When traditional media outlets (newspapers, magazines, radio stations) review podcasts, they tend to write about big-budget shows. It doesn't have anything to do with snobbery or ignorance. Big-budget podcasts (such as shows from Audible, Spotify exclusives, and so on) have public relations departments, who work full-time promoting new podcasts to the media. These people have established workflows that make pitching a podcast to a major publication as easy as hopscotch. Pitching your podcast to major news or cultural publications may seem as intimidating as sticking your hand in a tiger's cage. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be. In persuasive writing, there are some adages about how to “feed the tiger,” and they all make sense when we talk about how to pitch your podcast to journalists.
Know what they want and need to write about.
Feed the tiger what it wants. If your podcast is about fly fishing, you'd pitch your podcast to American Angler, not Vanity Fair. Unless your podcast episode is a recording of a fly fishing trip with Matthew McConaughey, who has won an Oscar, been on the cover of Vanity Fair, and has also been in a podcast.
Seriously, start with a publication that's about your podcast's topic. That's where your audience is more likely to be looking for information like yours.
Give them your information in an accessible way.
Feed the tiger what it wants, in bite-sized chunks. “But my podcast already is accessible! Here's a link!” Slow your roll there. Does it matter which app people use to download it? Is your podcast listed in every directory possible? Do you have a podcast media kit? Do you have transcripts? How about a website?
Guess what? The pros do. Accessibility isn't just about respecting your audience. It's about making your show easy to consume, understand, and share. Let's say a writer at Big Budget Magazine Weekly has an hour to finish writing a review of a podcast. They have to choose between:
- a podcast with a media kit, transcripts, a website, and clear show notes, or
- a podcast where the producer says, “oh, just listen- I'd hate to spoil it for you!”
Guess what? The writer's going to cover the podcast where all the information they need is laid out for them, clearly.
Specificity makes your pitch even better. If you have an episode coming up about a particular topic or a unique guest, that should be the main idea in your pitch. It's harder to make a compelling argument for “a podcast about fishing,” than, “a 26-minute podcast episode about fly fishing in Rock Creek, Montana during the spring runoff.”
Pitch your podcast to journalists when they can write about it.
Magazines, newspapers, and radio stations plan their content months, sometimes more, ahead of schedule. Then, they release it in a way that's appropriate to the season.
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For example, arts and culture magazines and sections of newspapers tend to publish arts and entertainment guides in September, when new theatre and television seasons start. Planning for that guide starts in mid-summer, if not earlier. Media outlets focus on Christmas and Hannukah content from late November through December. But, if your band wants their Christmas music to be played on the radio on December 24th, you need to pitch that music to radio stations in the summer. So, you need to pitch your podcast to journalists when the timing is right.
Do you have an episode about crafting the perfect Halloween costume? If you plan to release that episode in October, then pitch it in August. You can see where this is going. The tiger isn't always hungry. Feed it when it is.
How appropriate is your pitch?
If you've been podcasting for more than six months, chances are you've already gotten at least one inappropriate request. Maybe you received an email from an expert on relationship advice, swearing they'd be the perfect guest for your podcast, except yours is about sharks, and they clearly haven't listened. Maybe someone wants to rewrite the third episode of your audio drama podcast for you. Some people think that Twitter direct messages or Facebook messages are a great way to ask someone for a favor. Remember how weird and irksome those inappropriate requests feel? Do you know that icky feeling?
Journalists get dozens of these random requests every day.
When you pitch your podcast to a journalist, do some research first. What do they write about? For who do they write (are they freelance, a staff writer, or both)? Read some of their articles. Get a sense of their taste and tone. Most importantly, what is their preferred method of contact? Usually, their social media profile will link to a website or a Linktree page, where they have contact information.
If you pitch your podcast via a social media direct message, you throw a work request into a social platform. Instead, pitch your podcast to a journalist through their preferred contact method. They'll be in a more receptive frame of mind, and more likely to accept. Feed the tiger, but don't mess with their habitat.
So, How Do You Write That Pitch?
Ask yourself, what's newsworthy about your podcast, and why. This fits in with knowing your podcast niche, and who your audience is. Use email. Don't call. Writers like to read and write. Craft a short email, and read it over out loud before you hit, “send.” It's easier to process a pitch through reading and writing than it is to process it through a phone.
Introduce yourself in terms of their work.
Be polite. Open with what you've read in the publication or by the writer you're pitching, what it meant to you, and why. For example, “Dear Ms. Vargas; I enjoyed your article in Food and Wine Magazine about grilled nopales. I'd never thought of cactus as a culinary ingredient before. Your description of the flavor and texture really made me want to try it.”
What, who, why, how?
Be specific, and pitch the story. What is it, who is it for, what's the challenge and how does it solve a problem? For example, this sentence could be something like, “Organic Life is a podcast that helps people to eat a nutritious diet at a reasonable cost, without harming the environment. We're soon to release an episode about culinary seaweed. The way you described cooking and eating nopales makes me sure you could write a great article about our interview with culinary forager and ethnobotanist Monica Wilde.”
See how specific that is? You darn near wrote the article for them.
Show them how they can get more information at their own pace.
Now, zoom out a bit. Give them a short paragraph (maybe three sentences) of how they can get more information about the podcast. Include a link to the website, to the media kit, and tell them how they can listen. Pick out an episode for them that's an easy point of entry. “By way of introduction, you might enjoy our episode about medicinal mushrooms, also with Monica, or community-sponsored agriculture.”
Treat it like a collaboration. We're all content creators here, right?
Tell them how they can contact you with any questions, and that you'd love to chat further.
Don't let your pitch get buried.
Follow up a few days or so later, to see if they've forgotten about your pitch. If they say, “not interested, thanks,” give it a while, and wait until you have another episode that's closer to what they are interested in. In the meantime, try a different writer. In this fictitious example, Ms. Vargas writes about cooking techniques, not ingredients, and I wouldn't be hurt if she said no to this pitch.
It's not about you.
Their editor may tell them what pitches to accept or reject. They may have a full schedule, or your podcast might not be in their area of interest. Don't take any rejection personally, just try again with a different media outlet.
Never put all your eggs in one basket.
There are a lot of different ways to grow your podcast. Reviews and press aren't the only way to let people know about your show. Our Podcast Growth Book has lots of strategies and actionable tasks to help you engage your audience and build community. Plus The Podcast Host Academy has courses and tools to help you with all aspects of making a good podcast or making a good podcast great. Join us!