8 Tips To Remember When Pitching American Media Outlets

May 23, 2017

With an influx of pitches and limited office time, American journalists feel continuously bombarded by eager publicists who all have the same goal—to secure top-tier media coverage for their clients. Publicists’ approach to pitching American media is visibly changing—it’s becoming more personable and interactive, and displays a growing need to merge traditional public relations tactics with innovative strategies.

In 2016, Development Counsellors International surveyed 120 lifestyle journalists, both in the United States and Canada, to determine the similarities and differences in editorial preferences. The study, “The Divergent Preferences of Travel Media,” not only unveiled the divergences between United States and Canadian media, but gave valuable insight on the evolving way publicists and journalists are working together.

1. Don’t underestimate the value of a good pitch

While crafting custom-made pitches to journalists may be a time consuming endeavor, the power of the pitch is not to be underestimated. In 2016, one in three journalists say 36-50 percent of story ideas originate from a publicist’s pitch.

2. Do your research
In the United States, a journalist’s typical day can be spent doing anything from answering pitches, to editing to hunting for stories. While journalists’ schedules are undoubtedly busy with various tasks, it’s important to note that the majority of a journalist’s day to day work is research and writing– and the study shows that the amount of time a journalist spends in the research phase of the process is gradually increasing. American journalists are spending more time researching, which is why it’s important for DMOs and their clients to do the same when pitching media outlets, saving time for the journalist and providing less room for miscommunication between the expectations of the outlet and the DMO.

3. When the media reports on your client, socialize it!

In 2016, more than half (62 percent) of American media outlets reported using Facebook as a means of distributing content, with Twitter following behind at 58 percent. More journalists are using social media as a way to not only spread their content, but engage with their audience in an interactive way. When a destination client is featured in the media, DMOs should maximize the coverage through sharing across all social platforms – alerting other journalists who are looking to cover the story, too.

4. Don’t ignore Instagram

It can be easy to write-off Instagram as a social media platform used merely as a way to perpetuate an over-done brand aesthetic, with little return on investment – but don’t be fooled. With its massive and ever-growing 700 million user base, this social media outlet is quickly gaining ground as a way for media outlets to discover new story ideas. While Facebook and Twitter are still the primary social-media outlets for story generation, 38 percent of American media reported using Instagram as a means for discovering story ideas – a 92% increase from 2014.

5. Consider a press trip

Press trips are regaining ground as a way to form a relationship between an organization and a journalist. While in 2014, only 13 percent of journalists indicated that press or FAM trips in a subject line sparked their interests, that figure skyrocketed to 37 percent in 2016 – hinting to a shifting attitude towards sponsored partnerships between brands and the media. When asked the length of an ideal press-trip, American respondents aimed for longer trips, with five or more days being favorable by almost half, 49 percent of those surveyed.

6. Schedule your media event around a cocktail reception

Maintaining personal relationships with journalists is pivotal to working with them – and coordinating face-to-face interaction that accommodates their busy schedules is a challenge many marketers face. When planning a media event, it’s important to note — for American media, the preferred setting for networking away from the office is a cocktail reception. Cocktail receptions are now favored over lunches as the most preferred time for a media event, with lunches as the second most favorable time.

7. Keep your online media gallery up to date

While press releases previously reigned as the most useful components to an online media room, for another year in a row, American journalists prefer their online media rooms to be full of photo assets, bumping press releases down to the second most useful component. The favorability of digital assets in a media gallery is a testament to the importance of having a cutting-edge digital strategy as a destination marketing organization.

8. Know your reporter

An overwhelming majority, 83 percent of American journalists state personal interest as the primary factor that determines which stories they will write. While this can seem discouraging to some PR professionals, it provides publicists with a better opportunity to create relationships with journalists, and pitch them stories of interest, rather than sending cold-emails.


Have any additional tips for pitching American media? Let us know on Twitter at @aboutdci.

Interested in reading the full study for yourself? Download your copy here.

Karyl Leigh Barnes

Written by Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is President of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

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