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Back that Pitch Up

It takes talent, time and effort to identify a good story, write a compelling pitch and get it into the hands of the right reporter. The process can take weeks, months, even years for some really big hits, like network television. So, when your story is finally picked up, the urge to breathe a sigh of relief and sit back while the journalist does his or her reporting is understandable.
But the truth is, the point at which a reporter becomes interested is the moment your real work begins—the “make or break” period when you need to prove not only that your story is worth telling, but that your institution and its community can tell it best. After all, you worked hard to get to this point, the last thing you want is for another college or university to be the lead or the feature photo accompanying the story you pitched.
Unfortunately, it happens. And more often than not, it’s because reporters just can’t get what they need quickly enough from the PR people who promised access to a good story. So, they look elsewhere (i.e. – another institution).
The bottom line is once a journalist commits to covering your idea, your priority is to make their job as easy as possible. Doing so will help ensure all the effort you put into your pitch wasn’t for naught and will help yield the best results possible. Here are what I think are the two most important ways how:
1. Set up interviews with well-vetted subjects immediately. They should be people who are willing to drop everything to talk with a reporter and are prepared to discuss the story you promised. All potential interview subjects should be identified in advance. This includes faculty, administrators, students, parents—anyone who can help tell your story in a compelling way. Even if the reporter doesn’t end up speaking to everyone, it’s better to have people ready and available, than to be scrambling in vain to find someone. (The reporter may just find that person at another college.)
2. Offer possible photography scenarios, keeping in mind what would make the most interesting visual (usually not a head shot or stock photo) for print/web outlets able to send their own photographer. However, realizing that photo budgets don’t always allow for that, have high resolution images that illustrate the story available. If you have a campus photographer, use him or her. If not, make friends with student photographers or take something yourself. It is worth the time scheduling this and having available images in hand even before your pitch gets picked up. If it goes nowhere, you can always repurpose the story and image for your website or social media channels. Other multimedia, while a luxury for many institutions, is also beneficial to have.
A good pitch up front can get you in the door, but no one wants the door slammed in their face by the coverage. So, remember to put yourselves in reporters’ shoes, try to anticipate what they’ll need to write the story you’re envisioning, and then give it to them. If you can do that, your results—and your relationships—will improve, guaranteed.