media training

Media training: Are you paying someone to screw up your pitches?

I get a lot of story pitches in my work as a journalist as you’d expect, mostly from people with no media training behind them. And why should they – they’re often start-ups, so I imagine they’ve just bought a cheap off-the-shelf template and are hoping for the best.

In fact I know that’s what they’ve done. I know this because the similarities are too great to be coincidental. And the truth is that once you’ve seen one or two, they all start to look samey and boring. I start to switch off after a while. They don’t work.

Where the template goes wrong

They run something like this.

They start with “I wanted to introduce you to my story” or thereabouts.

They move to some biographical information. Generally these people are into some sort of second career.

They introduce the second career and an example of why they think they’re fun/quirky/whatever.

Then they move to “If you’d like to hear more of my story” or something like that, and conclude.

There’s nothing wrong with any of this, particularly those that attach a picture. No, the problem is that they’re so obviously using a template. There’s no variety, there’s no individuality – and importantly, there’s no sign that the sender has done any more than a quick search and replace on something someone else has knocked up earlier and sold them.

Maybe it’s in a book or maybe someone has started selling this as part of a “swipe file” – a set of Tweets, emails, Facebook entries and whatever that’s supposed to make marketing easier. Only I’m telling you now, it won’t work.

Talk to me, not just my job

You see, journalists are a picky bunch, for which you can read “egomaniacs”. We make our living from getting our names into print – what, you thought we were doing this out of a sense of public duty?

So if you’re going to approach us, you’d better have an idea of why you’re approaching us in particular. If I were interested, for example, I’d probably turn around and ask why you thought I in particular would be intersted. “Because you’re a journalist” won’t cut it, there are thousands of us. “Because you’re a business journalist” ditto. “Because you’ve written about startups for the Sunday Telegraph” is closer but out of date by around a decade.

It actually gets back to very basic marketing indeed. Instead of saying “Hi Guy, here’s all about me and my new business”, try starting off with “Hi Guy, I’ve seen your stuff in the New Statesman and Guardian and thought I might be able to help with a piece for…” and carry on from there. It should sharpen up your message, it looks less scattergun and is going to hold my attention for a lot longer.

So please, bin the templates and for your own good, stop paying for them. Start from your desired end point: you want to get some coverage in the press. Then work backwards from there and arrive at your starting point, the right journalist. Target them, make it obvious that you’ve done your homework and you should get a fair hearing.

Do you need help approaching the press? I can help – fill in the form below or email me by clicking here and we’ll talk.

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