Monday, January 19, 2009

How to respond to a journalist's request for sources

It’s very exciting and a good opportunity to reply to a journalist’s query or request for expert sources. However, there are conventional rules of procedure to follow, or you risk being labeled a pest rather than a valuable resource! Here’s how to submit your expertise, book or product to a media request. (These rules apply to “blind” pitching, too.)

  1. Only respond or pitch if you are an appropriate match for the topic. Don’t try to stretch the truth or present yourself to be something you’re not or promise what you can’t deliver.

  2. Give the request serious thought before dashing out your information. Read the request carefully. What is the angle of the story? Who is the audience? Then present your material in a manner that is consistent with the needs of the story and the audience.

  3. Open with an introduction about why you are writing (I’m writing in response to… or to suggest…). Indicate why you are an expert, but keep to a sentence. “As a licensed physical therapist with Such and Such Medical Group, ….”

  4. Present your information and specify how it is relevant to the subject of the article or show. Make your presentation to the journalist very clear; don’t assume that he or she will connect the dots between what you are sending and what they need. If this is a blind pitch, then it’s even more important to establish how your information can benefit or be of interest to the audience.

  5. Put your short bio at the end, with your contact information. If you have a book, include “[your name], author of…” Always end with “I’d be happy to provide additional for this or any other article (show, etc.) that you are preparing about (the subject). Please let me know how else I can help you.”

  6. Keep it short. This is not the time to submit your media kit, photo or any self-serving attachments. The purpose of your response is to feed enough information to the journalist to prompt a call or email for more information. If you are contacted, remember that the goal is to serve the press, not to get free publicity. If you help the journalist, your name or product may be cited in the newspaper, magazine or media broadcast. Although that’s the ultimate payoff for you, your purpose in replying to requests or sending pitches is to help the journalist do his or her job, which is serving the needs of the audience.

  7. Be mindful of deadlines.

Be realistic. You may think you’re the perfect source or match for the journalist’s needs, but you won’t get a call every time you submit. However, if you establish a pattern of consistent quality and reliability (they call you for a quote when their deadline is in 15 minutes), then you’ll develop a valuable relationship that will pay off for you many times over.


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