the form of short paragraphs or bullets. Provide just enough information to open the door for further conversation and make sure to send your pitch at a strategic time. Know the deadlines (You can look for editorial calendars on websites).
  • 6. Be creative, not esoteric: Do not copy and paste a press release in an email because it is not personal. In the first couple of sentences show that you know the company. This makes your email personal, making it worth the company’s time.
  • 7. What are you offering? An exclusive pitch is something you are offering to just one outlet. Make sure to follow up with people because you are tiny and they may forget about you. But as Waylon said, “If I know I have an exclusive, I’ll prioitize it because people will be sharing our link not the links of eight other companies.”
  • You can also offer excerpts from a book or expert commentary. These are great ways to get your name out there.
  • Unexpected angles are another idea. Consider what’s interesting about you and pitch that as an angle. As long as there is news in the story, it is able to be pitched.
  • 8. Relishing in the afterglow:  It is helpful to follow up by email within 24 hours or so saying here are the things we talked about and here is the next step. Be careful with phone calls though, some editors find them disruptive. Be respectful of their time.

What makes a terrible pitch?

  • 1. “You working on anything?” Reporters are busy and most always working on something.
  • 2. Telling a reporter what to do: “you should write about me.”
  • 3. Too long, too styled, and too much text on the page.
  • 4. The super obvious form letter.
  • 5. Pasting a press release.
  • 6. Unoriginality: “Go Green!” is not a clever pitch.
  • 7. Spelling a name wrong or assuming a nickname (Jenny for Jennifer).
  • 8. Jargon and cliches: “wer’re a disruptive hyper-local ambient location sharing service.”
  • 9. Overzealous follow up: “NOW did you see my email?”
  • 10. The most common, offensive blunder: Getting your audience wrong.

To sum this all up:

  • –Be targeted, don’t pitch to everyone.
  • –Be clever, but get to the point.
  • –Be your authentic self—don’t just know your message, be your message.
  • –Know who you are pitching–one size does not fit all.
  • –Skip the buzz words, stay human.
  • –Your pitch targets are real people—build real relationships.
Hayley studied journalism, politics and international media at the University of Colorado—Boulder. In between juggling school and various jobs, she makes time to snowboard, travel, write and craft. She surrounds herself with people that motivate and embrace her as she strives to make a difference in anyway she can. Follow her on twitter.


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