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How to Write a Pitch that Reporters Can’t Ignore

Posted on January 23, 2020 by Michael Grimm and Chelsea Katz

The average reporter gets anywhere from dozens to hundreds of emails from brands, PR professionals and publicists every day. With that many emails flooding a journalist’s inbox, how do you write a pitch that stands out?

Once you’ve identified a newsworthy topic, the next step is to write an eye-catching and easily digestible pitch that will be sent to appropriate reporters. Here are five tips to help you write a pitch that reporters can’t ignore:

1) Do Your Research

Before you write a pitch, research the journalists you want to engage to make sure they – and their outlet – are the perfect fit for your pitched story, brand or client. Questions to ask as you dig in include:

Once you answer these questions, confirm whether that journalist is the best person to engage.

In addition to making sure they are the perfect fit for your brand or client, you also will want to review recent articles. Journalists prefer personalized pitches and tend to react more favorably to genuine relationship-building efforts. Positively commenting on recent coverage or offering new story angles that are thought-provoking, actionable and enlighten the reporter’s beat are two effective strategies for building productive working relationships with media.

Doing the extra homework and making a concerted effort to get to know the reporter and making their job easier with a smart pitch shows that your news is a good fit for their outlet, column or series, and it proves that you did your research and pitched them with a specific reason in mind.

2) Write a Catchy Subject Line

The subject line is arguably the most important part of every pitch. 47 percent of recipients open email based on the subject line, which means five to 10 words can be the difference between a deleted email and landing that big article for your brand.

When drafting subject lines, consider highlighting the following in pitches for best probability of success:

By highlighting the pitch’s most interesting news in the subject line, you quickly relay why the reporter must open the email to read on.

With that said, it is important to keep your subject lines truthful and relevant. Clickbait subject lines – “The most interesting news since sliced bread!” – can be a turn-off to reporters and might even get you put on their blacklist, ruining your chances of pitch success in the future.

3) Keep it Short and to the Point

With emails constantly flooding reporters’ and editors’ inboxes, deadlines, interviews, staff meetings and more, they need to be economical with their time. That means your pitch emails need to be as to the point as possible. Everything important (aka the who, what, when, where and – most importantly – the why) needs to be confined to one short, tightly written paragraph. The longer a pitch is, the less likely a reporter is to even start to read it.

Once you have hooked the reporter and they’ve confirmed interest, then you can share more in-depth information to help them build out the article, interview or segment.

4) Include Graphics and Video Where Possible

We are living in a digital, visual age. In fact, most people only read 20% to 28% of the words on the page, which means the more information you can convey through visuals, the better.

Graphics are especially helpful when the information you are looking to convey is complicated. A simple infographic can help explain even the most complex topics and will help journalists better understand a story concept and help spark ideas on how they will explain it to their audience.

Video is another excellent way to garner interest in your pitch. For example, rather than telling a journalist that your spokesperson is an excellent public speaker, show them by including a video of him/her speaking at a conference or on a recent broadcast segment.

5) Follow up, Follow up, Follow up

Ever hear the phrase, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again?” Well, effective media relations is no different.

You already know that journalists are incredibly busy and are inundated with pitch emails. In all that chaos, even a well-executed pitch can get buried in an inbox, accidentally deleted or even get trapped in that pesky spam filter.

With that in mind, if you don’t hear back from a target reporter after a couple of days, don’t give up – follow up!

That means sending another email … and maybe another one. It also means getting on the phone and calling them.

Until you have a firm “no” from a journalist, that pitch you sent still has coverage potential.

It Doesn’t Stop There

Best media relations efforts don’t stop at the pitch. Once you’ve connected with an interested reporter, it is important to begin to cultivate a relationship with them – especially if you know you’ll want to pitch them again in the future. 

By building a working relationship, you increase the likelihood that a reporter will be more likely to consider future pitches and provide feedback outlining what additional information they’d need to publish a story or make clear why the pitch is not a good fit for them. 

A strong relationship also opens the door for journalists to come to you when they need subject matter experts or quotes for a story in progress. This will help you become a better PR professional and help you better serve your brand or clients.

While media relations and pitching may seem daunting, anyone can pitch successfully by adhering to the aforementioned tips and communicating with media respectfully. Reporters are human beings too and acts of generosity and mutual respect go a long way in forging positive media relationships and consistently securing impactful coverage. 

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