Pulse of the Profession

How to Pitch the New York Times on a Friday Afternoon

It’s Friday.  After a long week of dealing with colleagues, managing your clients, setting the monthly budget, and doing your weekly timesheets, the last thing that you’re thinking about is securing a placement in the New York Times.  While that would be ideal and on any client’s wish list, it’s surely not on your list of things to do on a Friday afternoon.  After all, why pitch on a Friday when you can wait till Monday? Reporters are probably on deadline or just checked out.  If you’ve thought this before, then let’s change your mindset here.

Several Fridays ago……

I was given the ultimate challenge to secure an exclusive 1:1 interview with a national business outlet with the CEO of one of my clients.  I had been struggling all week to secure a placement and for some reason, Friday was my lucky day.  Now why was that? How did I  make this happen?  Below are some tips on how to secure a pitch with the New York Times on a Friday afternoon.

1)      Narrow your search. Even more specifically, narrow your search to the New York Times. The key is to focus on one outlet.  Often we are given an assignment to try pitching five publications and see which one bites back. We end up being spread too thin because we are sending generic pitches to anyone and everyone. We are not paying attention to what these reporters are covering. We think they are the business beat reporter so they must be the right fit. This is often not the case. There are so many facets to the business beat. Who specifically profiles CEOs? Who specifically covers financial markets? Taking the extra time to dig deeper is important to targeting the right reporter to yield results.

2)      Know your client. Sounds so simple doesn’t it? So many of us are pitching our clients, yet we don’t know who they really are. We’ve been on the account for two weeks and can’t even tell you when the company was started and why. Have some background knowledge that goes beyond the talking points.  The New York Times will ask you questions that have nothing to do with your pitch. You need to know how to answer their questions succinctly and convince them to cover your story.

3)       Don’t wait till Friday to start pitching.  Start pitching as soon as you get the assignment. Your first pitch can be long (i.e. 3 paragraphs at most), but please don’t make it boring. Your second pitch should be three sentences, followed by a phone call on Thursday or Friday morning. The New York Times wants you to be knowledgeable and straightforward. Don’t give them fluff; give them a new perspective on the issue.

4)      Act Fast.  If it’s Friday at 1pm and the reporter at the New York Times says that they want to interview the CEO of your client at 4pm, you better make that happen. I don’t care if you’re working from home, with another client, or on vacation. You make it happen! The New York Times often does not give you a lot of turnaround time. When they decide they want something, they usually want it that moment.  Be prepared to act quickly and allow for 30 minutes of media training with your client, because they will need it!  This is exactly what happened to me several Fridays ago. They asked me on Friday at 1pm if they could interview my client at 4pm that day. I said “yes” before asking my client if she was available, because there is no saying “No” ti the New York Times. You don’t want to lose an opportunity because you’re trying to work out schedules.  As Nike says, “Just do it!”

Lauren Wesley Wilson is the Founder and Chief Networking Officer of ColorComm Network. Prior to this role, Lauren was the Communications Director for a Member of Congress. Lauren has been featured in Black Enterprise, Washington Post, National Journal, and others. She can be reached at lww@colorcommnetwork.com. This is the opinion of Lauren Wesley Wilson and this does not reflect the opinion of ColorComm Network, her employer, or any groups that she is affiliated with.

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