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  • Writer's pictureFelicity Cowie

What puts journalists off a story?

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

You don’t want to send journalists a media release offering a story which doesn’t fit your business. Confusion kills stories.

As a journalist who was pitched at least 100,000 times, the last thing I wanted to was go and pitch something unstable to the editor.

If you think it’s tough pitching your idea to a journalist, it’s just as hard for journalists to pitch your story to their editor and news planning meetings.

So how do you avoid this?

In my, at time of writing, 11 years experience of working with clients to get media coverage, I’ve found it downright strange how reticent many can be to invest enough time to figure out:

1. a good story aligned to their business objectives

2. the clearest way to present it in a media release

3. the best journalist or media outlet to give it to

They often want to rush this crucial part of the process which is the ONLY part of media relations over which you have any control.

I think this reticence comes from the self-scrutiny it imposes. What exactly are your focused and tangible business objectives and do you have a story, without holes in it, which proves how you are delivering one of them?

The hardest part of getting media coverage is figuring out what your business has to share publicly which nobody else is as well fitted to do and really committing to your offer.

For example, when I was pitched a story about whether the UK would ever send people to the moon I only wanted to cover it if we could go quite big on it with lots of experts and trainee astronauts willing to be interviewed from The National Space Centre.

Not only was the pitcher able to make this happen (because all of these people were stakeholders in his organisation and his objective was to get them profile), we then discovered Buzz Aldrin was booked to give a talk at the centre in the near future! As the pitcher's mission was such a good fit with what what Buzz Aldrin was coming to do (inspire the next generation about space and their own potential) it was possible to negotiate to get the man himself to answer viewer's questions live on air.

So, you need to ask yourself the question ‘why is this YOUR story to tell now?’ and to make sure you answer that question consistently. The fastest way to do that is to make sure you include what is called a ‘boilerplate’ on the bottom of every media release and email pitch. See B in this series for further details. These are the 50 words that describe your business (the About section of your Notes to Editors) that rapidly answer the fundamental questions every journalist will have when checking if you are the right source for them to work with on a story. And if you are then you can find your pitch growing huge momentum.


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