In the public relations industry, the pitch is key in receiving coverage for a client. Relationships with reporters and editors play a paramount role in securing media attention but more importantly, one must understand the reporter’s audience.
The most successful pitches are those that are tailored to the reporter and provide useful and interesting information — a good story. Stay away from generic information and always have a hook. Remember that you are talking to a person and the communication should be treated as such.
In addition to being authentic in a pitch, also keep it short and to the point.
Do Your Research
Before crafting an email to a reporter or editor, you must have an understanding of the audience you are trying to reach. By learning the interests and background information of your audience, you can determine which media outlet will be most effective in reaching that group.
With countless magazines, websites, newspapers, blogs, podcasts and shows in the market, plus more popping up all the time, you have plenty of outlets to choose from, some of which might be specifically targeting your desired audience.
After selecting the outlet you want to pitch, the next step is deciding which reporter or editor within that organization you need to reach out to. Most reporters cover a specific area or beat. Familiarize yourself with the previous work of different journalists to determine who would be most interested in covering that story.
For example, if your client is a hospital, a sports editor or education reporter probably won’t be of much help. Instead, search for past articles or stories in the healthcare field. Chances are you’ll find a writer or newsperson who would be interested in delivering your message.
Writing the Pitch
Now that you have determined the journalist who would be most interested in telling your client’s story, you are ready to craft the pitch. However, this step takes more than just sitting down and writing the first thing that pops into your head. You should be creative but still maintain professionalism. Get to the point quickly, but be clear with what you are trying to accomplish.
When using email to pitch to the media, the subject line is crucial. This is your first impression and often will be the reason why the reporter elects to read your message or not. Avoid using generic subject lines such as “story idea” as these will almost assuredly be immediately sent to the trash . Try to put yourself in the reporter’s shoes, and craft your subject line similar to the way they might write the headline for the story.
After writing an attention-grabbing subject line, address the journalist by name and state your intent. Much like the subject line, try to begin your message with a hook, but avoid overdoing it. Remember, you are writing as a public relations professional not a salesperson.
Open with the lede of the story you are pitching and continue by providing additional details about why the reporter should consider covering it. Explain how the story would be appealing to that outlet’s readers, listeners or followers. With specific details needed to craft an effective pitch, it’s important to note that these should be unique for each recipient. Avoid using a template or reusing pitches for different stories as most media members can sense the lack of authenticity.
As you conclude your pitch, include a date if the story is time sensitive and offer to provide additional information or help if needed. Also, be sure to thank the reporter for their time. Even if they elect not to pursue the story, they will certainly appreciate your sincerity and professionalism.
Wait and Follow Up
When pitching to the media, do not expect an immediate response. Journalists are very busy and they receive a lot of emails, so it’s entirely possible that yours got lost in the shuffle or was simply overlooked. However, as time goes by, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a nudge to the reporter.
Depending on when you are hoping for the story to run, do not hesitate to send a follow-up message after a few days or weeks. If you get no response on your follow-up, do not get discouraged. It’s highly unlikely that you will get a story from every pitch you send. Simply move on to another media member or outlet that might be interested in covering the topic.
As is the case with any form of writing, you’ll get better at crafting pitches the more you do it, and not every pitch will be your best work. It’s important to have a short-term memory: Don’t dwell on your hits or your misses. Whether you successfully secured coverage from your message or got no response, stay confident, follow the same guidelines and you’ll be a media pitching pro in no time.