The next time you’re ready to pitch a journalist, particularly at a top-tier media outlet, stop what you’re doing and take this important step.
Find out if the journalist blogs. Some journalists blog as part of their job. Others blog on the side because they’re passionate about a topic.
It will take only a minute or two, and the results can give you valuable clues about how to pitch the journalists and issues they think are important—information that 99 percent of the other people who are pitching them are too busy or too lazy to find out.
It’s almost as though you’re embarking on a treasure hunt. You’re not sure what you’ll find. But you could strike gold. I’m going to show you exactly where to look for those valuable nuggets.
How to learn whether a journalist blogs
Let’s say you have a story that affects women’s health and you want to pitch it to Deborah Kotz, senior health writer for U.S. News & World Report. You Google ”Deborah Kotz blog.” Google returns to you a list of blog posts she has written. You click on the first one and end up at her blog, On Women.
On the right side at the top, you’ve found your first clue—her bio. It explains what she writes about, the kinds of pitches she wants to receive, and it even includes her email address:
Next, it’s time to start looking for clues about other issues, topics or tidbits you can use in your pitch. Look for things specifically about her personal life. I spent just a few minutes reading her blog posts. She admits in her bio that she’s “often tapping out Oprah-esque confessions” about how the latest news relates to her personally, so this part was easy. I learned:
- She is married and has three children.
- She is Jewish, and her two sons have been circumcised in accordance with her faith.
- Her husband spends far more time helping kids with homework and studying than she does. He also coaches their baseball team and bathes them at night when she is making dinner. They take turns cleaning up the kitchen.
- Deborah works about eight hours a day.
- 13 years ago, she interviewed for a job with a medical journal and was hired. She was pregnanat with her first child soon after landing the position, gratefully took her three months of three months of paid maternity leave and then negotiated a work-at-home deal.
- Last year, she thought about her risk of staying on birth control pills until she reaches menopause, and lamented the dearth of research on the long-term use of contraceptives by women.
- When it comes to bottled water, she’s a penny-pincher and won’t buy spring water in the supermarket.
If I had spent 30 minutes searching for clues, I’d find a lot more than that. But I’d never find that kind of personal information on those pricey media contact lists.
Here’s why this kind of research is so valuable.
Make your pitch hit a hot button
If you’re a PR person or somebody who wants to pitch a story related to circumcision, pregnant women in the workplace, work-at-home-moms, housework done by men vs. women, child-rearing, birth control, menopause or dozens of other topics, Deborah already has given you valuable clues at her blog that you can tie into your pitch.
If I were a PR person pitching a new study that relates to birth control pills, for example, I’d open the pitch like this:
“Deborah, I know from reading your blog that you’ve wondered about the risks of staying on birth control pills. Results of a new study on birth control, done by our university’s Health Sciences Department shows blah-blah-blah….”
Do you think that would get her attention more than a one-size-fits-all, impersonal pitch that I could deliver to 359 other journalists?
Another place to find clues
Don’t pitch just yet, however. There’s one more place where you can find valuable clues—in the comments that follow each blog post. Most bloggers allow comments and welcome getting them. Journalists are no different.
Some bloggers actively join the conversation by responding to people who leave comments, sometimes creating a nice back-and-forth conversation and sometimes dropping more clues. Deborah didn’t offer comments at the blog posts I read. But that’s OK. You can still get her attention by leaving a comment, or several comments, over a period of a few days or a week.
Choose blog posts that let you add something to the conversation. Don’t just write, “Great post. I agree completely.” Explain why you agree. Or share an anecdote. Or offer a resource that backs up the blogger’s position, or yours. You can skip this step of commenting, but it’s one more valuable way to start forming a relationship.
Denise Wakeman and Patsi Krakoff, aka The Blog Squad, were my guests during a teleseminar on How to Pitch the Best Bloggers and Create a Publicity Explosion. They confirmed what you already know if you blog: bloggers pay attention to people who comment at their blogs.
Journalists Twitter, too
If a blog can provide that much information, imagine what you can learn by following the journalist on Twitter, the micro-blogging site.
You can find out if a certain journalist Twitters by checking Harry Hoover’s wiki of Twittering Journalists. If you can’t find a particular journalist, do a Twitter search. If you can’t find anything when you type in ”Deborah Kotz,” try these variations: DeborahKotz or Deborah_Kotz.
If you hit gold, follow the journalist by clicking on “Follow” below their photo. But don’t expect journalists to follow you back. Some aren’t interested in following other people. They use Twitter primarily to find leads and sources for stories.
I couldn’t find Deborah on Twitter, but her blog provides a handy roadmap with pitching clues galore, just waiting to be discovered by Publicity Hounds who are smart enough to do a little digging.
Do you research journalists’ blogs before you pitch? If so, share your pitching success stories here.