Caroline’s Tips for a Seamless Sell-In

24th September 2021

Since it’s Back to School month, we’ve been working on an instinct PR curriculum. With media outreach being a fundamental part of our work across all our clients, we like to think we’ve mastered the art – so first lesson is with our Publicity Director Caroline, with her pro tips for a smooth-sailing sell-in…


Fail to prepare, prepare to fail… and all that! The more time and effort you put into the media list the better chance you have at coverage. Make sure you get it ready a good few days before you need coverage to land – always start with a fresh list and do a thorough audit of journalists who may have covered a similar story. For example, if you have a story about pets (a subject we’re no stranger too here at instinct) have a hunt around social media and the internet to see which journalists may have their own furry friend as they may just be a little bit more receptive.


Most news-led sell ins will need a staggered approach with long and mid leads getting a first push and onlines and short leads being the last to go out. If you’re selling in for coverage to appear on a Wednesday for example, it’s probably best to start tee-ing up key short lead names on a Monday, and then doing a full sell in on the Tuesday morning. While newsdesks are a little bit more flexible now, the saying of the early bird catches the worm still rings true. Selling in from 8am or so is generally a good rule to follow – get a story out much past 11am and unfortunately you’ve missed the boat.


There’s nothing more annoying to a journalist than getting a call 30 seconds after you’ve sent them the email to check if they’ve received. They definitely won’t thank you and you don’t want to be blacklisted either. If you’ve not heard from them after a couple of chases, it’s safe to say it’s probably not one for them!


Sometimes, despite your best efforts, the story just doesn’t quite land (or something major happens in the world and scuppers your sell in). Depending on how time sensitive the story is, three days of sell in is normally a benchmark and you’ll have a good idea of how successful the story has been after then.

In these instances you’ll need a plan B. If you have a survey story it’s often worth revisiting the stats and seeing if there’s another angle you can carve out. Can you flip any of the stats on their head? Regionalising them and sending to the relevant local papers can also help prolong coverage. Selling for Sunday papers can also give you another avenue, although chances are they will probably ask if you’ve already tried the dailies!


Embargoes and exclusives! If you’re selling in a story under embargo make sure it’s incredibly clear – put in the title, pitch email and in the body of the release so there’s absolutely no room for error.

In terms of exclusives, they don’t always work for every story, but offering a title first go can help secure a bigger piece. If your client has a particular ‘dream’ title they’d love to secure coverage in, it’s always worth trying an exclusive with them first.