Did you know that an average media reporter receives five pitches per day, but crafts only up to five publications per week?
Only 25% of the stories written by journalists come from pitches.
That’s why you need to work out some winning approaches to slip your content into journalists’ hands, get your story published, and gain more value from media coverage.
When you do media pitching professionally, you:
- Network with your targeted audience
- Probe your potential consumers
- Lure qualified leads
- Kindle investors’ interest
- Increase your business authority and credibility
- Get a healthy dose of criticism from online buzz
To master the art of pitching, you must interact with journalists. Mutually-beneficial relationships is one of the media coverage essentials you don’t want to risk. And when it comes to nurturing a meaningful relationship, it’s never fast. You cannot simply force reporters to trust you and your words.
Don’t worry, it won’t take you 10 years to learn how to pitch reporters productively. You can use the below pieces of advice that I compiled from my experience building and maintaining long-lasting relationships with journalists. To support my words, I’ve reached out to some experts who receive/send pitches on a daily basis.
Lesson #1 Keep to relevancy and accuracy
Since 69% of journalists believe only 1 in 4 stories pitched apply to their audience, you need to prove relevancy by doing the following:
- Distil the idea
- Think of relevant content hooks (freshness of perspectives, unique insights, extraordinary elements in the story, etc.)
- Frame your message
- Make a clear value proposition
- Deliver a newsworthy story
You should also keep in mind that 41% of reporters think of the “shareability” of the news before they make a decision whether to cover it or not. For example, in 2020–2021, the most preferred topics were those on COVID-19 and how businesses strived for the new “normal”.
Journalists also look for trendy stories with some positivity.
Importantly, you should provide accurate, substantial, and solid data. Double-check everything before sending your PR pitch and indicate that it’s [Fresh Data] in the subject line (check the example below).
Lesson #2 Deliver a short but meaningful message
It turns out the length of your PR pitch matters.
Over 90% of journalists prefer pitches that are less than 200 words. However, I wouldn’t take word count as law. Concentrate on the essence and solidness of the data you provide rather than on the number of words.
“People also love lists,” says Christopher Moore, CMO at Quiet Light. “They look brief and concise, without any unnecessary information and much wording. Providing a short list of points from your content is also an option, especially if you struggle to decipher which one can be the most meaningful at the moment,”
Lesson #3 Avoid self-promotion
Self-promotion is never a good idea when pitching the media.
There were times when I mentioned my personal website at the beginning of the email body. Such emails didn’t work.
Boasting of something you own has nothing to do with bringing value to journalists.
What should you do instead? See the next lesson.
Lesson #4 Replace “I have/want/need” with “You get” or “Your interest”
Focus on what they want to hear about rather than what you need.
In this way, you demonstrate the newsworthiness of your content and emphasize why it may be of any interest to the person who will weigh all the pros and cons of covering your narrative.
Here’s an example of a PR email pitch sent before National Move More Month. Pay attention to the phrases: “where you are”, “would you be interested”, “you are offering to people”.
Lesson #5 Ask how you can be helpful
“I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with information, but I wanted to make this email 100% helpful and to the point.”
If you have ever written something like this, you should have definitely included something helpful in your pitch.
“Thinking that you’re helpful and providing some actual help are two different things. Mutual help builds a strong bond,” believes Stephen Light, Co-Owner and CMO at Nolah Mattress. “Here’s an example. Once our story had been published, our PR person wrote to the journalist and suggested our help. A few days later we received an email asking to send the results of the next A/B test. Which we happily did. The journalist was the first to get the fresh stats, and we got our business media coverage again.”
Lesson #6 Personalize your pitch to the max
Artificial intelligence can help you with personalized approaches, predictive pitching, and social listening.
According to Brian Nagele, CEO at Restaurant Clicks, “Personalization should start from tracking journalists’ interests, preferences, likes & dislikes in social media. For example, before pitching my restaurant review to a columnist, I actually found out he liked raw meat and replied to his questions on Twitter, providing some valid sources. Then, in my review, I made an emphasis on the sanitary norms, when it comes to raw food at restaurants. Later, we chatted pretty much discussing the pitfalls of raw products.”
Brian continues, “Mention the importance of their previous research, article, etc., but don’t explode with, ‘wow, oh, wow, what a brilliant article you wrote the other day!’ Instead, keep it conversational, but professional.”
You can acknowledge that you read previous stories by this journalist and that you found them thought-provoking or that they contained impressive research results (see the below screenshot).
Then there’s the subject line to get journalists to open your email pitch. Use an attention grabbing or emotional trigger in it.
Lesson #7 Don’t go too far…
Might there be a teeny-tiny possibility that sometimes I went too far? Unfortunately, there were such cases.
Here’s a subject line from the PR pitch that I sent to a journalist:
Please, please, please, check my story!
There were even more “pleases” in the email body. What can I say? I was young and desperate to win a powerful PR figure over (who isn’t?!)
Be creative with subject line styles, but don’t go to extremes. Begging is one of the don’ts that make journalists question your professionalism and devastate your relationships with media reporters.
So, here we’ve come to the worst mistakes when pitching journalists.
Some other don’ts to keep in mind when it comes to pitching
Don’t use politically-colored language
Or political jokes in your pitches.
I made one (only once!) and it taught me a lesson: Don’t do it again.
You do want to stay friendly with journalists, don’t you?
Don’t get over-emotional
Note 1. No is no. Accept that.
Your thoughts may sound like this: “They refused to accept my well-built narrative. Probably because they didn’t like my last tweet.”
There may be tons of reasons why your media pitch was rejected. And it may have nothing to do with your social media.
Note 2. Keep your over-satisfaction with your ingenious ideas out of your pitch text.
Don’t follow-up too much and too often
“People get emotional. I get emotional too! Once a PR person pestered me to death, reaching out to me via DM, email and social media simultaneously,” shares Ouriel Lemmel, CEO & Founder at WinIt. “And you know what? I blocked him everywhere. Because how else could I get rid of those follow-ups coming every single day?”
What’s the magic number of days before you send a follow-up email? More than half of PR professionals wait at least 2–3 days. But it might be better to stick to 3–5 days.
Don’t trick into clicking
It’s one of the most common email pitch mistakes that can undermine your PR campaign. Click-bait titles or content appal journalists and evoke distrust, positioning you as a person who doesn’t take public relations seriously.
Don’t target all journalists at once
Some PR pros are still creating email lists of 500+ contacts, based on the Agility PR Solutions report. However, mass distribution isn’t as effective as you think since a mass email reads like a mass email.
Personalization is always the better strategy.
My 10 years of pitching journalists weren’t in vain, were they?
During 10 years of mastering the art of media pitching, I’ve learned some practical lessons.
Here’s the last one:
There’s no magic pill for avoiding headaches if you’re striving for perfection in pitching journalists.
Let’s face it—nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. And if someone tells you otherwise, it’s a lie.
So, instead of striving for perfection, read some more pitching recommendations, learn from my experience and the expert advice on pitching I’ve included and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a journalist’s go-to PR person.