Unconventional vs. Conventional Pitches
One size does not fit all when it comes to pitching a story idea to the media. In many cases, you will have more success with your story pitches by targeting the proper news medium and reporter through unconventional ways. Newspapers can be a microcosm for this analysis.
Let’s say you wanted to pitch a story on an aspiring woman’s clothing designer. Most publicists would probably take the conventional approach and pitch their story idea to the style section or possibly even the business section. They would never think of pitching their designer to the sports editors or reporters. In a similar fashion, most publicists would also pitch a profile story on a high school football coach to the sports sections, as opposed to targeting the religious or business section of the newspaper.
Those methods are tried and true but in many cases you can improve your odds of coverage by pitching a reporter who doesn’t traditionally hear your story idea angle.
Take the example of the profile story on the high school football coach. What if that high school coach had leadership rules that applied to business? What if that high school coach was extremely religious and based his coaching philosophy on Biblical principals? Suddenly, this story has a new angle that hasn’t been heard, assuming you pitch the unconventional outlet. A story on a football coach with leadership principles could run in many different sections of the local newspaper: sports, business, metro and even the leisure sections. Add in the faith outlet, and that coach suddenly becomes intriguing to the newspaper’s religious editors.
Likewise, in the case of the aspiring woman’s clothing designer, she becomes more unique to the sports pages if her fashion is geared towards female athletes. Sports sections are always pitched ideas on high school coaches and athletes, yet they aren’t always pitched angles on athletic fashion trends for women. Of course you should always concentrate your pitch on the desired audience, but make sure you look beyond the stereotype. Your story idea or client will stand out if you can find that unconventional angle that others haven’t pursued.
You should apply this same-targeted approach when choosing which news outlet to pitch. Many people make the mistake of pitching to the largest pie (the local television station or newspaper) rather than focusing on a news outlet that reaches their desired demographics. If your story idea involves a niche, focus your time and energy on pitching the news outlet that reaches those targeted viewers and readers.
You can better shape the public’s opinion by reaching your specific customer, and that means going to where they are located. Let’s say you have a product that appeals to housewives. You may not get on the show Oprah, but you can pitch the local newscast that airs at noon, which has a large audience of stay-at-home mothers. Nielson figures show housewives are the majority of viewers watching those newscasts that air during the workday. If you are trying to get singles to visit your new nightclub, don’t focus all of your time and energy on the entertainment reporter. Instead, target the alternative weekly, which will likely have a larger base of your potential customers.
And remember, there is nothing wrong with pitching a conventional story the conventional way. But if you find no one is biting on your story ideas, take a moment to review your idea from a different angle. You might find unconventional is the new conventional. Want to learn more strategies on getting your product or service on the news?