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How to Find the Journalists to Write About Your Business

Contact the right people and pitch your story the right way.

How to Find the Journalists to Write About Your Business Hero Illustration

Getting press coverage gives you an opportunity to tell your story to a broad new audience—and ideally grows your business as a result. But if you can’t afford to hire a public relations (PR) agency to pitch stories about your small business, you can do it yourself. You don’t need a fancy agency or an immense list of media contacts. (In fact, buying a big media list and contacting hundreds of people you don’t know at once is considered spam.)

Instead, identify 5 to 10 publications that you think might feature your business and focus on gathering the right information to contact someone who writes for them. Digital tools make this easier to do than ever.

Once you know who to contact, successful pitches follow an easy formula to communicate your story and provide next steps.

Look for writers on Twitter (and make it easy for them to find you)

Journalists know Twitter is often the best social media platform for breaking news and identifying trends. If you have big news, be sure to tweet about it.

Writers also search for expert sources on Twitter. When a conversation begins to trend or piques their interest, you want to ensure that they can find you for an interview. So, on your Twitter bio, include what you do and your areas of expertise. Consider including your contact information (or at least regularly check your account and direct messages).

When you’re in search of a specific writer’s or editor’s contact information, check their Twitter bio—many include that information there. Sometimes they’ll feature a link to their website, which may also contain their contact details.

Find and follow writers, editors, and publications that cover your industry. Often, they’ll post when they’re looking for experts. Engage with their content by liking and responding to their posts and articles—this can get their attention and increase the likelihood that they’ll reach out to you.

When in doubt, search for writers online

When you’re just getting started, search engines are useful for finding journalists and publications. Keep your search terms simple, and look for writers who write about what you do. Keep in mind that you may have to dig a bit to find their contact information.

You can also set up Google Alerts for keywords that relate to your business. Be sure to take note of the names that cover the industry, relevant articles you come across, and breaking news.

As a last resort, consider a press list

In general, it’s advisable to avoid purchasing press lists. These lists are usually expensive and often out of date (and you wouldn't be able to use them in Mailchimp). Further, contacting writers and editors in bulk feels impersonal to the recipients.

If you do buy and use a press list, you still need to do some research. Make sure the writers still work for the publication listed. Put in an extra effort to connect with them personally, and only send them pitches they might find relevant to their publication or beat.

Read the publication before you pitch it

Perhaps the most important thing to do before you send a writer or publication a pitch is read their stories. This vital research will give you an idea of what you should pitch to them and let you know whether you’ve got your eye on the right people. Consider visiting a local library or bookstore to flip through magazines or newspapers that cover your niche. Identify (and perhaps even borrow or purchase) the publications you think might be a fit for your pitch.

At the front of most publications, you’ll find a masthead. This is a list of that issue’s editors, writers, and photographers. Look closely here for a relevant email address, or look for the right names and titles and then search for their contact information online.

If there are recurring columns or features in a publication for which your story fits, note that for your pitch. Pay attention to the writers who cover your field—these are the people whose acquaintance you should try to make.

How to write a perfect pitch

Journalists are busy. Between the 24/7 news cycle and shrinking financial resources, many publications are understaffed and the staff overworked. Therefore, it’s important to make it easy for them to write about you by quickly telling them what they need to know.

Keep in mind that running a great business is not, in itself, newsworthy. The question your pitch must answer is: So what?

Here’s a formula for a pitch that covers everything writers need to know:

  • Write a clear, tailored subject line. Make this line specific to the publication you’re pitching. Follow this format: “Pitch: Name of the column, name of publication, short headline.” This demonstrates that you’ve read the publication and crafted something bespoke for them. Ideally, the entire subject line is no more than 9 words and 60 characters.
  • Keep your introduction short and straightforward. In a single paragraph, explain who you are and why you’re writing. Be friendly and professional, and be certain to spell the journalist’s name, publication title, and column name correctly.
  • Include no more than 3 ideas. When pitching a publication, you should send 1 to 3 clear ideas for coverage. Each idea should be no longer than a few sentences, and it can be visually helpful to format them in bullets so a writer or editor can distinguish them from each other. Be sure, however, that you don’t pitch an idea that they’ve recently covered.
  • Pitch a story, not an advertisement. Your pitches should offer an informative, interesting, narrative angle. They should not read like a biased advertisement. Focus on the human-interest side of your business. Think about challenges you’ve overcome, your unique point of view, innovative staff policies, alternative recruitment campaigns, and major breakthroughs your business has made.
  • State clearly why your pitch is important right now. Timeliness and relevance are 2 of the biggest factors a journalist will take into consideration with your pitch. Be sure to state why your pitches matter–and why they matter right now. Placing an emphasis on newsworthiness proves that you have a reason for pitching.
  • Tell them how to get in touch. Don’t forget to include your own contact information, and make sure it’s explicit. Your pitch may get forwarded throughout the publication staff, and given their limited time, you don’t want to make them have to search for a way to follow up. When they do reach out, be sure you respond quickly. Otherwise, they might move on and contact your competitors instead.
  • Sum up your business in boilerplate text. Including boilerplate text at the bottom of your email will help ensure that the journalist has everything they need to write about you and your business. Think of this as a 3-to-5-sentence summary of who you are, what you do, and any relevant credentials you possess.
  • Don’t send large files or attachments with your pitch. If you need to include photography within the body of the email, be sure to send a small, low-resolution file. You can also include a link to files through a service like Dropbox or WeTransfer, especially if the photos are high resolution.

Journalists receive a lot of press releases and pitches every day. If you don’t hear back after 2 weeks, consider sending a polite follow-up email. But don’t take it personally if you don’t get a response. Instead, return to your pitch and think about how to improve it. Keep a running log of pitches you've sent and which ones get a response. Use this to analyze what’s working and continue perfecting your pitch.

Written by Lucy Werner for Mailchimp. Lucy is an expert in PR for small businesses.

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