Regardless of your media savvy, the idea of pitching a reporter likely makes you a little nervous or maybe even a little uncomfortable. Pitching the media, especially making that cold call, can be unnerving. They might hang up, they might ask you a question you can’t answer or they might even run your story! Building a relationship with a local reporter begins by picking up the phone and making a pitch.
Here are a few points to keep in mind before you make that first call:
- Reporters need you! A reporter is only as good as his or her sources, and reporters at ethnic media outlets need credible health information. The minute you agree to talk to reporters, you become a new resource for information about safe infant sleep that they can rely on in the future.
- If you’re calling a reporter from an ethnic outlet, consider language needs. While most reporters at these outlets are multi-lingual, it goes a long way if you begin the conversation in their preferred language. If you’re not comfortable reaching out in a language other than English, see if you can find a colleague to help you establish that relationship.
- You may not be used to pitching, but they are. Your pitch call is probably one of 10, 20 or 100 calls that reporter has received in a single day. While your pitch needs to stand out, your uninvited call is not the first that reporter has received. However, be aware that most ethnic media outlets are short-staffed. If the reporter is too busy to take your call, identify when he or she may have more time to talk about safe sleep promotion or find out what they need to cover the issue. They may even ask you to write the story for them!
- Find out how the reporter likes to communicate. Some prefer email, others text messaging, Facebook, Twitter or in-person meetings. Ask him or her during your first outreach call or email. Work where reporters are comfortable and they’ll respect your willingness to meet them where they are.
- Remember, you can only be quoted if you say it. While it can be challenging for reporters to understand the complexities of safe infant sleep, it is risky to provide an explanation or analogy you wouldn’t be comfortable seeing in print or hearing broadcast on the evening news. Instead of providing background information “off-the-record” to educate a reporter, it may be helpful to prepare a background document with key points and facts about safe infant sleep. This will help them get the story right and put you at ease.
- Reach out even when you don’t need anything from them. Like any good relationship, reporters expect some give and take. Congratulate them on a story well written. Share a study you’ve seen (even if it’s from another organization) that may help them on future stories. Graciously correct them if misinformation about safe infant sleep is reported. And most important, acknowledge when they cover the topic effectively, but never thank them for doing their job.