I recently received an email from the Miami correspondent for Fox News explaining that he could not cover my super compelling story because New York wants him to focus on the 2016 election. Translation: if my client has nothing to add, don’t bother pitching him.
When a particular story dominates the national news cycle (much like the 2016 election), you can pretty much bet that your pitches will go unanswered. In times like these, it’s important to understand that promotional pitching is not the way to go; instead, it’s an opportunity to position your client as a thought leader.
I’m not saying that every client can be a good source during the 2016 election season, specifically, but it’s important to look out for any and every opportunity where they each may fit into the dominant story of the time.
But let’s stick with the elections for now. Even if your client is not a political strategist, there may be a less obvious way to connect them to the narrative. If you do your homework and pay attention to the issues being debated, you may uncover a connection that you can use to position your client as an expert source.
Now, let’s say your client happens to have valuable insight on election topics, such as immigration or income inequality. How do you then break through the clutter so that they are heard? Here are some ideas:
- Research who is covering that particular topic and focus on the angle they’ve taken on that topic in the past.
- Answer this question: Does your client’s position match the writers? Is there an opportunity to propose a new angle, reframing the conversation to serve your client’s interests?
Of course, it is also essential that you research your clients’ take on the issue independently, making sure it hasn’t been repeated countless times already.
Once you’ve identified your client’s position on the matter and you’ve completed your relevant research, the next step is to build on that foundation by writing a pitch that clearly conveys your client’s message in a concise and insightful way. Since you’ll be reaching out to reporters that regularly cover this topic, it’s crucial that you do not send a generic pitch; if you take the time to analyze and assess the work of each reporter you are approaching, they will appreciate it and may even respond back quicker.
For additional insight, consider following them on Twitter; you will see what interests them and, if you’re lucky, some hints of what they may be working on now.
Finally, remember that news happens fast: plan ahead and make sure your client is prepped (and reachable). They have to be ready to respond right away as opportunities arise to be part of a national story; these opportunities don’t come around every day but when they do you and your client have to be ready.