We’ve previously shared aspects of our approach to setting up a PR campaign so that high-value media coverage can be successfully achieved. However, communications isn’t a one-way street. For a pitch to be fruitful, the news, story or angle must mutually benefit your targeted journalist and cleantech business.
Building relationships with journalists is an integral part of what our PR team do daily, meaning that we regularly receive feedback and insights on how to successfully engage with them. That’s why we thought we’d focus this blog on the point of view of journalists and share a few insights into what catches their attention and the best way of engaging with them.
Make sure you cut through the noise
First things first – journalists are incredibly busy. One well-known tech journalist we spoke to mentioned that, at that current time, they were receiving approximately 80 pitches every single day. While not all journalists will be as in-demand, most, if not all, will still receive a high number of pitches from PR professionals throughout a week, meaning they will need to make a quick decision as to whether even to read the email, let alone respond. So, sending a pitch without substance is pretty much pointless. Your angle must be clearly and succinctly explained while also exciting and persuasive. Moreover, don’t attempt to shoehorn a news angle into your pitch when there isn’t really one. Context and relevance to global or industry landscapes are crucial.
One angle to consider is highlighting how your company does things differently from the norm. These types of stories are particularly pertinent in the current climate as businesses adjust to a more flexible way of working. We’ve recently found that journalists, especially those covering start-ups, are interested in hearing interesting and innovative examples of workplace culture and how companies are doing things differently. For example, the French healthcare company Alan caught the attention of Sifted a couple of years ago after deciding to no longer have meetings of any kind.
Don’t just expect coverage
Doing your homework on journalists and building relationships with them is vital. By taking the time to show that you’ve researched them and understood their interests, you become an important contact as opposed to simply another PR person looking for coverage. The pinnacle level of relationship is having journalists come to you for stories, rather than the other way around. To achieve this, you need to prove yourself to be valuable and someone worth listening to and talking to.
Several journalists we regularly chat with have mentioned that engaging with them on social media is one quick and relatively simple way of building a relationship with them and showing your value. Even little things such as being generally friendly, liking a tweet or pointing them in the direction of new research make a difference. However, it’s vital to keep this low pressure. Don’t help a journalist on social media once and immediately expect coverage as a result.
Give journalists the chance to get away from their desks
Cleantech is full of complex technologies. Something that is challenging to understand can be a hard sell to journalists, especially those from non-sustainability publications who likely have less understanding of the sector. It can be an even harder sell if these technologies are software-based rather than hardware, as there’s not much you can physically see.
One pitch angle that could help overcome this challenge is arranging a site visit for a journalist to see or try out your technology. Journalists are human, so the chance of getting out of the office and away from their desks for a few hours to see technology in action or try something fun and new will always be welcomed. If something sounds cool to experience, it will probably be fun for the journalist to write about and for their readership to read.
Our client Kempower recently invited the Finnish national broadcasting company YLE to its factory in Lahti. Not only was it able to showcase how it manufactures rapid EV charging technology, but the company’s CEO, Tomi Ristimäki, was also interviewed, leading to fantastic long-form coverage.
Insights from a real-life journalist
We recently spoke with Michael Holder, Editor of the UK’s leading website for green business news and analysis, BusinessGreen, to ask him three quick questions about life as a journalist and what catches his eye from the multitude of pitches he receives in his inbox:
What makes a pitch stand out in your inbox?
“There’s so much competition out there for companies announcing things – especially when it comes to environmental progress – so it’s hard to stand out. But the ones that do are the businesses doing something different or pioneering.”
“I enjoy receiving an email that cuts straight to the chase and gives a firm commitment or concrete and tangible announcement. I know immediately what the story is and that it’s something different, impressive or ambitious. It immediately stands out more than things you’ve heard before.”
Is it worth pitching if you don’t have a news hook?
“If I’ve heard of a company before, then the chances are that I’ve already received an email about them. The same goes for technologies or applications. So, if a company is doing something relatively common, I’m not likely to be interested in a pitch related to them or their technology if there isn’t a news hook. However, if a business is doing something relatively unique, if they offer benefits that others don’t or if they’ve progressed further than similar technologies, then there could be a story there. So, it basically comes down to whether I’ve come across something before.”
“If you don’t have news, then your pitch needs a clear hook highlighting a specific advantage of your technology. Even if it has a wide range of applications, highlight the best thing it does. Alternatively, emphasise a benefit that addresses real-world events or the current news agenda.”
Any other tips you’d like to share?
“Be immediate and cut to the chase. You don’t need to start your email by saying you’ve previously read one of my stories or by commenting on things like the weather. Just give me the pure, unadulterated part of your story in five or ten words. There’s no need to be hyper-polite or chatty as it’s just taking up both your time and mine.”
“If it’s a journalist you know, then email them like you would anyone – be polite or however comes naturally to you. But, if you’re cold pitching a journalist, the story should be interesting enough, and you should have researched them to be confident that the story will be covered. This means you don’t need to preface it with paragraphs about why you think the story is interesting or why they should cover it. Instead, it should innately be interesting and write itself.”