Public relations experts know the world is bigger than ever – which, on one hand, means more opportunity. But the world is also noisier. Media outlets are understaffed, and reporters are doing more. And with fake news pitches blanketing media outlets around the world, catching the attention of reporters and introducing them to your organization is harder than ever before.
In this partner webinar, Muck Rack, Agence-France Presse, and The Foreign Press Association shared tips for getting your organization’s press releases and pitches seen and acted on by reporters outside of your home market.
Featuring Christine Buhagiar, Europe Director with Agence-France Presse, and Ian Williams, President of the Foreign Press Association, and moderated by Greg Gallant, the CEO and co-founder of Muck Rack, this webinar included key data points from Muck Rack’s recent State of Journalism 2022 survey.
What is the best way to pitch a reporter?
Muck Rack’s survey noted that email was preferred to a phone call or Tweet when sending information directly to reporters. The speakers agreed – email was the best way to reach a reporter.
To maximize your email pitch, both Christine and Ian noted that a pitch including a link to a published press release containing data, quotes, and usable imagery was the ideal way to reach a reporter. This format offered many benefits including the ability to keep the email short, to quick access to supporting content, and to build trust by showcasing that your news has been distributed by a known, trusted news partner.
When it comes to pitching reporters, it wasn’t just about the delivery method. A key part of successful international media relations is the relevancy of the news on the publication’s audience.
Ian noted, “My time is precious, and so is yours, and so is Christine's. So please, don't approach me unless it's a reasonably important subject.”
When is the best time to pitch European reporters?
Muck Rack found that most journalists want to be pitched in the morning: 35% prefer early morning pitches between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., and 30% prefer pitches between 9 a.m. and Noon. Time zones are key when pitching outside one’s home market as they mean working outside traditional business hours.
Christine shared that Monday was a good day to pitch European reporters, many of whom are currently working from home on this particular day. But she warned audiences that the day and time will depend heavily on the type of news and reporter you want to reach. Financial reporters have very different timelines than a weekend lifestyle journalist, but, in general, Monday is a good day to pitch this audience.
Ian pointed out that freelancers work different schedules and often prefer weekend pitches, allowing them to craft an attention-grabbing headline for a Monday submission. Ian also shared that most publications regularly work with freelancers. As such, this group should not be ignored when a company is trying to reach audiences outside their home border; they can be a terrific way to secure a key placement.
Christine recommends that when trying to reach international news organizations, rather than pitch the international bureau, the organization should reach out to the bureau closest to their home market who will coordinate the story internally.
What makes news stand out?
It is no surprise that the first way to catch a reporter’s attention is through the email subject line and press release headline.
While reporters require a wide range of information to write a story, communicators have one chance to catch their attention and should focus their headlines on the impact of their news upon the international market they are trying to reach. It is key to showcase the importance of your news for the journalist’s readers. Ian emphasized, “You must catch a reporter’s attention. Then you must give them the ammunition needed to write your story. Fill the quiver full of arrows to get it actually on screen or on page.”
For financial publications, short, accurate, and factual headlines get attention. For other reporters, like Ian, humorous headlines and puns set one pitch apart from others. Both panelists noted that when time is taken to write a headline or subject line, it often shows in the results.
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What is the ideal length of a pitch?
Muck Rack found that short pitches are best, with 44% wanting a pitch to be under 400 words. But both panelists agree: If the words are necessary for the story, include them. Don’t make the reporter do extra work to write and publish your news - provide relevant links, imagery, and contact information.
For financial writers like Christine, longer stories are the norm. She prefers 300-1,000 words and noted, “I’d rather have more [words] and select myself, than be imposed on…and I have to then phone the person, ask for all the missing figures. It will take me much more time, and it deprives me from…the editorial choice I need to make.”
Ian suggested an alternative, noting that the lead is the most important part, not the email length. He suggests sending a short pitch, then following up with the details once interest is shown. Both speakers agree that including a link to a published press release is an ideal alternative to packing everything in a single email.
How many follow-up calls should someone make?
Muck Rack’s survey results showed that while 43% of reporters were ok with one follow-up call, 8% wanted no calls at all. The speakers agreed, noting that one call was enough. In fact, too many follow-up calls can be considered harassment and can lead you to be added to a journalist’s block list.
Christine cautioned communicators to consider each country’s GDPR rules before engaging with reporters, pointing out that calling too frequently and sending too many emails to a reporter could signal non-compliance.
Do international journalists and outlets write about U.S. companies?
The AFP accepts news from all parts of the world, but their U.S. news stories focused on Wall Street, the United Nations, or U.S. culture are most popular. “We do cover these topics as priorities. But anything else is also welcome, if it's of interest for an international audience,” noted Christine. Ian added that reporters all have different topics of interest. Financial and political journalists are often aligned in some markets, but not in others.
Ian reiterated the importance of pitching stringers and freelancers. Many European publications no longer retain full-time journalists on staff. They rely heavily on freelancers to bring in stories. And, since these writers are often compensated based on results (views, clicks, shares), they want great stories – the more stories they bring to a publication, the more they get paid.
Should PR pros email every contact at a media outlet?
Both speakers agreed this was a bad practice, especially when trying to build a long-term, sustainable relationship with international journalists. Avoid mass sending the same pitch to everyone within a single organization. If the story is good, reporters will share it internally.
It is important to remember that within a single organization, each reporter has a different story they must tell. Smart PR pros should customize their news to match each reporter’s angle.
Why do reporters reject pitches from international companies?
Muck Rack’s survey notes that poor timing, lack of personalization, and confusing subject lines are the top reasons reporters reject pitches. These steps should be actively avoided by organizations looking to introduce themselves to a new reporter.
Christine shared that she receives hundreds of email pitches a day: “If you miss the lead, then you miss it all. What is the information you want to tell the journalist?” Ian noted relevance as the top driver for opening a pitch. When you pitch reporters outside your market, pay attention to the best times of day to reach them, their specific beats and interest, and be clear in what you are trying to say.
What portion of your news stories come from pitches?
Both the speakers and Muck Rack’s survey respondents agreed, around 25% of published news stories come from pitches and press releases. Often it is the newsworthy angles that set a story apart. The American press will cover a story one way, but it may be positioned differently by non-U.S. reporters.
Do international reporters accept exclusives?
Yes! Ian and Christine noted that offering an exclusive can increase the likelihood of coverage.
Are translations required when pitching international media?
Yes. Translations are a key part of building relationships with local market audiences. However, if you’re not able to pitch in the local language, don’t use an online translation service. Instead send the pitch in English.
Do international media require a local PR person?
No, it’s more important to make the topic of your news relevant and easy to identify and to have a contact person available for more information.
What is the role of fake news as it relates to pitches?
The speakers remind communicators to take caution and to provide as much factual data as possible. Christine stated, “We are getting more and more careful about what we receive. What I would advise is, on the sensitive financial information or political information, it's good to give journalists ways to authenticate what they receive.” Including a link to your story, delivered by a trusted news provider can help you build this trust.
Building relationships outside one’s home market is not easy. Articles about your product, service, or organization, written by local reporters are a crucial part of building a trusted relationship with your consumers. Follow the above steps to maximize the impact of your communications outreach.
Looking for more ways to increase your news release results?
Activating audiences outside your home market is never easy. Here are our top 8 tips for increasing brand mindshare in new markets.
Looking for an international media database? Visit Muck Rack www.muckrack.com.
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