Tens of thousands. That’s the best number I could come up with. I tried to calculate how many pitches I have read over my 24+ years working in the media. Journalists aren’t known for their mathematical strength so I gave up and called it tens of thousands. The point is I have seen more than a few. I have turned down more than I have accepted. I know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to selling your story to the media.
First, you need to know that simply sending a press release is not the same thing as pitching a story. Think of a press release as an announcement. Maybe you have a new product line coming out or are holding a new a class. Maybe you are a new business to the area. All of that is fine. It’s just not necessarily THE story.
The story might be how your product line fits a new trend. Your class might tie into a study in the news. Maybe your business is the first of its kind in that part of town. Whatever it is, your pitch should help the editor or producer ‘SEE’ the story. Then attach the press release, if you have one, for more information.
It is not necessary to have a press release to pitch a story.
Now, on to why your pitch was turned down.
- You gave me too much information. Producers and editors are busy. If I open an email and see it is a mini version of War and Peace I am instantly turned off. If you can’t explain your story to me in a few paragraphs then I don’t have time to figure it out for you.
- You got my name wrong. Personalizing a pitch is a great way to make the pitch feel like it is actually directed at me. But if you spell my name wrong that tells me all I need to know about your attention to detail.
- Your timing was off. It is possible that there is nothing wrong with your pitch at all. It may simply be that they already have a story planned on that topic. It is also important to understand the deadlines and planning structures for print and traditional broadcast media. If you send me a great pitch the month before you’d like me to print it in a magazine, you are too late. Magazines work months in advance. If you send a pitch to TV stations months before the actual story or event you want covered, it will get lost in a sea of other pitches that fill future assignment logs.
- You didn’t leave me enough information to contact you. It almost sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? I mean who would send me an idea and not give me all of the ways in which I can reach you. But it happens, more than you think. Include the basics like a full name and title, a phone number and an email.
There are a hundred more reasons beyond those listed that could also explain your ‘No’. One thing is certain. You can be sure you aren’t alone. Bigger businesses have gotten a “no” too.
The truth is, you may never know why an editor turned you down. There just isn’t time in their day to offer everyone constructive or encouraging feedback to explain their decision.
So take it as ‘not now’ instead of ‘no’ and try again another time.
For more information to help you create more effective content, easier, follow my podcast with Digital marketing and communication specialist Rachel Clapp Miller, Content Hacks.