PR pitching: Journalists speak out on story interests, catching their attention and DIY PR

by | May 27, 2021 | Public Relations

Few things are better for effective pitch planning than hearing what journalists actually want to hear about, and a new journalist survey from entrepreneur PR network PRontheGO offers some tasty tidbits for outreach—as well as some of the practices that make up some of the worst pitches they’ve gotten.

The network’s newly released global survey of 337 journalists around the world offers insights on the changing landscape of public relations, and reveals their best tips on how to pitch them. The survey focuses on pitching for startups and entrepreneurs, but there are lots of takeaways for PR of all stripes.

Among some of the interesting findings:

  • 79 percent of journalists confirm that email is the best way to reach out to them—21 percent also respond to pitches over social media.
  • 28 percent of journalists reported an increase of small business founders or startups directly reaching out to them—in the so-called trend of “DIY PR”.
  • 34 percent of journalists actually prefer when an entrepreneur reaches out to them directly, instead of through a PR consultant. However, the majority of journalists don’t mind hearing from PR—as long as the pitch is relevant to their medium and audience.

Although the tips are outlet-specific, there are plenty of universal takeaways. “Don’t expect free publicity, genuinely have a news angle for your story,” says columnist and journalist at Australia’s Herald Sun Susie O’Brien.

Pitching story ideas:

Candice Sabatini of BeautyNewsNYC.com recommends: “Put the name of the product in the subject line, NOT click bait. (I usually delete those thinking they’re spam) For example: “New BrandX Swimsuits for Summer” is a good pitch. “How to Look Your Sexy Best at the Beach” is a very bad pitch that will probably get deleted—maybe you’re promoting SPF lotion, self tanner, lipo-suction, hair straightener, waterproof mascara, swimwear, or beach towels? I get 350 pitch emails a day. I don’t have time to play guessing games.”

“[I look for] stories that have substance and offer the reader knowledge, inspiration, awareness and an innovative perspective,” says Greece-based wellness and travel journalist Alexia Amvrazi, who writes for Insights Greece, amongst other outlets.

“I am always looking for destinations for forbes.com where I cover travel, always looking for both CEOs/celebs and new museum openings for Business Jet Traveler, and always looking for destinations for Wine, Dine & Travel,” says Margie Goldsmith, who has written over 2,000 magazine and newspaper articles, has won 94 awards, and has written about the 141 countries to which she has traveled.

Getting a reporter’s attention:

On the question of how to create a pitch that catches his interest, Daniel D. Gutierrez, Editor-in-Chief and resident data scientist for insideBIGDATA.com, says: “Describing relevant news, press releases are best. Make sure pitches are based on familiarity with our news outlet; (for example) we are about technology, not Cannabis!”

Kyle McCarthy, co-founder and editor at Family Travel Forum, produces a network of trusted vacation planning resources for parents and grandparents. “If a pitch includes a specific reference to past work I’ve produced, I am much more likely to dig deeper and see if it works for my current editorial needs,” she says.

“A direct email to my name from somebody who knows what I’m doing (checked out my LinkedIn profile) and offers a clear new idea or a smart business concept which fits to my work,” says fashion journalist Barbara Markert, who contributes, amongst other outlets, to The Spin Off.

“State what makes your offering unique, include why it’s great news for right now and have publish-ready images available as well as 1–2 sources interviews,” says award-winning journalist Ruksana Hussain.

Entertainment news reporter and media coach Kayley Hamilton advises to keep clearly in mind that “It is not a journalist’s job to promote you.”

What makes for a bad pitch:

Entertainment news reporter and media coach Kayley Hamilton advises: “The worst pitches are the ones that have nothing to do with the topics the media outlet covers. The worst of the worst pitches are the blatantly wrong pitches—sent to the wrong person, labeled with the wrong outlet, addressed to the wrong name, or a name that has been misspelled. This conveys a lack of time and care put into your pitching. Bad pitches also include generic email blasts that have clearly been sent out to an entire rolodex with no personalization to the journalist or outlet. Also, the overly promotional pitches that are thousands of words long are extremely unhelpful. It is not a journalist’s job to promote you. It is your job as a founder looking to gain media exposure to provide a journalist with valuable, newsworthy content for their outlet and its audience.”

“A company demanded to be in our holiday gift guide and said we should be honored to have a company of their status in it,” reports movie & game critic Gareth Von Kallenbach, whose work has appeared in over 60 publications worldwide.

Take a look at some the survey highlights here.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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