How to pitch your HR stories to media

This week I gave a conference presentation on the topic of media pitches, specifically in relation to sharing stories with an HR audience. As I said at the time, I only realised during my preparation that the workings of a newsroom are quite mysterious to an outsider, and many of you who would like to be quoted in the media don't actually know how to go about it.

So here is a summary of what I shared, which will hopefully help you. These tips are written from my viewpoint of writing for niche publications, but you can apply the principles more broadly to other media.

Why share your stories?

If you or your company gets reported on for doing something well - whether it's managing a difficult change process; implementing a successful social media strategy; overhauling your recruitment process; or achieving a fantastic engagement score - that builds your company brand; it builds your employer brand; and it makes you, the person quoted, look like an expert.

But these things are the results of getting coverage in the media, not the aim.

Your goal when sharing with the media should be to help the audience you're targeting. So if you want to share stories with HR Daily, for example, your aim should be to help other HR people do their job - more easily, more cost effectively, more efficiently, less stressfully... and so on.

If you keep that in mind, and only contact an editor with news that is truly going to be helpful, then you vastly increase your chances of getting published. (Journalists receive far more pitches than we can actually work with.)

But if you contact us hoping to promote your company, service, or product, you're not going to get anywhere.

What should you share?

These topics - although not at all an exhaustive list - are what resonates with the HR Daily audience.

But we don't just write about the topics; we write about the specific challenges they throw up for HR professionals, and how to overcome them. So if you have a story to share that will help others, we'd love to hear from you.

How should you share?

If you know you're a good writer, share your stories here on the HR Daily Community site. We feature the best ones in HR Daily each Friday and they generally receive in excess of 1000 visits - sometimes many more. (You don't need to commit to regular blogging - just contribute as often as suits you.)

If you already have a blog then think about what your peers, clients and candidates read. Let the editors of those publications know about your writing and alert them when you post something that really resonates with your readers, to see if they'd be interested in quoting you.

Invite media to your events: If you already host briefings or other events for your clients, invite a journalist along to cover it.

Just one very important thing to remember with that, though - please check with your presenter beforehand that they're OK with media attending. Inviting a journalist and then having the speaker freak out at the end - or worse, after something has been published - is a nightmare for everybody!

Use a PR agency: If you're serious about building your brand you might want to consider calling in a professional. But be very selective about who you work with, because some PR agencies understand the media (and your industry) very well and send great pitches, and others are sorely lacking in professionalism and expertise.

If in doubt about who to work with, ask a journalist for their opinion.

Just talk to us: Probably the best and easiest way to get in the media is to contact journalists directly about a topic that's on your mind.

In my view, the best way to do this is by email, but you can ask the other journalists you approach about their personal preferences.

Your email should set out a few bullet points explaining what the issue is, why it's important, and why you're the right person to be talking about it.

If it is something that we think will interest our readers, and work as editorial, we'll get in touch for a phone interview and write the story from that.

Do's and don'ts

Do provide context for your pitch. It might not be immediately apparent to a journalist why the topic you've chosen is a good one, so to avoid getting deleted, your email should explain things like: What is the issue? Who does it affect? How much does it affect them? 

Do be available to talk about your pitch. Make sure you have some space in your diary to do interviews. Even better, actually say in your email, "I'm available on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning on this number" etc.

Do understand that everything you say in an interview might be published.

If you want to have an off-the-record conversation to give a journalist some background or a tip they can investigate elsewhere, that's fine - say it upfront. But to be safe, never mix your on- and off-the-record stuff in the same conversation.

Do think about the timing of your pitch. At HR Daily I won't quote the same person more than once in any three-week period, but other journalists will have their own rules.

Don't go to the trouble of writing an article unless it's for your own site or you already know someone wants it. A lot of publications, including HR Daily, don't publish external submissions. So, particularly if you're not used to writing articles or blogging, don't go to that trouble.

Don't request a coffee or meeting to talk about something simple. Daily publishing deadlines just don't leave journalists a lot of time for this - most interviews I do by phone are over in less than 20 minutes.

Don't send a vague "I can speak about HR" message. Think of specific topics you're an expert on and pitch some actual story ideas.

Don't ask to approve the story before it is published. Journalists take very seriously our responsibility to get your quotes right and not misrepresent what you said. But ultimately it is up to decide what angle to take with the article, because we know best what our audience wants to read.

(If your corporate communications department has a policy of not allowing staff to talk to media, you need to tell us before the interview.)

Finally, don't be disappointed if your pitch gets knocked back. Journalists receive far more information than we can use, and what we prioritise depends on a range of factors, which can change week to week according to what we're already publishing. Remember, there is always room for your story on the HR Daily Community, even if it doesn't make it into our daily editorial.

How to get in touch

You are welcome to email me at jo at hrdaily dot com dot au, reach me on Twitter @jo_knox, or connect via LinkedIn.

Jo Knox
Editor - HR Daily
Administrator - HR Daily Community

Views: 802

Comment by Catriona Pollard on March 22, 2012 at 11:27

Thanks for a great article Jo! It's helpful information for the HR community as well as PR people. I also stress that every single pitch needs to be really tailored to the publication and journalist. So there is no point in pitching a beauty topic to a HR publication. Take the time to get to know each outlet before pitching. I've added a whole resource on how to pitch on to my blog Thanks again Jo.

Comment by Jo Knox on March 22, 2012 at 11:35

Thanks Catriona. I tend to get at least 20-50 pitches every day (and unfortunately some of them are about beauty, or carpet, or other random and completely irrelevant things...), so if this information helps people target their information more wisely it will be better for everyone!

Comment by Lynette Jensen on March 25, 2012 at 8:03

Jo, thank you for this! It's very generous and valuable information.

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