Stage one: understanding the organisation
The BBC’s Royal Charter contains five key guidelines, beginning with impartiality and neutrality. The BBC is not the place for a thinly veiled product pitch and broadcasters usually only permit one mention of a company name. Second, forget pale, male and stale – diversity is an important value, and if you can’t demonstrate it, you’ll have a hard time. The BBC is looking for diversity across the whole spectrum: age, gender, race and religion. Finally, shake the London-centricity (unless you are pitching a London-specific story.)
Stage two: really do your research
The BBC is so big that there is a programme for everything – but this is both a positive and a negative. In our experience, BBC shows compete for the best stories and rarely speak to one another. If one avenue has closed, look into other radio or TV stations and think of different angles that might work. Focus on the problems your company is solving and who that helps and go from there. Don’t just fire your pitch at a team of over 35,000 people and hope it’ll land on the right desk.
Stage three: right pitch, right time (with a few magic touches)
Traditionally, media relations teams would always advise pitching at the start of the week and as early in the morning as possible but working from home has changed things. Journalists are working longer and more irregular hours, and this can work to your advantage. Above all, remember to keep your pitch human – we’re all looking for real conversations at the moment.
Three things to bear in mind that may give your pitch the winning edge:
- Think visually. Whether you are pitching TV, online or print, having good quality images and or video to accompany the story will definitely help. Do you have images or videos showing customers using your product or services? Have any of your spokespeople been photographed doing something unusual?
- Help with the homework. Make it easy for a journalist to say yes to your pitch by ditching jargon and creating a pitch you could explain to your mate down the pub – when that’s allowed again. Next, think about your proof points: what data do you have to support your story? Finally, back it up: could the journalist speak to a third-party expert, or a customer to help balance the angle?
- Give access. Once you’ve piqued interest and the journalist has said yes, you need to move fast. Don’t hesitate to book in the call or meeting and get going on arranging any additional bits you’ve promised ASAP.
Stage four: follow up like a pro
Emails or phone calls that begin with “checking to see if you received my email” make a journalist’s blood boil. It might feel like a valid inquiry, but chances are that if the first email didn’t stand out in their inbox of hundreds of daily emails, a basic follow up isn’t going to either.
Instead, why not consider:
- What’s happening in the news this week, and how does it impact your story? Look for new hooks, opinions and events that might give your story a fresh angle.
- Has anything changed? Are you able to share some new data, or access to a new case study?
All of the above makes for a better follow up. Journalists are time-poor, but normally fair, so the chances of you getting a response – even if it’s a no – are high. If this happens, be sure to ask for feedback – you might receive useful information or establish a better relationship.
Good luck, and please tweet us @TopLineComms to let us know how you get on with your pitching!
Katy Bloomfield is TopLine Comms’ head of client relations
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