You’ve got one shot to make your best pitch for media coverage in Texas, and if you don’t get it right, you’ll miss the strike zone.
You need to understand how your issue will be interpreted by a media outlet. You need to know what will make their readers care about your news. You need to anticipate their questions and motivations to publish. You need to know which outlet is best suited to receive your information.
You’re trying to get your message across in crowded newsrooms where content, especially in the world of digital syndication, is always flowing. Reporters in Texas have upwards of 300 pitches land in their inbox every day. Do you think yours is the best out of the 300 pitches they watched pass that plate?
If you want to throw more strikes, here’s what you need to be doing if you want to successfully pitch to Texas media.
Before The Windup, Identify Your Pitch’s Desired Outcome
Your issue may be newsworthy, but first you need to know what you are trying to achieve with your media coverage.
Who do we want to see this? What sort of impression do we want to make on them? Do we want it to live online as a search authority for those interested in this issue?
Do you want 100 percent message control? That goes out the window the moment you enter the newsroom. Are you issuing a press release? Reporters don’t want news everyone else gets at the same time.
What can you do to make your pitch interesting? Every reporter is looking for unique content. How can you get them to respond to you? Offering exclusivity could attract attention from a reporter or a news outlet.
Once you answer those questions, you can begin to understand how to approach your pitch.
Press Releases Are Dead. Targeted Pitching Wins the Day.
Blasting out a press release and praying for coverage won’t deliver the results you’re looking for.
Targeted pitches increase your odds of getting traction. When you know your audience and know how to reach them, you can better identify the right reporter for your issue and tailor your approach.
If we contact a reporter who’s very experienced or sympathetic to a specific topic, we can offer assistance or even an exclusive. Bring them into the tent. Show them everything. Give them a complete picture of the issue: Who are the players? What’s at stake? Who stands to gain/lose? What are the facts? After all, the value of a well-informed article by a thoughtful journalist is often more valuable than a few articles that lack sufficient depth.
And if they get their story right, it could trigger broader, better-informed coverage. If even just one outlet really nails your story, sometimes that’s the best you can hope for these days.
One caveat regarding press releases: If you’re going to issue a press release, target specific trade publications. They are more likely to be interested in your industry-related issue and give it coverage. Write it as though you were writing for the publication, and they might re-use most or all of it.
Everything is Local: Local Interest. Local Impact. Local Outcomes.
When a national or global firm is pitching across all 50 states, Texas reporters typically aren’t responsive. Local reporters want to speak to local people and understand local impact
If you’re pitching a story about Target, Texas reporters don’t want to speak to a store manager in Arkansas. They want to talk to the manager of their local Target and interview area shoppers. That’s the only way an issue about a company based in Minneapolis can resonate with people here at home.
Even if an issue has statewide or national appeal, Texas outlets will want to cover the local impact OR they will elect to not cover it at all and run the wire or other content available to them. How does it affect their community directly? They have to be able to communicate to their audience about why it matters to them.
Take the recent announcement from the Food and Drug Administration that JUUL vaping products would be banned in the United States. FOX4 in Dallas-Fort Worth picked up syndicated content from the Associated Press. NBC in Austin took it a step further, having a local reporter explain “How the FDA’s ban on Juul vapes could impact Austinites.” If you help them connect these dots down to a local level, the greater the potential of your pitch being successful.
Today, the only thing that separates these outlets from each other is their ability to report the local angle.
Strong Reporter Relationships Can Get Your Issue Coverage
Reporters have a hard job, often under enormous deadline pressure over long hours. The easier you can make it for them, the better chance you have of getting their attention.
If you can become a resource for them (especially when you don’t need something) even better. Drop them a note if they wrote a piece you liked. Share a source who might be useful, even if that source falls outside of your issue. “Hey, I saw your piece on X, Y, Z. If you’re thinking about doing a follow-up, you might think about talking to so and so.”
And as media outlets continue to downsize newsrooms and grow digital operations , the average age and experience levels within their newsrooms are declining dramatically. Gone are the days when a young reporter could ask the veteran editor on their desk for background on an issue. If you can provide a reporter with proper historical context, your efforts will pay dividends.
Anything you can do short of writing the piece yourself gives you a better chance of reaching the right audience and getting the results you want. Offer them an exclusive. Compile fact sheets and data books. Provide them with a media reel to save them time. Share resources. Cultivate connections.
Finally, when it comes to building reporter relationships, remember that they’re human. They can’t get everything right all the time. They’ll make mistakes. You can help them get it right the next time.
Adjust Your Pitch to the Dynamics of Texas Media Markets
Texas is home to a number of the top media markets in the country: These are massive audiences in major metropolitan areas. Dallas/Fort Worth. Houston/Galveston. San Antonio. Austin. El Paso. Understanding how the media work together or compete against each other in those markets is essential.
In some places, conglomerates of TV and radio stations share reporters and other resources. Some print publications are fiercely independent, battling for scoops every day. Others are jointly owned and reporters work together across newsrooms, and regions, for different papers.
If you successfully pitch KXAN local in Austin to the Nexstar correspondent, you could see that hit and run in 13 markets across the state. That’s why it’s important to understand the dynamics of the media market in Texas and the business models that influence their coverage decisions.
When the Right Outlet Isn’t Even a News Outlet
For some topics and some reporters, social media has become a de facto network in itself.
Reporters are breaking their own investigations on Twitter or using it to broadcast news in real time with photos, videos, commentary, interviews and quotes.
If they’re a respected reporter, other news stations and reporters are following along because they understand the value of their on the ground awareness and insight. You should be following them, too.
Try to meet them on the platform where they are reporting, engage them there. Follow the coverage. You don’t have to respond at the moment. You can always follow up with an email or text to offer your perspective.
Success is Pitching Your Story to the Right People, the Right Way at the Right Time
Everyone likes to think their “news” is newsworthy. But the world is awash in content and newsrooms have more than enough information to publish without ever picking up a news release or considering a weak pitch.
You need to understand what makes news and the key ingredients to make that news relevant for publication in your target markets. You need a team that understands the local landscapes, has experience navigating newsrooms across the state and can best position you for creating headlines that are valuable for you and the consumer of that information.
If you want a team of professionals to push news releases, we are not your best choice. If you want a team that brings publication strategy to the table, let’s talk.