1) You start off by looking for people to contact because journalists and media houses are very unlikely just to come to you. Even the really big brands go to the media with news and not the other way round (unless it’s a scandal and you don’t want that to be your opening gambit).
Find magazines, newspapers, radio stations and maybe even TV channels (depending on how newsworthy your story is) that specialise in your industry. Then find out who is the most appropriate person to speak to. Some websites list the ‘team’, in which case you’ll know who handles what, otherwise the receptionist will probably tell you. The receptionist will also tell you how best to go about making contact; sometimes an introductory email is best but many media people prefer phone calls. Phone calls are recommended in any case because journalists and publishers are generally very busy and prioritise emails from people with whom they already have relationships. Plus, emails are easy to ignore.
2) Prepare thoroughly before you make the call. You’ll make a very poor impression and try your contact’s patience if you stammer your way through the first call. Make notes of all the salient points you want to make and practice them if necessary. You want to come across as smooth and organised, and not as a bumbling idiot or someone reading from a teleprompter.
It’s also a good idea to research your contact’s past stories and style of writing, as well as the approach favoured by the media house in question so that you can slant your pitch accordingly.
3) If you’re sending an email you need to practice your written pitch. It should be short and to the point without being too sketchy. You need to sound professional but not too dry. Include all your contact details but also ask when would be a good time to phone so you can discuss the subject further. The choice is nice and the fact that you aren’t going to leave it up to them to do all the follow up work will earn you points.
Don’t send a slew of attachments in the first email. It’s an introduction only; anything else comes across as mightily presumptuous.
4) When you get a deadline, stick to it. There is nothing, repeat nothing, more irksome for a journo than having to chase content. Remember that they are doing you a favour, so they don’t take kindly to being messed around. If you know there are going to be delays contact the journalist and explain the situation. You might be able to extend the deadline or arrange for the piece to appear in a later issue or news cast.
5) Take on the responsibility to follow up. Follow up to find out how the story is progressing or if the journalist needs any additional information or help. When it’s been published or gone live, follow up with a thank you. Emphasise what a pleasure it was to work together and offer your services for the future.
Don’t leave it there. Check in occasionally just to say hi, invite them to functions or events and keep an eye on other stories they cover so you can congratulate them on a particular job well done. People in the media industry like to know that you care and value them as more than a path to your public.