Working in an exciting field also comes with challenges and uncertainties. Perhaps one of the most taxing duties of a PR professional — and my personal favorite — is pitching stories to the press and trade publications. With journalists receiving hundreds of emails a day, we must find unique ways to make ours stand out. In my three years in the field, I’ve sent my fair share of pitches, and while there’s no science to it, I’ve found a few keys that matter most.
- Don’t Skimp on the Research. Five personal pitches are more valuable than a hundred careless ones, so take the time to pinpoint key people. Instead of sending mass emails to journalists who might be interested, target those who you know will care. A media intelligence platform like Meltwater or Cision is a good place to start to find reporters and their beats. I like to dig a little deeper by searching on Twitter and LinkedIn to identify their interests and see what they’ve written about recently.
- Start with a Bang. The first chance you have to stand out is the subject line. Typically, the shorter the better is a good rule of thumb, and always under ten words. Be specific — don’t make journalists guess what the pitch is about or it’s most likely going straight to trash. If possible, I like to include a key piece of data to ensure credibility. Certain publications will have their own criteria for subject lines, but you’ll learn what resonates best with whom as as you continue to build relationships.
- Tell a Compelling Story. The e-mail pitch must be compelling, concrete and complete, and should portray your client as an expert on the topic with important information and perspective to offer. It should tell a story, including an intro, body and conclusion with interesting characters. Show why your story matters –who does it impact? Who does it help? Why should anyone care? And while telling a persuasive story, be sure to keep it short and to the point.
- Bring Your Best Self. If you’re like me, any email you receive that seems robotic doesn’t earn a second glance. Journalists feel your pain. I’ve found that the more authentic and personable the communication, the better responses I receive. A little appreciation also goes a long way. If you’ve recently read a journalist’s article you enjoyed (which you will already know from Step 1), let them know you liked it. Be professional, but more importantly, be human.
PR professionals will always deal with the uncertainty of not knowing if or when a media pitch will be picked up. But, if you look at pitching as a fun opportunity to tell a story, remember the power of persistence and follow these key steps, you’ll be landing those Tier 1 media pubs in no time.