Rachel Olding is a news journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald. She covers a large range of topics in her role as a general news reporter such as crime, urban affairs and technology but has a particular focus on social trends, youth issues, pop culture, arts and entertainment. She also reviews bars and gigs for the Herald. She has been at Fairfax media for two years, first as a features writer and then a news journalist.
Q1: What makes a good media release pitch?
Something that is clear and to the point. Not too long (ideally shouldn’t be longer thana page but if there’s a lot of good info then it doesn’t matter).
Something that is sent to the RIGHT person. Media pitches will annoy journalists if they’re completely irrelevant.
Something that has an understanding of context, for example, shows how the particular product/service/issue could be part of a wider trend of relevant to other newsworthy events.
Something that is interesting (sounds stupidly obvious but so many pitches that come to me are for very mundane, boring things that, to be honest, would never get a run in a newspaper)
Something that has clear contact details for the media relations contact.
Q2: How do you go about finding media contacts?
Small business people should be able to make contact with the media in the same way as anyone else. You don’t need to have a friend in the media. Small business people have made good contact with me simply by calling to introduce themselves and keeping in touch with any story ideas. I don’t think you can do much more than that to be honest. This is assuming, as I’ve said in other answers, that you have targeted your calls and introductions to the right person. Read the paper and know who the relevant journalist/contact is and go from there.
Q3: During your time as journalist, what is the best pitch you have seen?
There isnot one pitch that stands out as amazing. First and foremost, I will take notice of something if it is an interesting story. No amount of good writing and jazzy presentation can sell a story that isn’t appealing. Secondly, the best pitches I have seen are fairly succint and just tell me exactly what story they’re selling. I also take notice if they have a good understanding of what a news story is. I don’t write a news story just about someone’s business or product but I will interview them for a wider story or perhaps their business/product is part of a wider trend. One good pitch was from the organisers of a poetry event who approached it from the angle of a revival of poetry across Australia (not just their event). Another good pitch was from four guys who planned to drive around the worldwithout using a drop of petrol. The first was a good example of selling something as a wider story. The second was a good example of a story that’s interesting enough on its own.
Q4: What is your pet hate about people submitting press releases?
People who obviously don’t read the newspaper they are pitching too and therefore don’t know who the right contact is, what sort of stories that publication writes, what section they’re pitchingto or what sort of stories the person they are pitching to writes.
Q5: For those pitching at the event, how can they impress you?
Know the newspaper and its writers.For example, if you’re a health business then you should know who all the health reporters are. If you’re a media business, you should know who the media editor is and what kind of stories he writes. Read the newspaper and get a sense of the sort of stories we right. Don’t pitch stories that you can’t imagine seeing in the pages of the newspaper.
Thank you Rachel for your amazing amazing. Let us know how this goes for you.
Use this advice to Pitch your Press release live to Rachel and other Journalist at the next Press idols.
Pitch to Press
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