By Hugo Greenhalgh on 11 Feb 2016
Business journalists’ top 5 tips for pitching to them about your firm
With business journalists’ inboxes full to breaking point, how do you get cut-through for your small to medium-sized enterprise (SME)? The advice from the media is simple – understand who you’re pitching to and how they operate.
This was the key takeaway from a small business masterclass Google’s London HQ, hosted by The Telegraph’s Rebecca Burn-Callander, which brought together some of the country’s top enterprise journalists with PRs and entrepreneurs.
Here were the top five tips for getting coverage for your SME:
1) Understand – It’s important to know what a journalist writes about before you pitch something to them. So, read their articles and identify their areas of expertise. Firing off irrelevant press releases is a waste of everyone’s time but it’s still very common – Matthew Gwyther of Management Today receives around 450 emails a day but reckoned only 3-4% of these were relevant.
2) Be Knowledgeable – Know your client back to front and how they could be useful to a journalist. Burn-Callander pointed out that PRs can be very useful in acting as a screen and picking out a client’s key stories – unlike SMEs themselves, who might put too much focus on irrelevant or non-newsworthy details.
3) Subject lines – James Hurley of The Times confessed to having over 25,000 unread emails. He and his colleagues are inundated with approaches every day, making it impossible to sift through every one. To get around this, it’s vital to include a punchy subject line that will stand out to the journalist.
4) Human Interest – The entire panel agreed they liked having one-to-one contact with interesting entrepreneurs because the human beings behind the SMEs often had great stories to tell. Hurley noted that it was often the smaller PR agencies who understood this the best and were able to facilitate useful meetings with their clients. Journalists also stressed the importance of having good photos readily available, which is something a good PR agency will recognise.
5) Be Creative – Journalists are always looking for unusual stories but this can require creativity on behalf of the SME. Emma Haslett of City AM picked out an example of a security company who used their research on the average age of computer hackers (15!) to get cut-through.
Kiki Loizou of The Sunday Times added that not every story needed to be pitched as a press release – a paragraph in an email might be a better way to get her attention.