Pitching Media in Unsettling Times

By Marlyn Angeles

With a large majority of students and employees working remotely, people have much more time on their hands to read subscription magazines and catch up on their favorite blogs. However, many businesses are struggling to keep their brand and product in the eyes of potential clients. Pitching brands is a very necessary but risky tactic during the pandemic. An example of how one can come off tone deaf during sensitive times is David Geffen’s salutation Instagram post from his escape to the Grenadines on his reported $590 million yacht to avoid the coronavirus. He received backlash from users through both Instagram and Twitter that found the post insensitive to the fact that many are facing unemployment and businesses are suffering while he was able to escape the virus. 

Lauren Reed, the founder of Reed Public Relations, a firm in Nashville with dining, tourism and fitness clients, asserts that “How brands appear to the world during this pandemic could impact how people see them for years to come, good and bad.”

Media pitching is crucial for companies to keep business afloat and in turn helps the economy when it is being hit hard. Before diving into how to pitch media during the pandemic, I want to define what pitching is. Simply put, a media pitch is a short, personalized message that outlines the value of a story and explains why it should be published. It is an attempt to get a journalist, editor or media outlet interested in your news so they decide to cover it. It is usually 150 words long but can reach up to 400 words. There is a thin line between being relevant and insensitive, so it is important that you keep the following tips in mind to create a good pitch during this time. Spin Sucks highlights these tips in a blog by Michael Smart: Five Ways to Successfully (and Sensitively) Pitch Media Right Now.

Who are you pitching to?

In a struggle to keep brand relevance, it is important that you focus on who or which media outlet will publish a story that promotes your brand while addressing the public’s needs. Aim to target the right journalist that will help maintain your brand or company in the public’s eye in a setting that is relevant to your brand. Pitching a new line of makeup cosmetics may be more relevant to the editor of a fashion publication than a New York Times reporter. . It is important to note that your pitch and topic don’t have to be specifically COVID-19 focused, such as Dove’s Courage is Beautiful campaign. Staying within a relevant media organization helps your brand blend in.

Location of where you’re pitching

Many cities around the country are following guidelines regarding COVID-19 activities. Confirmed cases are the biggest indicator of whether restaurants or other establishments can open their doors. Targeting publications in states that have loosened restrictions could help reach your target audience whereas promoting in a more restricted area may limit opportunities. Pitching your travel company’s list of best places to visit in a city where people are barely leaving their homes may not be the smartest. Where the media outlet you are trying to reach is located is just as important as which  type of media organization you choose. 

Strengthening core pitching skills 

While it is important to strategize, empathize and plan out how your company will come off as relevant and sensitive during a pandemic, sharpening your pitching skills will help you navigate this challenge. Muckrack states the importance of how you contact journalists and at what time during the day. In a survey conducted by Muckrack, 93% of journalists just want to receive a 1:1 email pitch from a PR agency or company. About 65% of journalists prefer to be pitched before 11 am. Results also demonstrated the top three reasons journalists reject otherwise relevant pitches; lack of personalization, bad timing and being too lengthy. PR professionals should keep it short at about 2-3 paragraphs but also personalize why your story fits that specific writer and the publication itself.  Use these tips when you organize your next media pitch and dissolve the chances of an insensitive post backfiring on you and your company.

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