Can't land your pitch? 3 tactics to try after a rejection
It happens to even the best PR pros: You spend hours crafting the perfect pitch and the perfect list of reporters and outlets to send it to.
You're sure it will be a hit – and then the rejection emails start flooding in (or worse, you get no response at all).
I've been working on the editorial side of the media industry for seven years, and in that time, I've shot down most pitches I've received, for a variety of reasons. But that's not to say we can't be persuaded to reconsider.
With the right strategy – and a healthy dose of tact and politeness – PR reps have successfully been able to change my mind after I've rejected their initial story idea.
If reporters just aren't interested in your pitch, you can try one of these three journalist-approved tactics to find an alternative path to coverage.
1. Find another side to the story your client wants to tell
I recently received a pitch from a PR rep about her client (a local bank), about how they were making personal banking easier for younger generations.
I explained that we didn't cover personal finance stories, and she immediately replied with a note about how this bank also helps local businesses access capital. Since this angle is much more aligned with our coverage, I agreed to work with the rep on a story featuring her client.
This is just one of many examples of instances where the original story wasn't a good fit, but a quick adjustment allowed the client to highlight their accomplishments in a way that works for a specific publication. Of course, it's always wise to do your research beforehand and tailor a pitch to a reporter's beat, but sometimes outlets change their editorial focus.
In this case, if a journalist says the angle won't work, take a quick look through their website and/or previous articles to see if there's a different way to tell the same basic story. The result is a unique feature for that publication, and an additional piece of coverage for your client.
2. Offer your client as an expert source for an upcoming story
What do you do if there's no other hook to your pitch -- for example, if you're sending a "non-news" news pitch (as described in this great Muck Rack article by Michelle Garrett) that the publication won't cover?
One of the most effective ways to show that your client is worth covering is to serve as an asset to them.
Ask the reporter what features they're currently working on, and whether your client could offer quotes or insights for one of those pieces. It helps to give us an overview of your clients areas of expertise so we can better determine where they'd fit within our beats: "My client can speak about marketing, finance and leadership."
You likely won't get a story solely about your client, but it's still coverage – plus, being interviewed and quoted for their expertise can help establish your client as a thought leader in their industry.
3. Do your homework and come back with a different, better pitch
So the journalist won't take the alternate angle and they don't have any stories where your client can be quoted. That's OK.
In many cases, a "no" from a journalist means "not right now," and chances are they'll consider your client for coverage if the timing and the story idea are right.
The key is to walk away and give the reporter some space; pushing too hard for the same client/story over and over again will only land you on their blacklist (yes, a lot of us make mental notes when a PR rep is aggressive and pushy, and yes, it does turn us off to working with that particular person).
If the above tactics fail you, take some time to study up the types of content the publication produces. Look for patterns and recurring themes, both in the topics covered and the way the outlet uses sources. Are there CEO profiles? Q&A features? Trend pieces quoting industry experts? Based on the data you uncover, brainstorm a few ways your client might be able to fit into the coverage. Then, come back to the reporter with your ideas and see if one of them will work.
As you continue to work with the same journalists, you'll get better and better at pitching them stories they actually want to cover the first time around. But if you're still learning the ropes of PR or working with a new set of clients, these strategies can help you build the foundations of strong media relationships.
Nicole Fallon is the managing editor of Business News Daily, a resource for small business owners, entrepreneurs and job seekers. Follow her on Twitter @nicolemfallon.
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