Education media has become more and more competitive over the past couple of years. Consumer news publications are leaping in to cover the chaos caused by the pandemic and the challenges of rebounding from that chaos. As a result, reporters and editors are getting more pitches about the education market than ever before. What does that mean for edtech companies looking to share their stories? I got some inside scoop during my recent conversation with Jackie Mader, multimedia editor and early ed reporter for The Hechinger Report. Here’s some guidance on how to rise to the top of a reporter’s inbox.
1) Know who you’re pitching. Yes, it’s exciting to think, “I’m pitching EdWeek! I’m pitching The New York Times!” But you’re not pitching a publication; you’re pitching a person. If you want to stand out from the hundreds of pitches that reporters and editors get every day, you have to send an email to a specific person who has a specific job covering a specific beat. To learn about the person on the other end of your email, look for a reporter or editor’s bio on the outlet’s website. If you can’t find it there, check out Twitter or LinkedIn. And if the pitch you have in mind doesn’t fit the person’s beat, find someone else to pitch.
2) Consider their time frame. You may want coverage right now, but if you want to build relationships with reporters and editors, their time frame matters more than yours. It helps to be aware that, in some cases, education outlets like The Hechinger Report can take months to report and develop a story.
The flip side of this is that some education reporters, along with pretty much everyone at local and national newspapers, have a “news hole” to fill every day. If you’re pitching an interview to people in the breaking news business, have your interviewees lined up and ready to talk at a moment’s notice.
3) Write a clear subject line. The subject line of a pitch is not your chance to test out your latest marketing copy about how your solution is the easiest, fastest, and best. Focus on the who, the what, and the why. Are you pitching a story about a school where 2nd-graders' reading scores went up 57% in a semester after they worked with Roger the Reading Robot? Put that (and only that!) in the subject line. Which brings me to another helpful point that Jackie shared…
4) Lead with data. Do you have a heartwarming anecdote about a 6-year-old who had been struggling all year and finally says, “Wow, I can do math!” That could be a lovely part of a future article, but it’s not what will get your foot in the door. What will get reporters and editors to perk up their ears is data.
It boils down to asking yourself, “Do I have numerical proof that Roger the Reading Robot actually improves students’ academic performance?” If you have the data, put it in the subject line, repeat it with some context in the pitch itself, and trust that the reporter will recognize that the heartwarming anecdote should be part of the story, too. And finally…
5) Remember that you’re pitching a person. Email pitching can sometimes feel mechanical: type a pitch, build a list, hit send. Refine the pitch, refine the list, hit send…. Pitches that land are the ones that take into account the person on the other end of your email. If you’ve done your research back in point 1, let the person on the other end know why your pitch is relevant to their beat.
If you get no response to a pitch that you’re confident is relevant to a specific writer, a friendly follow-up can be effective with reporters like Jackie, whose news needs change over time.
Whatever you do, don’t get snippy with a journalist who hasn’t responded when or how you had hoped. Remember that they’re people with incredibly busy schedules and bursting inboxes. Some of them might be mothers like Jackie, who might be reading your email in a home office where her son is writing on the window using his own tears as ink. To hear that full story (which is actually funny, I promise), you’ll have to listen to the full episode.
Need help crafting a pitch? Learn more about PR and Storytelling for the education market with PRP Group.