Articles: Blogs

Rifle, not blunderbuss: why tailored pitches beat press releases

Copywriting - 5th May 2015

Companies should stop striving for the maximum volume of press coverage across multiple outlets, many of which are short on readers. Instead, they should devote more time to the outlets their audiences truly read and value, and developing stories that properly satisfy those media.

The magic ingredient in successful media relations has returned to building journalist relationships based on understanding and trust. By really knowing the journalist and what his or her publication is interested in, you can tailor story pitches with a much greater chance of success.

For example, Dominic O’Connell, Business editor of the Sunday Times, comes from a travel background and has a keen interest in aviation. However, as his audience is heavily financial, he also needs stories to involve capital markets, private equity or disruptive industry trends. Knowing these priorities enables you to develop story ideas he can use.

You can’t build relationships with every potentially relevant journalist, as their numbers are too great. For example, in the UK alone, journalist database Gorkana lists over 4,800 correspondents as interested in travel. Instead, apply the Pareto Principle of economics, or ‘80:20 Rule’, to work out which minority (20%) of journalists exert the greatest influence of the majority (80%) of your target audience.

Journalist databases have made it easy to issue press releases by email to hundreds of ‘potentially’ interested correspondents. For example, Charles Starmer-Smith, head of Travel at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, estimates that he receives more than 800 emails per day. Journalists are therefore so swamped with ‘stories’ that there is PR industry debate as to whether the press release remains a useful tool in media relations (it does, if used intelligently).

The best PR practitioners have always personalised a story for the journalist, but this approach is now more essential than ever.