Guest post by Lucia Anaya, Community Media Workshop New Media Intern
La Risa Lynch has been a Chicago freelance writer for more than 15 years, having written for several community newspapers including the Chicago Defender, Chicago Crusader and The Final Call. Her stories are often about criminal justice or social issues affecting the city of Chicago.
With Lynch’s extensive experience and skill, we asked for tips on the best way nonprofit organizations can maximize the value of their pitch to journalists and media outlets. Below is her advice.
What key advice would you give a non profit organization who is trying to attain media coverage of their issue or event?
The one thing I could advise anyone to do is to look at what the reporter is writing and tailor your pitch to that. If you send something to me about transportation, I probably won’t be interested. But if it’s something let’s say like, the CTA isn’t hiring any minority contractors, then that would be something I would be interested in. A lot of times the newspapers that I write for are issue oriented; they prefer some of those hard-hitting issues.
What should organizations not do when pitching you?
Don’t send an attachment with an email. Sometimes the attachment won’t open or it might have a virus. Instead just embed whatever that is in the body of the email.
Another thing is to not be too aggressive when you’re trying to pitch. We have a lot on our plates and sometimes being a little bit more subtle would catch my attention instead of saying, “well you need to come out and cover this.” If instead you say, “this is what I have here and I think this is something you might be interested in, I would love for you to come by and cover it,” it would be easier.
How do you prefer to receive pitches?
Email. I’m so busy that sometimes I don’t have the time to call you back. If you send it to me by email it’s always there to remind me. If I save you in my voicemail box, I might forget about you, so email is best.
And what should the subject line read, what would grab your attention?
Words like “protest” or “meeting on housing” will let me know what the email is about. Don’t put the phrases “story assignment or “possible story.” When pitching a story say “we’re having a protest” or “we’re having a meeting on CHA.” That will work to grab my attention.
To what extent should an organization do research on the publication?
Definitely try and do some research on the paper itself. Pick up the paper and look through their website to see what kind of stories they are covering. That’s how you’ll know if the paper will fit in with what you are trying to do. It’s helpful especially because a lot of community newspapers are not like the Chicago Sun-Times or the Chicago Tribune who have a lot of staff to go out and cover stuff. Community newspapers are always looking for content but it has to be the right kind of content with what matches up to what they’re writing about.
If you would like to pitch La Risa Lynch, e-mail her at email@example.com