Media relations spotlight: 5 tips for pitching contributing writers

by | Jul 13, 2017 | Media Relations, Public Relations

Over the past several months, there has been a resurgence in the demand for news and a growing appetite for up-to-the-minute coverage and captivating headlines, thanks to the “Trump Bump.” Yet, newsrooms have long been shrinking despite the 24/7 news cycle and demands for almost instantaneous coverage updates.

So how are news outlets keeping up with their audience’s increased consumption of trending news stories? More and more outside contributors are covering an array of topics across all industries. These contributors are a valuable extension of newsroom staffs, but the typical outreach efforts used for traditional reporters do not work as well with contributors. Below are tips for how to best communicate with contributors.

Contributors focus on a particular industry

Contributors often specialize in covering a particular industry, such as technology or real estate, and are sometimes a practicing expert in the field they are covering. As you draft your pitch, be sure to get right to the point and keep it brief. Contributors typically do not need background information on industry news and trends since they have a passion for covering a particular field and are already familiar with the landscape. Demonstrate how your expert can offer a new perspective on topics the contributor finds of interest.

Contributors provide stories to multiple media outlets

Before reaching out to contributors, familiarize yourself with the different news outlets he or she contributes to, and offer your expert and story idea for the publication that fits best. Be sure to share with the contributor which outlet you have in mind and why your story idea fits that particular audience.

Contributors tend to not be listed in media databases

Since an outside contributor is not working in the newsroom and may even be working across the country from the outlet for which he or she is writing, contact information is often not provided in media databases. This is where you may have to put your detective hat on and find creative ways to get in touch. Try finding out if the contributor has his or her own professional webpage, which often provides contact information, or email addresses are sometimes listed on Twitter profiles. You can also try reaching out via social media. Many contributors work at other organizations so you may be able to find contact information on their company websites. If you find a non-business email address for the contributor, try that one first.

Contributors may hold other professional positions

You should contact outside contributors sparingly. Many of these contributors hold full-time positions at other organizations and have other daytime responsibilities. Be sure to provide these contributors everything they need and streamline the process. Be mindful of their time and be flexible on what time you can connect. You might find yourself coordinating an evening or early morning interview.

Contributors may work on a different timeline than a reporter

Often contributors are working on their own stories they have identified as interesting topics and proactively pitch their work to editors in their network. If contributors accept the story idea offered in a pitch you sent, be prepared to wait as they may not have a hard deadline for a story submission. Many contributors work on a slower timeline than reporters and contribute to long-lead publications. Don’t worry, though, the resulting coverage is worth the wait!

Be sure to keep these tips in mind as contribution pieces continue to grow. And do not forget to share with the contributor any positive feedback and social engagement information post-coverage. This is a great way to build ongoing relationships with the contributors and demonstrate how working with you and your client is valuable and worth their time.

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Erica Hawksworth

Erica Hawksworth is Director of Public Relations at Live Wire Media Relations in Arlington, VA.

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