3 ways to get a reporter’s attention

Most pitches and press releases are doomed to obscurity—unless they include three essential hooks.

It’s not easy to grab a journalist’s attention. That’s why so many press releases and pitches land in the delete folder.

“The good news is there are certain elements that will usually capture our interest,” says Alisa Gumbs, executive managing editor at Black Enterprise.

She should know. She was previously a copy editor at PR Newswire and prepared countless press releases for prime media placement.

Her advice for breaking through, especially when pitching business outlets:

1. Strengthen press releases with stats. “We all churn out content daily, and the beast needs to be fed,” says Gumbs, “so it makes our lives easier if you can deliver releases with strong statistics.”

She’s interested in high-dollar figures like those used in the magazine’s headlines. “We recently ran one that read, ‘How I pitched my way to $500K,'” she says. “It was about a millennial-owned business that won a business pitch competition and is exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for.”

Statics must be relevant to her audience of African-Americans. For example, she received an email last week from the Economic Institute. It opened with the line, “Low wage African American workers have increased annual work hours the most since 1979.”

“That’s a good email,” Gumbs says. “They used a specific year and an economic fact relevant to my readership. However, I would’ve also liked to see the actual number of hours up front.”

Register for PR Daily’s April 20 “Business Media Pitch Tank webinar for more tips from Alisa Gumbs (Black Enterprise), Amir Bibawy (Associated Press), Joanna Ossinger (Bloomberg News) and Jennifer Merrit (BBC Worldwide).

2. Practice the “three P’s” of good quotes. “Too many PR people write releases that include jargony, corporate quotes from their execs,” Gumbs says. “That never works, because we want quotes that sound like they’re from real people.”

She says the best quotes include the “three P’s.” “They should convey personality, be provocative and speak to profits,” she explains. “If you can’t provide profits, then include at least some type of financial figures.”

3. Boost placement with multimedia elements. Gumbs gives releases and pitches extra consideration when they include photos, embeddable video or infographics.

“I get a lot of pitches about business owners, and I have to call and ask if the person is black,” she says. “It happens all the time. So don’t make me Google the person to find out if they’re African-American. Include a small, embedded image of the entrepreneur or expert in your email. Then follow up later with a high-res image.”

She’s also interested in infographics. “Please send more,” Gumbs says. “We get pitched them too infrequently, and they’re usually from a design agency.”

She’d rather see something from an entrepreneur. “Put your numbers together in a way that tells a compelling story,” she says. “If you can do that, we’ll use it. Don’t attach it. Just mention that you have it in the initial email.”

Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Amir Bibawy (Associated Press), Joanna Ossinger (Bloomberg News), Alisa Gumbs ( Black Enterprise) and Jennifer Merrit (BBC Worldwide) will share more trends and pitching tips in PR University’s April 20 webinar, “Business Media Pitch Tank: Editors Tell How to Turn Heads and Earn Headlines.”

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