Here are our top ten rules for pitching story ideas to journalists and getting your organisation's good work recognised in the press.
Apply the 'Dr Pepper principle'
It's a cliche, but asking yourself 'What's the worst that can happen?' before you make the call really can work wonders and set your mind at rest. Taking a punt on pitching a story is not going to alienate you from the media forever or make you a laughing stock. At the very worst the journalist won't be interested, but at least you tried, and maybe your proactivity will be rewarded at a later date.
Take the 'So What' test
However earth-shatteringly exciting your story is within your organisation, it won't cut the mustard media wise unless you can prove that your news is timely, fresh and relevant to a wide audience. Ask yourself: why do people need to know this and how will it benefit them?
Be on target
Think about the best way to approach different journalists. Interestingly, while the phone call was favoured across the board up until very recently, journalists are increasingly reporting that they prefer an email or even a tweet, depending on how time-dependent your story is. Make sure both you and your organisation are active on social media well before you start talking to journalists on Twitter.
Preparation, preparation, preparation
Know your story inside out and upside down before you pitch it; deadline-driven journalists won't be impressed if you give them the wrong stats or have to offer to get someone else to call them back.
Make it personal
Flattery counts for a lot in this business. Do your research beforehand, so you can link your pitch to things they've written before or themes they've shown an interest in.
Do the donkey work
The current climate coupled with the explosion in rolling news, blogs and digital media means that the typical journalist is juggling multiple deadlines and under more pressures than ever to get the hottest stories. Try and tailor-make your story as far as possible, so you have quotes, case studies, photos and spokespeople ready and waiting. They'll thank you for it.
Keep it brief and keep listening
Always, ALWAYS ask journalists if they have time to talk. And if they do, don't just launch into describing your story idea in exhaustive detail. Just summarise the main bits - if they're interested the secondary stuff can follow. And know when to stop - the longer you stay on the phone the higher the odds that your nerves might kick in or the impact of your idea will get lost in a sea of small talk.
Be open to ideas
If they haven't got the time or space to cover your story, that doesn't have to be the end of the road. Think online and user-led - could you write something for them, or could they revisit your story in a blog post or online item at a later date?
Exclusive means exclusive
The national press in particular will often expect to get first dibs on running a story, so think carefully about who you pitch to first. And be honest - they'll take a dim view if you promise them an exclusive only for them to see a rival outlet running a story the day before. Think about offering taster statistics, an interview or a different angle before you release your story to everyone else - that way they get a first without compromising anyone else's interest, and your story is covered more widely over a sustained period of time. Job done!
Deal with rejection
If they're not interested, thank them for their time and move on. And don't ever take it personally - deadlines, big breaking news stories or just not quite fitting with the day's agenda are all factors that may mean your story isn't given the priority you think it deserves.