How do you gain trust and influence with reporters at big time news outlets?
Joe Connolly receives hundreds of pitches and press releases every week. He’s The Wall Street Journal Business Correspondent for CBS Radio in New York.
Like Connolly, I have been on the receiving end of pitches from businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits. Some days you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
In a recent interview, I asked Connolly to share some dos and don’ts when pitching stories. For example, Connolly admits he has a hang-up with the word ‘announce.’
“If the release says ‘so-and-so is pleased to announce,’ I don’t read any further. I don’t want self-serving. The headline and lead have got to ring true.”
The secret sauce
You may be surprised, but Connolly suggests that anyone writing a news release start two-to-three months in advance. “Follow your local paper, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, television and radio until you see or hear something about your industry. Look for things that you think are really good, really on the mark, and really accurate. Then call or e-mail that reporter saying you saw the article or interview. Tell them, ‘I’m exactly like XXXX, you might be interested to know we are also doing such and such…’”
Connolly goes on to remind us about the importance of complimenting reporters. “They are just like anybody else. They want to get positive feedback and they’ll think, ‘Wow, this is a really sharp person.’ A lot of my frequent contacts are people who reached out to me because they heard me talking about something that rang a bell in their industry.”
The best opening line for a phone pitch
Like so many other reporters, Connolly’s pet peeve when getting pitched on the phone is in the opening line. “If I answer the phone, don’t ask me how I am. Just say, ‘Hi Joe, this is xx from X Company, are you on deadline?’ That’s the best opening line of all. I just think that’s the greatest way to open a call with a reporter.” Note to self: Connolly says he prefers e-mail pitches.
The final tip
For important media, call and pitch the story yourself. You are the business owner, says Connolly. “Whatever you do, don’t have a summer intern call around with news releases. That is an insult unless they are calling a 23-year-old reporter who is starting out.”
Send your pitches to Connolly@cbsnewyork.com.
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