How to pitch to journalists
Being able to pitch effectively to journalists is a vital part of PR. These days journalists are incredibly busy, often responding to a 24-hour news cycle and working to short deadlines while being inundated with emails.
Making sure your pitch to media gets noticed can be a challenge.
So whether you are pitching in comment on the news story of the day, selling in a story about your firm’s new strategy, or have an important case you want to publicise, there are some key things you need to do to get your pitch to journalists noticed.
Do your research
The most common complaint journalists have is being sent stories that are simply not relevant to their audiences or do not fit with the format of their publication. The best pitches are highly targeted, so you need to do your research.
Think about who will be interested in your story
There are a number of media databases you can use to research the best media outlets and journalists to pitch your story to, as well as checking the publications themselves to see the kind of stories that get covered, who writes about what and who the readership is.
Some of the most popular media databases include:
Consider what slots are available
Many publications will take articles from external contributors, run profiles, or feature Q&A slots. Others are news-focused and will only be interested in comment that fits with their news agenda or breaking news.
Showing that you understand this and being clear where you think your story fits in will make it far more likely to be picked up.
Some pitches to journalists will be targeted at just one carefully selected outlet while others will go out to a larger media list. Consider what will work best for your story.
Is it best to contact a journalist by phone or email?
If you know a journalist well, your story is complex, or you want to give it to the journalist as an exclusive, it’s worth putting in a call first to outline the details. Make sure you have a pitch email with further information ready to go so that you can send it over once you are off the phone.
Make sure your call isn’t at a time the journalist is likely to be up against a deadline and keep it brief. Explain what you’ve got and the reasons why you think they might be interested, but try to keep it short and relevant.
Be prepared and make sure you understand the ins and outs of what you are pitching in to the journalist so that you can answer any questions there and then. This applies to writing email pitches too – you need to be quick to respond to questions if you want to capitalise on any initial interest.
How to write your email pitch to journalists
Your email pitch should be short and to the point – a few paragraphs at most. Don’t bother with small talk in your intro – get straight to what you are offering.
Make sure you get the most interesting aspects of your pitch in first, whether it’s a strong or controversial opinion, a record-breaking year for your firm or a landmark case.
Be clear on where the story fits in the publication – is it commentary on breaking news or are you offering an article on the implications of a recent case? Are you offering a story as an exclusive?
Make sure you are clear about why this story matters to the publication’s audience – how will they be affected? What are the implications?
If you are pitching in a profile piece or news about your firm, think about what makes the individual or company stand out from the crowd and make sure it features in your pitch email.
Remember you need an eye-catching headline
You could write the best pitch email in the world but if your subject line is boring, the journalist may well simply press the delete button without reading it. Draft a subject line that stands out and catches attention.
Follow up and feedback
If the journalist gives you feedback on why your story won’t work for them, take it on board. Modify your pitch if you can, or make sure your next story fits their criteria.
Deciding on whether to follow up with a phone call will depend on the journalist and the story. Most journalists will not welcome a call asking if your email has been read but some will be grateful to be reminded of a great story or an opportunity to run an exclusive that they may have missed.
For successful media pitching, research and preparation are key. Keep pitches brief and personal and make sure you are clear on what your hook is and why the journalist should cover it.
Hopefully if you have followed these steps, you will get some interest back from journalists. Make sure you respond in a timely fashion, answer any questions and ultimately, are able to deliver what you promised.
If the journalist is pleased with the story they have got from you and have found working with you on the piece a straightforward experience then the next time they spot an email from you, they are more likely to open it, making your job a little easier.