Thanks to our webinars, virtual summits, and clients, we’ve had a lot of opportunities to pick the brains of journalists and PR pros about pitching and relationship building. We took that knowledge, plus the insights from our all-in-one media relations platform, and put together a list of nine pitching recommendations for every PR person hoping to forge new relationships with the media or strengthen old ones.
1. Be concise
Successful pitches come in all word counts. A lot of PR pros say to keep it short—a couple hundred words, a few short paragraphs. On the other hand, according to research we conducted early in 2021, the average length of emails with top click-through rates sent using our platform was 620 words.
The takeaway: Show journalists what makes your story newsworthy but get to the point quickly. You want to help them do their jobs as easily and quickly as possible by providing everything they need to write or produce a story.
2. Be flexible
What you want and need may not be what the journalist wants and needs at that exact moment. Be prepared for your story to undergo some changes and be open to it.
In broadcast, the relationship between producer and PR pro is quite collaborative. As Rebecca Rogers, ex-producer and Broadcast Media Lead at LEWIS said at the 2021 Earned Media Mastery virtual summit: “Producers and anchors want to work with you and with your spokesperson. It’s a natural conversation, much more I would say than with print and online media.”
3. Be understanding
Sometimes your email might get missed or what you’re pitching just isn’t a good fit. Don’t take it personally. Some days, that’s just how it works. A journalist not answering your email doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not interested. Follow up politely, but also learn when to let go.
Follow-up procedure depends on the media you’re pitching. According to our survey of almost 4,000 PR professionals, most PR pros follow up 2-3 days after sending the initial pitch. However, if you’re pitching broadcast which moves quickly and has a lot more daily and nightly staff turnover, you’ll want to follow up multiple times and even within a few hours of sending your first pitch.
4. Be trustworthy
The quickest way to detrimentally impact a relationship is to prove yourself untrustworthy. Don’t mislead your contacts. Don’t sensationalize your subject line just to get an open. Don’t call your first email a follow up when it isn’t. When you’re desperate for an open and willing to try anything, know that you’re risking a lot more than a quick rejection—you’re risking your professional reputation.
The second part of being trustworthy is making sure that you are always factual and accurate. Providing journalists false information reflects badly on them and you, which then means they won’t want to work with you again.
5. Be early
Understand the pressures and deadlines journalists are under and how those differ depending on the type of media they’re in. Broadcast is different than print. For instance, unless you’re pitching a special projects producer who works with a longer lead time, you’ll need to pitch two to three days in advance of when you want your story to be picked up.
No matter who you’re pitching though, give them enough time.
6. Be thoughtful
Journalists do not work for us. Not even a little bit. Journalists answer to their editors, directors, and audiences. If we show that we understand the value of their work and understand their audience, we will build positive relationships. Think about it in terms of giving, not receiving. What can you give the journalist—sources, information, scoops, angles—that will benefit them and their audience?
7. Be cautious with multimedia
Multimedia is a good thing to have on hand, but depending on who you’re reaching out to, files, attachments, or links may not be appreciated in the first email—or even make it through. Spam filters often pick out emails with overly large files or don’t allow embedded images to be viewed.
According to that survey we mentioned earlier, most PR pros (57%) use links to popular file-sharing platforms such as Dropbox or Google Docs to send their multimedia.
8. Be thorough
Make things as easy and simple as possible. Be reachable and make sure that your resources are organized and the expert sources you’re offering are available—and ready to chat.
Time-poor journalists should never have to beg or hunt you down for more information. It’s your job to do the heavy lifting.
9. Be interested
You don’t always have to be pitching. Sometimes the most beneficial thing you can do is ask a journalist what they will be working on next. You may be able to help them out, or if not you, then someone you know.
For more on building successful, mutually beneficial relationships with the media, read our latest guide, The Trusted Resource: How to Become a Journalists Go-To for free.