The Ultimate Guide to Media Outreach (Bonus: 10 Important Outreach Hacks)

Illena Yu
January 25, 2021

Social media and technology have drastically changed how people consume news, while journalists have also changed the way they source stories. How you come up with an up-to-date PR outreach plan is very important. 

In this PR 101 guide, we’re going to walk you through everything you need to know about pr outreach in order to have a successful outreach campaign. We promise to provide you with real-life media outreach examples, templates and ideas. 

We have only one goal in mind: after reading this post, you will know how to do media outreach on your own. 

Without further ado, let’s dive into it!

Table of Content

In this guide, you’ll learn:

But first, let’s go over the basics.

Press Outreach Terms Explained

In this section we’ll cover all the definitions of the PR terms that we’ll talk about later in the article.

What is media outreach (also known as PR outreach)?

To start, media outreach simply means putting your story in front of people (mainly journalists, reporters, and editors) who have a platform to tell it to a wider audience. In order to have a successful media outreach campaign, you will need to start by laying out your outreach strategy and outreach plan.

Why is media outreach important? 

Media outreach is one of the best ways to brand yourself. In fact, many of the news stories you read today have been the results of carefully planned and executed media outreach campaigns. The goal of media outreach is to earn press coverage which in turn can help your company’s influence grow over time. 

Types of media outreach 

There are different types of media outreach, for example, social media outreach has grown significantly in the recent years. Reaching out to media or influencers on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram has become an integral part of the campaign plan. 

Looking for more tips on social media outreach strategy and plan? Here is a good one from Sprout Social. Enjoy! 

What is a pr outreach plan?

A media/PR outreach plan is a detailed plan that outlines the goal and action plan of a PR campaign. The purpose of an outreach plan is to help you stay focused on your objectives, better execute and measure the success of your outreach campaign.

5 Main Components Of A Media Outreach Plan

Now, we all know the media outreach definition by heart. What’s next? We need a solid media outreach strategy and plan. 

Related Article: Top 5 Insights for Media Outreach Strategy

A PR outreach plan should consist of five important parts. Based on our own outreach experience, we’ve made Topgolf’s brilliantly defined four-step approach into a five-step process. 

We know first-hand how important an outreach plan is to the overall success of any campaign. Having a well thought-out schedule allows you to achieve more with less effort. 

Step 1: Define And Segment Your Audience

In order to pick the right news outlets to broadcast your story, you first need to know who you’re hoping to reach, and what’s the purpose of conveying your key message to this group of people. They can be your potential customers, partners, investors, or other stakeholders. 

What types of news outlets or platforms does your target audience turn to as their top sources of news? Do they prefer digital news over newspapers or magazines? 

Think it through before deciding which media outlets you want to approach.

Step 2: Build Media Lists

Once you have a clearer idea of what types of outlets you want to be featured on, the next step should be finding the journalists who have the right platform to tell your story to your ideal audience. 

In the next section, we’ll provide some tips on building manageable media lists. Continuing reading to find out!

Step 3: Develop Stories

For this step, think about what will be the key takeaway for your target audience. The challenge here is packaging the message as being useful to the journalist while keeping your key points. 

Looking for more tips on developing media angles? Go directly to the Before Outreach Campaign section. 

Step 4: Create Schedules

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have a thoughtfully planned schedule. It helps you plan out all action items such as creating email sequences and all other PR marketing materials that need to be ready before you actually send out pitches.  

As a media outreach company ourselves, we’ve seen the following happen over and over again: people get busy doing other stuff and decide they don’t necessarily need to do the outreach this time or randomly send out a pitch without planning ahead.

Step 5: Define What Success Looks Like

How you measure success depends on how experienced you are with PR outreach as well as how recognized your brand is. If you are just starting out, don’t get too ambitious and expect immediate results. 

You can consider yourself lucky if you get some press coverage on your first try but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get any.

Instead, you should focus on measuring how many responses and acknowledgements you received from the journalists. This could be an indicator that they’re interested in what you’re doing. They would only reply if they care enough, right?

If your brand is already quite well-known, how you define success probably should be the number of placements you received and the quality of these placements.

4 Steps To Start A Successful PR Outreach Campaign (Real Media Outreach Example)

In the previous section, we covered five components that you should consider before building your media outreach plan. Now, we’re going to take a more granular approach and lay out the exact process and steps you should follow to execute it.

Here are the exact four steps that we use and you should too if you want to have a successful outreach marketing campaign!

Step 1: Research Your Target Audience (we mean journalists here!)

Know exactly who you’re pitching to, period. Do some research online to figure out what this specific journalist is interested in before reaching out to him or her.

Have you heard of such things as beat reporting or a reporter’s beat? If the answer is no, you will now. No journalist in the world would appreciate receiving off topic pitches. Thoughtco.com explains the definition of beat in such an easy way, you’ll get it immediately.

“A beat is a particular topic or subject area that a reporter covers. Most journalists working in print and online news cover beats.” 

This means that a tech reporter does not write every tech related story. They may only focus on a very specific topic such as ARVR, mobile games, smart wearables, Apple, among others.

But how can you know what their beat is? It’s simple. Follow these journalists on Twitter and Facebook, check their recent tweets, and read some of their recent work to get a better idea of what story you should pitch to them. 

TechCrunch journalist Mike Butcher's twitter profile


Ask yourself questions like:

• Does your product fit into this specific journalist’s beat?

• What topics have they been following and writing about?

• What is their most recent piece about?

• Is it related to what you’re about to pitch? 

Note that different media outlets tend to have their own preference in terms of the types of stories they like to cover. For example, the Gizmodo site isn't exactly the same as TechCrunch. To offer a more drastic example, The New York Times is definitely different from The Financial Times in terms of style and topics.

Step 2: Build Your Media List

You’re probably wondering this now: how do I even know who these journalists are in the first place? 

Here is how you can start the process: Type in keywords related to your product and service and see what comes up in the Google search results under the “News” tap. Or go directly to your target news websites to do the search. 

A screenshot of the search results for the query "vr startup" under the Google news tab

By repeating this a few times, you'll find a list of journalists who're covering the news in your niche. These might be the people that you want to reach out to. 

As mentioned earlier, most journalists are also pretty active on social media platforms like Twitter, so that’s another place to find them.

Next, start building your media list based on journalists’ beats. 

The least thing you want to do is put all the journalists on the same list. One example that we often use is “fintech”. Journalists with tech and finance as their beats might both be interested in the topic, so you should categorize your media lists using the beat idea we just talked about. 

We recommend creating the lists in google sheet (make a copy of our media list template here) so you can easily update them on a monthly or quarterly basis later. 

Here are some tips that will help you better manage your list in the future. Include the following columns in your media lists:

  • Right contact (you want to track down the main person responsible for this beat in an organization)
  • Contact Information (email and phone number)
  • Beat 
  • Media outlets
  • Media type (online news, print, magazine, etc)
  • Notes (anything to note from the previous interactions?)

Step 3: Collect Contact Information

Once you’re able to fill in all the other information, then comes the most challenging part of all: finding email addresses. Without them, you won’t be able to start your media outreach campaign!

There are several email finder tools out there that make things a bit easier, but it still takes a lot of work. 

Not to beat you down, but it could take days if not weeks to build a list from scratch, and could take even longer to really start building meaningful relationships with the people on that list! 

But it’s no excuse for not starting. We both know that!

Remember we mentioned updating the list in the second step? The purpose of that is to make sure we have the most updated information regarding the journalists’ beat, contact information, and media outlets. 

When one of the journalists on our list switches their beat or leaves the company, we want to know that and update the list accordingly. 

Step 4: (Finally...) Outreach

Here we’re going to show you a real-life PR outreach example. We’ll break down the whole process and make things easier for you to follow. 

Let’s say SparkAmplify is planning to attend the MWC 2021 event, and is hoping to maximize the results of the exhibition by doing pre-event media outreach.

Here is how we would execute this outreach campaign:

  1. Pre-event | start preparing press releases, pitch emails, and press kit one month prior to the event
  2. Pre-event | send out an intro pitch to all the target journalists on our list two or three weeks prior to the event
  3. Pre-event | within a week after the initial outreach, go back and see who engaged with our pitch. Segment those who have seen our message (email opened) and those who didn’t. 
  4. Pre-event | create tailor-made messages for those who have opened our email by providing additional information that they might be interested in or requested for. Create a new subject line but keep the original email content for non-openers
  5. During / Post-event | follow-up with inquiries if there were any & track actual placements
A media outreach schedule example

Come Up With A Media Angle Before Outreach

Again, let’s start at the top first. 

It’s important to know how to package your message when approaching the media - and that’s what we call “media angle”.

What is a media angle?

An angle is what gets people interested in a story. Media angle refers to the newsworthy aspect of a story. In other words, what makes a news story “newsworthy”. Think of it as the hook that entices readers to want to learn more about a specific story in the first place. 

Why is media angle important?

First, we need to understand that journalists also have their own readers / audience to serve. So the question we should be asking ourselves is whether their readers can relate to our story. Treat this as your number one priority whenever reaching out to editors and journalists. If you help them figure this out, it’s more likely they will want to cover your story. 

Media angle examples

Here is an actual example:  

Let’s say you’re an e-scooter company and you’re about to launch a kickstarter campaign in just a month. You are hoping to leverage the power of press coverage to do two things: help spread the news about your upcoming project and generate excitement before and during the campaign.

In crafting your pitch email, what angles could possibly work in your favor to catch the media's attention?

First, functional and performance wise, is there anything that you think would make others interested in your product? For example, is it “the world’s lightest e-scooter that...” , “the first e-scooter with the longest driving range...” or anything else that can demonstrate your edge over the competition.

A couple riding e-scooters on the world; e-scooters are designed by Glafit
Image courtesy of Glafit. This e-scooter is specially designed so that riders can stand on two feet while riding

However, before you make any statement like that, make sure you have enough evidence and data to back up your point. Otherwise, it risks becoming marketing / sales talk which is not appreciated by journalists.

Another way of coming up with “newsworthy” angles could be tapping into the current trends or hot topics being discussed in the media. 

Continuing the e-scooter example, when our team was doing the research for one of our clients, we found that many who were reporting on e-scooters were addressing the safety concerns raised by the boom of this new last-mile public transport.

So how can you use potential concerns in your field to your advantage? Just to give you an idea: In the pitch, you can introduce how you plan to solve this problem by designing a safety mechanism or function to make sure both riders and bystanders can be safe on the road. 

Do you agree this would work better than simply introducing your e-scooter features and specs? 

We’ve talked a lot about how to plan your media outreach campaigns and come up with news angles. The only thing that is left now is to familiarize yourself with the pitch / press release format, style and tone.

What's The Difference Between Press Release And Pitch?

If you’re new to the PR world, press release distribution and cold-pitching are arguably two of the most important PR outreach practices that you need to know. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can always explore different tactics and platforms, such as social media outreach and embargo. The most important thing is that they all follow the same principles, despite their different methods.

What is a press release?

A press release is an official announcement that an organization issues to the news media and beyond. - HubSpot

What is cold-pitching?

Cold-pitching is another long-standing practice of media outreach. It’s the process of pitching information about your service or story to journalists through emails.

When do you need a press release?

We have briefly mentioned what a press release is about. Usually, brands only issue press releases when they have an important announcement to make. It could be announcing an event that they are attending or holding (like this WiSE24 event press release). It could also be announcing their newest partnership, product launch, award or new hire, etc.

An infographic showing a list of press release types

What does a good press release look like?

One thing about press releases is that they’re written in a certain format and should take a factual and serious tone. It’s usually one-page long (two pages, top), and the purpose is to help journalists understand what the announcement is about and why it’s important to readers “at a glance”. 

Make sure you provide enough information while keeping it concise and to the point. Journalists will get in touch if they need more information.

In most cases, journalists don’t have time to read your entire press release, which is why you want to consider using the inverted pyramid method in your press release writing. 

The inverted pyramid method
Image courtesy of ahrefs.com

Start with what they “need to know” by including the most newsworthy information in your lead. You want to get your message across in the first ten seconds when they skim through your headline and first paragraph. 

To do that, use the lead to clearly answer the 5w1h - "who", "what", "why", "where" and “how”. 

They almost certainly will not bother to continue reading if they find your lead difficult to understand and not newsworthy. Don’t give them a chance to hit the back button and go on reading someone else’s press release!

What is the format of a press release (7 parts)?

Here is a basic structure of a press release:

  • 1. Headline
  • 2. Dateline
  • 3. Introduction
  • 4. Body
  • 5. Boilerplate
  • 6. Call to action
  • 7. Media contact details

Related Article: Tips On How To Write A Press Release For Startups [With Sample]

What is a pitch email?

A media pitch by definition is a short email that you send to journalists and editors in which you demonstrate the relevance of your story to the journalist's past work and how it shows value for their readers.

How is pitch email different from press release?

Like press releases, the purpose of outreach is to see if journalists would be interested in covering your story. However, unlike press releases, the format is different, and so is the tone. A pitch is more personal and should be tailor-made for the specific journalists that you want to reach out to. The tone is also a bit more casual, but not too casual. You still want to be polite and not assume that they will respond or write about you!

When do you need a pitch email?

If you don’t really have a formal announcement to make, but have a great idea that you think journalists would be interested in, you can go with cold-pitching.

For example, in the past year, it seems like COVID-19 is the only thing that we talked about. COVID-19 related news has taken up the front pages of newspapers for more than a year now. So what outreach opportunities does the media's constant interest in the topic provide to businesses like you?

Between March and May last year while our team was doing our routine monthly media placement analysis, we identified quite a few coverage around topics on businesses providing support for their customers and community. If your business happened to be offering some help to support the community during the pandemic, it might have been the perfect time to reach out.

Sometimes, pitch is also about timing. When journalists are not responding to your email pitches or writing a story about you, it may be because they just have too much on their plates right now or they feel like the timing isn’t right yet.

What you want to do is to make sure you have a long-term approach to PR. Like we said earlier, building relationships takes time, so don’t expect to see immediate results, especially for businesses that are just starting out. 

What does a good pitch email look like?

Here is a basic structure of a pitch email:

  • Clear introduction
  • Demonstrate social proof
  • What’s in for them?
  • Clear call to action 
  • Contact info
An infographic that shows what a pitch email should look like

Clear introduction

In your pitch email, first start with a sentence introducing yourself or your company. Then you want to quickly find a common ground or shared interest by showing the relevance of your pitch to the journalist's past work. 

For instance, you can say something like:

Hi <media name>, 
This is Illena from SparkAmplify, an AI-powered PR platform. I’ve been following your work on TechCrunch about marketing automation, especially your latest piece on {article title}. I love your work and think you may be interested in our …...

Demonstrate social proof

In terms of social proof, add anything that might help you stand out. For example, if you’re an e-mobility startup backed by some of the leaders in the industry such as Tesla, that is definitely something that’s worth pointing out. 

What’s in for them

Then, let journalists know what you are contacting them for. Whether it is about a new product launch, funding story, or event exhibition, your goal is to prove your content’s value. 

You should be able to answer this question in your pitch: what’s unique about your story that their readers might be interested in. Remember, your PR pitches should always be engaging and timely for the topic! 

Clear call to action

Finally, close with a call to action asking your audience to reach out if they’re interested in learning more and that you would love to provide more interesting information. 

Contact info

Put down your contact details so journalists know who to connect with if they’re interested in an interview.

A pitch email template
Reach out to us at success@sparkamplify.com for more pitch email guides & templates

Bonus: 10 Important Media Outreach Hacks

Congratulations to those who have read this far! We hope you find yourself more familiar with the whole outreach process. Let’s use these 10 media outreach hacks to sum up what we’ve learnt in this post.

1. Think like a journalist or reader

Think like a journalist covering a news story – “What’s the angle here?” “What will hook the readers in?” Also, if you are the one scrolling through the internet, what kind of story will make you stop swiping and read it?

2. Have a customized eye-catching text

Pre-header text is a preview of what the email has to say. Grabbing the recipient’s attention in the pre-header is just as important as the subject line. There is a 30% increase in emails’ open rates if you work hard to optimize your pre-header text.

3. Open rate is not everything

Most people consider the open rate of the outreach email an important metric, however, it’s not entirely true in some sense. For example, if the media opens an email and deletes it, they are probably not a candidate for an even more personalized follow-up.

4.  Micro content

When you reach out for media coverage, please include a micro content for your brand/product. This is the low cost, high value content appropriate for social media outreach. If you already had this kind of content ready, you will have better chances for successful outreach.

5.  Good timing is key

For a print publication, you probably need to pitch one month before you want your audiences to see your story. However, a lot of print media also has digital platforms, so keep in mind what kind of content you want to show on the internet and what story is more appropriate for print media.

6.  “Me too” pitch doesn’t work

If the media just wrote a piece about a topic that you want to pitch to them, the odds that they’re going to be writing ANOTHER piece about a similar topic right away are pretty low so don’t write them the “me too” pitch email. It’s fine to keep these reporters on your radar, perhaps for future pitches, but don’t reach out to them now.

7. Calling sometimes works better in creating relationships

In the age of ubiquitous technology, we still find the phone the most effective way of cultivating relationships. Email is convenient, but sometimes it’s hard to push for a real relationship. If you want to secure an answer regarding interest/coverage – yes or no – you can get the answer when you call a reporter.

8.  Forget the 100 email word count rule

A lot of email outreach guidelines out there state that emails within 100 words get the best result. However, we found that email counts above 100 words actually performed 5% better than word counts below 100.

9.  Try not to attach profiles in the email

For most reporters, they have spent too much time reading attachment content, and also if it’s a cold outreach, normally people won’t bother even click on the attachment. Hence, it’s better to put the important content in the email body itself.

10.  Be realistic, but plan to scale

Everyone knows why media outreach is important. Our suggestion is to try to start small, with local newspapers and industry blogs. Play to your strength. Be polite and know the boundaries. Don’t be pushy. Try to present the best self in the spotlight and prepare yourself for the big media coverage one day when it comes.

Final Thoughts

After reading this post, make yourself a year long outreach plan and start doing outreach consistently. By doing so, you will remind journalists of your presence by showcasing the improvements you have made along the way.

They may not write about you this time, but maybe next time they will!

Lastly, we encourage you to take what you have learned in this post and use it for your next media outreach campaign!

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