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Nailing that pitch



Pitching to journalists is an essential part of media relations. You could have the best idea to exist, but if it’s not packaged and presented effectively, it might never see the light of day, meaning it’s crucial to get it right the first time.

Pitching can also be daunting at times, and if you work in public relations, you’re likely to be familiar with that sinking feeling when your bright ideas go unanswered.

But one should never dwell on this, as when it comes to pitching, a wide array of approaches can be taken with no set ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers, so long as it works! You just have to find what works for you and run with it.

Here, I’ve shared some my own pitching tips and tricks.

Prepare and research

Before anything else, ensure your idea is relevant to the platform you’re pitching it to by giving the publication a good read, listen or watch.

Ask yourself: Is this idea original? Is it right for the audience? Will it spark a discussion?

Next, make sure you pitch to the correct person. Most journalists receive hundreds of pitches every day and the last thing they need is you further clogging-up their inbox with emails that are of no use to them. Find out which journalists are writing similar pieces to what you’re pitching, or simply call the editorial team and ask who the best person would be to send your idea to.

Gorkana is also a great tool for retrieving this information, and a lifesaver for communications professionals across the globe! In addition to providing an overview of the media outlet, circulation figures and all kinds of other useful stuff, publications list their journalists, their roles, contact details and what they like to write about. You can often find the pitch preferences of individual journalists too (e.g. ‘email only’).

There’s also no harm in giving the person you’re pitching to a search on Twitter. A quick scroll down their feed allows you to get a better idea of their personality, interests and views, which can help inform the way you approach them. I also, oddly, seem to find it easier to pitch to journalists if I know what they look like…just me? Thought so.

Timing is also key. Many journalists work unconventional hours, meaning your pitch could be landing in an unmanned inbox without prior research. Again, check the website and the journalists’ Twitter to see if they have been active recently.

Build strong media relationships

Before going any further, I want to stress that the indispensable value of meeting journalists in person should never be overlooked, and should be done wherever possible.

Take them for a coffee and get to know them as a person as well as a journalist, find out their interests, what makes them tick, and express your interest in what they do. Basically, become their best mate. It’s a million times easier to do this in person that it is via email or on the phone, and they’re much less likely to say no when you’re right in front of them!

By allowing them to put a face to your name, you’re also much more likely to receive a response when they see your emails land in their inbox.

If you can’t meet with a journalist for whatever reason, gaining their trust and respect is simple; consistently send them good ideas, bring them to life with quality content, and deliver them on deadline. Trust can also just as easily be lost by doing the opposite of this.

Be concise

As we’re all well aware, journalists are extremely busy people who are often working to tight deadlines, meaning you want to occupy as little of their time as possible whilst still ensuring you get the message across.

A good start is to remove the likes of “How are you?” or “I hope you’re well”. While this may seem like the pleasant thing to do, it can often come across as overly polite, especially if you don’t know one another very well. Just get straight to the nitty gritty by summarising exactly what your story is in the first sentence.

Following this, bullet points can often be effective to summarise your key points, as well as any relevant statics or research to give credibility to your narrative.

Similarly, when pitching over the phone, it’s a good idea to draft a brief script to run off to ensure you nail all of your points with conviction without going off track.

An eye-catching, succinct subject line is also vital. Lead with a clear indicator so the journalist instantly knows what the piece is about, such as ‘TECH NEWS:’ or ‘OPINION:’ for example. This can essentially make or break your pitch, as it can be the difference between the journalist reading on or discarding it all together.

Finally, before hitting send, look back through the email and remove anything that doesn’t say something new.

Final quick-fire tips

·         Unless it’s urgent, always email in the first instance. Research has proven that the majority of reporters prefer email communication, and this gives you something in writing to reference when following-up

·         Don’t give everything away. A pitch should be viewed as tool grab the attention of journalists, as such, invite a reply by offering additional information such as accompanying images, access to research or an interview should they express interest

·         Three is enough. One email, one follow-up email and one phone call is enough. If at this point you’re still unsuccessful, draw a line under it and pitch a new idea

 

 

Tagged with: PR, PR campaign essential, PR Manchester, Public Relations