When planning story angles with clients, there are times I will comment that a certain angle would be great for television or that a specific product could be in a magazine’s beauty round-up. With many communications platforms to choose from, pitch angles are not one-size-fits-all. It takes creativity, connections, and experience to know where and how to pitch stories.
This article is the second in a two-part series about choosing a communications platform to best tell your story. In March, I explored the vast world of deciding which social platforms are right for your business. This month, I’ll help you understand which types of media outlets or channels to pitch and why.
Before getting into those specifics, I urge you to do your homework. Read, watch, and listen to the media outlets you pitch. By doing so, you can determine if your brand is a fit based on the topics that are covered and the demographics of the readers, viewers, and listeners. For successful pitching, the deliverables of your brand should correlate with the coverage of the media outlet. For example, if you are a skin care brand that’s carried in spas, industry trade outlets, such as DERMASCOPE, should be on your pitch list. If you own a day spa or skin care center, local media outlets are where you should focus to reach potential clients. If your beauty business is online, there are scores of websites and bloggers to build relationships with.
HOW TO RESEARCH AND REACH MEDIA CONTACTS
This is a larger discussion that I’ll write about later this year. Meanwhile, a few tips:
- Subscription services including Cision and Muck Rack keep track of journalists, where they work, what they write about, and so on.
- Online articles often link to the writer’s contact or social presence.
- Search for stories that are in your niche of spa, skin care, beauty, and wellness. When you find those stories, note the writers and follow them on social media. Share and comment on their posts and stories. After building a rapport, it is acceptable to ask how they prefer to receive pitches.
- Hire a PR firm – more on that process in an article later this year.
Every major network has a local affiliate in towns or cities that are of significant size. There are 210 Designated Market Areas (DMAs) listed by Nielsen; New York is number one and number two hundred and ten is Glendive, Montana.
Television is a great lead generation tool. The segment is almost always posted on the station’s website, which you can use for social media, newsletters, and so forth. The segment may air more than once, such as in a morning show and an evening show.
The exposure is large and free, unless you pay to be on a news talk or entertainment show, which is called pay-for-play.
Local stations need local stories. Local television stations dedicated an average of 5.9 hours to news programming per weekday in 2018, up slightly from 5.6 hours in 2017.1
Immediate delivery of your message is another pro. Depending on the timeliness of your story, you could go on the same day that you pitch. If news breaks locally and you have something compelling that is a tie-in, offer your expertise.
Television is great for the spa and beauty industries, as it stimulates the senses. Skin care demonstrations, before and after images, and a b-roll of your facility or products make segments visual and are often required by producers.
Television has a local and regional emphasis. It’s a fantastic medium for reaching people in your market, getting your name out in the community, and establishing credibility.
Television requires a lot of preparation work. At least a basic level of media training is suggested before going on-camera. There’s also the process of selecting clothing, makeup, and hair, and figuring out how to sit or stand, and so on.
You must look and sound your best. If you are live, there are no do-overs. If you are taped and are very nice to the crew, you may be able to reshoot if you say something incorrectly.
Again, television bookings happen quickly. When pitching television, you need to be ready (in town, prepared, have the appropriate clothing, and such.)
Doing in-studio television interviews can be challenging because of the commotion – the lights, the cameras, the microphone, and the teleprompter, and all the while, you need to stay focused and look at the host.
At work, in the car, while making dinner – radio has the broadest reach of any medium. Nielsen reports 227 million adults tune to AM or FM radio each week.2 News and talk radio continues to capture the largest share of the audience, followed by adult contemporary, with country coming in third.3
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention podcasts in this section. 2019 was a breakout year for podcasting. According to Edison Research, more than half of Americans have listened to a podcast, and an estimated 32% listen monthly. Podcast creation also continues to grow, with more than 700,000 podcasts available.4
- You can do radio interviews at home and even in your pajamas.
- Like television, radio is instantaneous.
- Radio hosts frequently welcome back guests they like.
- Radio stations sometimes offer live remotes. These can help your campaign if you’re sponsoring a major event or opening a big business in a small community.
- Local and regional audiences.
- If a taped news item about you is inaccurate, it’s tough to correct on radio.
- Radio interviews require short answers. Practice talking in chunks.
- If your voice is quiet, creaky, or hard to understand, you might not be invited on the air. Radio hosts or producers figure this out by doing a pre-interview by phone.
The estimated total United States daily newspaper circulation (print and digital combined) in 2018 was 28.6 million for weekday and 30.8 million for Sunday.5 The Pew Research Center also reports that among those who get local news from daily newspapers 43% primarily access online, while 54% read in a print format.6 There are more than 1,300 daily newspapers currently in circulation in the United States. “USA Today”, “The New York Times”, and “The Wall Street Journal” have the highest circulations.
- Newspaper stories rank high for believability, especially with an older audience.
- Local and regional audiences.
- Immediate delivery of your message online and daily in print.
- Special targeted sections and shopping guides.
- Very high Sunday readership, which is great for feature stories. Health, beauty, and wellness lend themselves well to features in the special sections, such as lifestyle, or in the weekend magazines.
Take advantage of newspaper editorial calendars, as they can help you determine where your story might be the best fit.
Community news calendars are also useful. Submit informational and fundraising events that are open to the public.
Send photo recaps. After a successful event, share a couple of high resolution images with a short paragraph and photo caption.
- Circulation has gone down, and continues to do so, at major daily newspapers.
- Many people under 40 don’t read print newspapers; however, they may check out a newspaper store online.
- Lead times for various types of print media can be confusing. A daily newspaper might need only a day’s notice for a news story; however, feature coverage is planned at least a month in advance.
- Errors appear in print forever. You can ask for a correction or write a letter to the editor, but it may run weeks later, or not at all. Corrections can be made to newspaper stories that are online.
MAGAZINES AND PUBLICATIONS
There were 7, 218 magazines in the United States in 2018. Of course, magazines are now available in both printed and electronic formats. Some of the most popular publications in the United States based on their total reach include “ESPN The Magazine”, “People”, and “AARP The Magazine”.7
- Long shelf life with high pass-along readership. Magazines in doctor’s offices, airplanes, salons, spas, skin care centers, and so on are read from customer to customer.
- High reader loyalty, especially with niche publications. Special-interest magazines let you target your message to their loyal readers. Trade publications are an example of niche magazines.
- Local and regional editions offer a targeted audience.
- As with newspapers, take advantage of editorial calendars.
- Apart from weeklies, there are long lead times. Editors at the national magazine you love might need pitches six months before the issue is printed. And, it’s Christmas in July for pitching holiday stories.
- Heavy advertising clutter can detract from your story.
- Poor local coverage unless it’s a local or regional publication.
- As with newspapers, errors appear in print forever.
More than 4 billion people use the internet. Google is the world’s most visited website, YouTube comes in at number two, and Facebook rounds out the top three. Yahoo! News, the Huffington Post, and CNN.com are also popular.8
- Fast and convenient. Your message can go out the same day.
- Search based.
- Web space is unlimited.
- Reader feedback and opinions can be posted, which gives the opportunity to reply to questions such as, “What’s in your eye cream?”
- Simple to share.
- Errors can be fixed quickly.
- Local, regional, and national opportunities.
- If your content is of interest to a broad audience, consider pitching to large web platforms including Elephant Journal, MindBodyGreen, and the Huffington Post.
- Can become a platform for negativity and false content.
- Stories publish quickly, leaving room for error. There is less time to research and less time to see how a news event plays out.
- Linking is great, but it often keeps the reader from finishing the article.
- With a developing story, it can be tough for the reader to tell which version is newest.
- Not accessible in some parts of the world.
Once you or your business have been covered by a few media outlets, more opportunities will open up, which will bring greater visibility and build credibility.
- “2019 Research: Local TV and Radio News Strengths.” RTDNA. Accessed March 12, 2020. https://www.rtdna.org/article/2019_research_local_tv_and_radio_news_strengths.
- McCurdy, Bob, Bob McCurdyBob McCurdy, Bob McCurdy, Bob McCurdy, Beasley Media Group, and Beasley Media Group. “2018 By The Numbers.” Radio Ink, January 2, 2019. https://radioink.com/2019/01/02/2018-by-the-numbers/.
- “Tops of 2018: Radio.” Nielsen, October 12, 2018. https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2018/tops-of-2018-radio/.
- Moore, Justine, and Olivia Moore. “After a Breakout Year, Looking Ahead to the Future of Podcasting.” TechCrunch. TechCrunch, August 21, 2019. https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/21/after-a-breakout-year-looking-ahead-to-the-future-of-podcasting/.
- “Trends and Facts on Newspapers: State of the News Media.” Pew Research Centers Journalism Project, July 9, 2019. https://www.journalism.org/fact-sheet/newspapers/.
- “Americans Almost Equally Prefer to Get Local News Online or on TV Set.” Pew Research Center's Journalism Project, December 31, 2019. https://www.journalism.org/2019/03/26/nearly-as-many-americans-prefer-to-get-their-local-news-online-as-prefer-the-tv-set/.
- Watson, Amy. “Number of Magazines in the United States 2002-2018.” Statista, August 13, 2019. https://www.statista.com/statistics/238589/number-of-magazines-in-the-united-states/.
- Dubras, Ryan, Rosie Pond, and Gareth Leeding. “Digital 2019: Global Internet Use Accelerates.” We Are Social, January 30, 2019. https://wearesocial.com/blog/2019/01/digital-2019-global-internet-use-accelerates.
Respected for her communication skills and media relationships, Debra Locker has worked in public relations and journalism for nearly three decades. She is the president of Debra Locker Group (originally Locker Public Relations), which was founded in 2008. Debra Locker Group is an award-winning boutique agency that specializes in lifestyle, spa, wellness, and beauty. Clients are featured on “The TODAY Show,” “The Doctors,” in SHAPE, Marie Claire, and The New York Times – to name only a few. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Locker was the public relations director for the International SPA Association.