Pitching journalists is a tough job and it’s rarely a PR professional’s favorite task, however it’s the most important job in media relations. What is the news in the story? Tell me now. Just getting an acknowledgement reporters have seen your news is tough. You can’t sell news you have to pitch a story. Why is this newsworthy? Why do I care?
There is an art to pitching journalists. It is over the phone and using email but good also PR consultants go to association meetings and pitch verbally. You have about 25 seconds to grab an assignment editor’s attention and convince them that your client’s story is worth their time.
Is it Newsworthy?
Start by finding a newsworthy angle, this can include:
- An event happening near you, ex. One of our clients is building a seniors residence so we tied a pitch to national seniors day
- Other headlines circulating in the news, how does your pitch fit in with a particular issue already in the news?
- Tying your pitch to things you know interest people, crazy weather, human interest etc.
Cheryl Conner is an entrepreneur who owns a successful PR agency, Snapp Conner PR, and is a contributor for Forbes Magazine. In an article she wrote for Forbes called How To Pitch To The Press: The 8 No-Fail Strategies, Conner says, “Believe it or not, your company and product, by themselves, are not an interesting topic. But as part of a broader story or an example of a pervasive need or a message—now they can shine.”
Believe it or not, your company and product, by themselves, are not an interesting topic. But as part of a broader story or an example of a pervasive need or a message—now they can shine.Cheryl Conner, owner of Snapp Conner PR
Journalists don’t write articles to promote companies or products, they write news. So in what way is your client or product newsworthy to a journalist?
It’s rare that journalists will pick up their phones when you call, however we always like to make a quick call before emailing as emails can easily get buried. Making a quick call along with an email pitch makes your chance of being heard that much better. This being said the majority of the time if a journalist chooses to follow up on your pitch it will probably be over email.
Get to the Point – Now
Kim Harrison, author of Cutting Edge PR says this in an article about writing an email pitch subject line, “Write a clear and concise email subject line. The subject line of too many email pitches is far too vague. Don’t say “Great story for your travel lift out,” because it gives no idea of the content. Many reporters will delete this type of pitch before reading any further.”
When you’re pitching via email or phone make sure you get straight to the point. Provide factual, researched reasons why they should cover your story. Read other articles the journalist has published and see how your story can fit in with what they like to write about. Can your story expand on something they have already written about?
You want to make the journalist aware of your topic or client, you’re not trying to convince them because you’re not a salesmen and journalist don’t like salesmen. If you have done your job correctly they will say yes.
Provide a Great Service
When they do say yes be prepared to move fast if need be and work hard to get the interview, the information, additional photos or whatever it is quickly. This will show the journalist that they can count on you to deliver. A journalist won’t wait around forever for you to get your shit together. They have other pitches and stories they are working on and deadlines to keep so when you pitch them make sure your prepared for anything they may need from you.
Never Forget: Do Your Research
Make sure you target the right media with the right story at the right time.
These days the news room is changing day to day, news rooms are shrinking and journalists positions are changing. For this reason your own databases and other databases you rely may not be accurate for cultivating contacts to pitch and therefor it’s a good idea if you’re not sure if you have the correct reporter or editor to call the news room and ask them whose covering your particular topic.
Remember that whether the journalist said yes or no to your pitch if you were able to interact with them in any way that is cultivating a relationship. So if a journalist says no to your pitch take it as a chance to learn a little more about what they like so that you can make your pitches are more targeted next time.
The more you can interact with the journalist the more they will remember you provide really good stories and fast professional service and your email address will stand out in their inbox.