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Ten tips for contacting media

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Written by Gin Foundry

We are always being asked by both brands and marketeer’s about how best to raise awareness around their gins. How can we get people to discover us? Why is there such a fanfare about some gins and so little about others and what do bloggers look for when they want to write about something?

The answer is never straight forward and put simply, it varies. There’s no silver bullet, no mystic shaman with all the answers and no fail-safe methodology but given the continued requests for something like it for distillers and brands; there are a few handy things we thought we’d post here to help those looking for pointers.

Moreover, for those looking to find out more, we’ll be taking part in a discussion on the subject of distillers and the media at the Craft Distilling Expo in October (more on that below).

Here’s our top 10 tips for Gin Brands looking to pitch their product…

1 – Make a realistic plan with realistic targets.

Having been on all three sides of the news cycle here (brand, PR agency and journos) we’ve seen many be guilty of this at some point, ourselves included. Ask yourself what you want to achieve and how are you going to do that. Don’t delude yourself with a false sense of grandeur so if the answer is blanket coverage because everyone will want to feature your amazing gin and all your hard work – think again. What is the primary message you want to seed out there and what’s a fair aspiration for the effort (and possibly budget) you are about to put in to a campaign in order to achieve it?

Those who create a plan, set objectives and understand that there is a two-way street of effort going in vs results coming out are always better at reaching out to media as they are much more targeted and are more specific about how they do it.

2 – Find an angle.

Figure out where you’d like to see your story / brand. Which publications would you like it to feature in and ask yourself why that is – for example how does it meet your objectives above? Try and find out who writes them and what are they like (can you get a sense of their personality / find out about what kind of things they gravitate to)? To be successful, you need to read, research and immerse yourself in the detail…

In other words, find your angle and understand who you are talking to. Why is what you want them to cover going to be of interest to them? Because they like gin is not the right answer here…

3 – Get a toolkit ready.

You’ll need images, you’ll probably need a press release about your product and probably another about the story if that’s different and what you are actually pitching. You may never need to use them but creating the documents forces you to focus the information to be more concise. It means you have it ready if you need to supply it. It means you are ready as you know how to convey your position with no waffle.

Ideally have both hi-res and lower digital friendly images (they can be the same, just save them into two folders). Have ones without massive amounts of branding in there too – your bottle does not need to be the only thing in the image every single time! If you are taking cocktail images,  make sure they look drinkable (and that they are in focus).

There’s nothing worse than getting a positive interest and not being able to follow up. It’s a huge home goal. You made contact, you need to follow up or that chance is gone forever – the onus is on you to be prompt as they will not wait.

4 – Samples.

Figure out what your sample policy is and if you can’t afford to send big 50 / 70cl bottles out, get a mini or cool looking sample size ready ahead of making contact. Using a sharpie over an olive oil bottle sends the worst possible message out about your brand’s quality, and yes someone did actually do this to us…

Be consistent about your policy too, as it’ll backfire if someone splashes images of what they are tasting / were sent all over social when another was refused.

5 –Confident but humble.

Ease off the superlatives when you pitch. ‘Best’, ‘first of a kind’ and as ‘ground breaking’ you may think it is, there’s also a strong likelihood it isn’t and when that’s the case – it looks awful. Find a way to spin it favourably without too much gloss.

Whatever you do, avoid pushing your profile at the expense of others. There’s no need and it always looks bad when someone pitches a story that tears others down. If you have a product that is doing something better than someone else – it’s plainly obvious to the person reading about it without you needing to side-swipe the competition.

6 – Don’t be lazy

Never send a bottle of Gin blind and then try to hustle and guilt people into writing. Most bloggers don’t have mail addresses in the public domain anyway and the bigger editorial sites and magazines won’t care for the practice.

They didn’t ask for it, they didn’t’ agree to write anything, it’s not on them that you wasted a send out or that it cost you a bomb to get it there. They’ll see it, sure, but that doesn’t mean they will automatically feature it, those are not one and the same thing. It’s a gamble to send blind and usually a costly one as it’s not an effective way to get cut through. The simple avenue is to get better at reaching out first.

7 – Be your own media

Understand that getting others to talk about you is far more likely if you are doing it well yourself and they already know you. Interact with journalists and publications on social media and always try and project yourself to your best ability. You are after all, your own self-publisher. Content for fans aside, it is the best way to get media to take notice of you as means that when you do make contact with them, you already have a small relationship going on, even if it’s just passive awareness.

Moreover, don’t forget that everything they may ever write or publish will (hopefully) drive eyeballs back to you. Inactive social media and a poor website means that if you do get any press, unless you have an active profile you’ll loose the momentum it generates anyway.

8 – Timing is everything.

Bloggers and websites might seem to be less deadline oriented than those with a print deadline but that’s not always the case – assume they are and work from there. Last thing on a Friday afternoon remains a terrible time to pitch an urgent news story for example… Many digital sites have review queues, some even only work off themes for certain months. Print publications are completed up to 4 months in advance and things like Christmas in July events are a there for a reason! If you have a seasonal gin, think about getting as much done as possible before the season so that it’s relevant when it lands.

If you have a time sensitive news story or if it’s based on a particular news hook (for example launching on a themed day), don’t launch your campaign on that day. Just because you are ready now does not mean everyone clears their schedule to service your needs. Give enough time for people to turn it around.

9 – Follow up.

Say thanks. Share the work and augment the visibility as that’s a win-win for everyone. It’s not a one-way street and keeping contacts alive will help for the future. If you have a news / press section on your website, add a link to the article there.

That said, don’t use someone else’s feature to pitch do a different media site. It’s not a classy move to say that because xxx liked it and said this, you might be interested as a result. It implies all the wrong things even if you don’t mean it to. Journalists are unlikely to be so impressed that your product was enjoyed by another publication that they must therefore rank it highly themselves. They may even be forced to choose not to feature you because of it having featured elsewhere, as they need to find something different for their readership as opposed to a story (or review) that just broke elsewhere first.

10 –Focus on what you make more than how you spin it.

Lastly and by far the most important thing here; have something worth talking about! Know what the story is (and as we mentioned earlier, your angle on how you will pitch it) and make sure it’s worthwhile.

The core premise of getting someone to write about you is a simple one – you are looking for others to care about what you are doing as much as you do. So much so that they feel compelled to talk about it. That’s a lot more likely to happen when what you do is brilliant.

Don’t forget that a good pitch can breathe life into a tired story and create interest in a product, but a great story or a great product has a life of its own that will do a lot of the leg work for you.

We’ll be joining other drinks websites and writers to continue the conversation on this subject at this year’s Craft Distilling Expo on Friday 27th September (10:00-10:45am), as part of a panel to help guide distillers looking for advise on contacting media. More info can be found here: distillingexpo.com