Having a good story is not enough to guarantee coverage in the media. As PR professionals, we know that crafting a good pitch is more than half the battle. We often question what kind of information to include: Is it newsworthy? What is unique about this? How can I break through all of the other noise? These questions help us develop our pitches and get excited about the story we would like a reporter to help tell.
The pitch is such a crucial part of our jobs and we need to be confident in the different ways we present our stories, whether via email, phone, or even in person. And, in addition to having a great pitch, we need to make sure we get it in front of the right person. The “what” we are pitching is just as important as the “who.”
Below are some Dos and Don’ts to help ensure your next pitch is perfect.
Do practice your pitch
We advise clients to go through media training so they are clear on messaging points and have strategies on how to approach an interview. As PR pros, we should do the same. You only have a minute to capture the reporter’s interest, so be clear and concise in your conversation. Practicing with a colleague will help achieve a more direct conversation to avoid stumbling over words, data points or names and titles. Having a colleague review an email pitch with fresh eyes will help ensure you are getting straight to the point.
Don’t get bogged down
Long, drawn out pitches will not get the right kind of attention. Make sure to be direct and give a clear call to action. For example, if you would like a reviewer to come to a play, make sure that the ask is front and center. Many reporters are out in the field and read emails on their smartphones, so make sure you make your point in the first few sentences and in the subject line. If you are calling a reporter on the phone—get to the point! Remember you only a few seconds to grab their attention.
Do make sure to gather all information the reporter may need
Reporters are busy and constantly on a deadline. You want to establish a great relationship with a reporter and make their job as easy as you can, so that they will want to work with you again in the future. Be prepared with any background including b-roll footage, photos, white papers, spokesperson bios and availability. These are important details the reporter may need to accurately tell the story. Some outlets need more access than others so be sure you have communicated with your client all the information you will need to provide to properly pitch your story. You want to be a resource for the reporter, not a burden.
Don’t include attachments
When sending out your pitch via email, do not include attachments as some mail systems will send these directly into the junk mailbox. Instead, make sure to hyperlink any press releases or include the additional information that you want the reporter to see. Only send attachments if the reporter asks for them – that way they are not overwhelmed.
Do research your reporter
Take the time to research your topic and the journalists that cover it—make sure they fit. Read through prior articles to determine their interests and reporting style. Do they interview a lot of people? Are their stories more data and information driven or human interest? Who is their target audience? Once you are able to answer these questions, you can better design a targeted pitch to peak their interest.
Don’t forget to follow up
If your pitch goes unanswered, it is possible that the reporter did not see or read the initial pitch. Always attempt a follow up, but make sure you have something new to add such as a tie to a current event, an interesting tidbit of information, a link to a photo, or a data point that will help emphasize the importance of your story. This technique is a gentle reminder that you can use to put a previous email at the top of their inbox. And, if you were able to secure an interview or a placement, make sure you remember to follow up and thank the reporter for their time.