So your museum has some really cool news and you want to share it with the world? We love it! And many journalists will too– as long as you play by their rules.
Here are a few tips from your friends at Museum Hack for pitching your F*ing Awesome news to the media
#1: Research Before You Pitch
The top feedback we receive from journalists is that they want people to understand their outlet and what they write about before they pitch.
If a writer covers the food scene in Chicago, a pitch that doesn’t include anything about food (regardless of how cool it is) is just spam to them–even if it is well-intentioned spam.
To combat irrelevant pitches, most journalists have a number of different email addresses – one that gets a bunch of junk, one that gets less, and one that they give to people who know their beat and would not dare send a pitch unless it was relevant.
So, how do you get to know a writer and their beat? Following them on Twitter is a good place to start. Also, we like to read at least three previous articles by the writer to get an idea of their interests and tone before we pitch our news. The bigger fan you are of their work, the more likely you will be to craft a great pitch.
#2: Include The Who, What, Where, When & How (Much) In Your Pitch
If you asked someone three specific questions, and they responded with an email saying “Hi, check out our website”, you would probably scream (at least inside).
Avoid making journalists scream by sending pitches that answer their questions succinctly, clearly and according to their instructions.
You don’t need to include flowery language or write the story for them. They became writers because they love to write — so the pressure is off for you. Think of yourself as a source- someone who has the keys to the castle.
For example, if your organization is opening a new exhibit, your pitch should include the answers to the questions the writer will have such as:
- What is the name of the exhibit?
- What are the relevant dates (opening, ending, special events?
- How much does it cost?
- What is the best URL for their readers to click to learn more?
- Do you have high resolution, quality images to share?*
- And, the most important part of the pitch: Why is it newsworthy?
Just the fact that your new exhibit is opening is not necessarily newsworthy.
The fact that your new exhibit is opening during Women’s History Month is more newsworthy. The fact that your new exhibit is opening during Women’s History Month, will show works of art never before displayed in public, and will have a media sneak peak available the day before opening is even more newsworthy. The more you can tie your news to specific trends, historical events, important figures, etc. the better.
*It’s best to share images via Google Drive, Dropbox link or similar and not as an attachment unless the journalist specifically asks for attachments.
#3: Deadlines Are No Joke
If you have a phone interview, your first question to the writer should be “What is your deadline on this”? This lets the journalist know that you get it and value their time.
If you are responding to a pitch request, the sooner you can respond before their deadline the better as they are likely receiving a number of other pitches on the same topic.
If you do hear back from a journalist, the quicker you can reply the better–as long as you can maintain accuracy in your response. Which leads us to one of Museum Hack’s key company values…
#4: Keep It Level 10
75 percent of journalists say that ensuring content is one hundred percent accurate is most important for their organization. It’s far better to be honest and level 10, then to reply quickly with a guess or stretch the truth in order to get press. As a general rule of thumb, if reading your pitch aloud to your team would be awkward, you probably don’t want to send it to a journalist.
#5: Last But Not Least, Be Willing To Learn
Whenever we’re talking with journalists, we always ask for advice at the end of a pitch or interview. It’s part of our “No Failure, Only Feedback” core value. It’s common for us to ask “How was that interview, is there anything I could have done better?”
When we’re cold-pitching to writers, we often ask at the end of the email “If you aren’t the right person to share this news with, would you mind pointing me in the right direction?”
Not all journalists have advice or time for introductions, but we’ve received valuable insights on how to improve our PR game from the ones that do.
Even if you think you are a PR pro, having a willingness to learn has proven to be essential for us at Museum Hack and we hope we’ve sparked something here for you today.