Let’s take a look at the art of pitching. This post of tips and advice from top reporters will ensure your pitch is fine-tuned to perfection.
1. Be clear and concise.
Your pitch is not your news release.
Time is of the essence. Journalists don’t have the time to read a long email. Alan Carter of Global News stresses, “Time is short so brevity and clarity are best.”
The pitch should explain, as briefly as possible, a story angle a journalist might want to explore. Include minimum basic facts as rationale.
Include the name and relevance of a spokesperson. State whether this angle and spokesperson are reserved for this outlet and why you thought this particular journalist a good fit. Reference a story they wrote to prove you’re not casting blindly.
If your pitch relates to information also issued in a news release, you can include that info in your pitch as copy cut and pasted below or as a link to your news release online. Journalists who like the angle, but may not know you, will appreciate a quick way to verify the legitimacy of your news.
Most journalists won’t take time to open an attachment they didn’t request. Don’t worry—if they like the angle, they’ll contact you for more info if they need it.
2. Target members of the news media.
Tailor your release for journalists and outlets.
Andree Lau, Senior News Editor at Huffington Post Canada, says that PR professionals should “know what kind of stories we tend to cover. I have all the time in the world for PR people who tailor their ideas to our audience and our style, but I filter out PR folks who regularly send me irrelevant pitches.”
Sending a generic, or even worse, an irrelevant pitch to a journalist is a sure way to get your name on a “block senders” list.
“When you pitch, do your research and know your audience. I’m amazed at how many pitches I receive to cover stories not based anywhere near Washington or not related to anything I would ever report,” said Jackson Proskow, Washington Bureau Chief at Global National.
3. Provide a unique newsworthy angle for each outlet you pitch.
Make sure your angle is interesting and interests the particular journalist whom you pitch.
Alan Carter of Global News looks for a singular angle in pitches. “Take the time to look for a unique angle to pitch,” Carter said. “Feeling like one of thousands being pitched an idea doesn’t motivate me.”
This is the hardest part of pitching. Your boss or client will be eager to see how many stories you placed, and sending out pitches one by one with unique angles takes time and work. It’s also difficult to come up with several unique angles on some news items, but it is never impossible.
Why not pitch an online slideshow depicting a visual story to one outlet, and a one-on-one with the lead scientist on the project to another? Is there a customer willing to share his or her experience? Is there a story within the project team you can share for an interesting inside-out view of the news?
To save time, prewrite all your pitch emails and save them in your drafts folder. Then you can just pop in the email addresses and send them all within minutes of your news release going out. Preaddressing draft emails increases the risk you’ll send them before you mean to, so hold off on that.
4. Don’t keep calling.
PR pros are persistent by nature and while persistence may pay off in other areas of your work, pitching to a journalist can be delicate. Continually following up by phone is not needed or appreciated.
“Don’t call to see if we’ve received your email. If we’re interested, trust us, we’ll call you. And, our interest diminishes with every subsequent email and call,” said Dawn Walton, Managing Editor at CTV Calgary.
Ron Nurwish, Huffington Post Canada’s social media editor, only recommends calling if you made a mistake in the news release or if there’s something urgent.
5. Use a newswire service.
A wire service is an important, trusted source for journalists. CNW takes significant pains to verify senders to ensure the content is from a credible source, which can comfort busy journalists seeking timely quality content.
“If a news release is on the wire and it’s important, we won’t miss it—it’s monitored,” says Pierre Saint-Arnaud of The Canadian Press.
6. Be factual.
Digital news pioneer and independent technology reporter Saleem Khan has this to say about pitching: “Don’t sell (it won’t work). Stop saying everything is innovative or revolutionary. Be factual. Be focused.”
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No one knows a journalist’s audience better than he or she does, so provide reasons why your company or product will interest that group.
Save the selling points, marketing-speak and exhaustive features list for a company blog post.
7. Feature an informed, dedicated spokesperson in your pitch.
Every pitch should offer a dedicated spokesperson. Ensure that your spokesperson is approved to speak for the company, prepared to speak to your pitch, (and is aware that the PR team is pitching him or her as an expert). Your spokesperson should be able to comfortably answer any question on the subject.
Anita Bather, a reporter for News1130, says: “If you’re going to send out a news release or make a pitch, make sure your spokesperson is actually available to us that day. There’s no point in sending something out if you don’t have anyone for us to clip.”
What tips do you have for creating the perfect pitch?