At Vitis PR, we have many years of experience getting our client’s stories to the right journalists. We’ve seen the media landscape change over time with mass digitalisation and regular journalist moves within many outlets.
While we’ve built up many journalist relationships during our careers and have an understanding of how the outlets that we work with function - we understand that you may not have pre-existing press relationships. Either because you are new to pitching or you are contacting either an outlet or a journalist you have not spoken to before.
Here are some of our top tips for pitching success:
Do your research on the journalist
Who are the most relevant journalists/publications for your story? Understand what topics the journalist covers. Take a look at their past articles or the publication’s “about us” page to see if your story would be compelling for them. Familiarise yourself with the publication. If they have already just written about it, they’re unlikely to cover the same topic again any time soon so find an alternative, unique angle to contact them with. Mention the article that you’ve read and explain why this new angle might be of interest. Spending time to ensure that your story is the right fit is worth the effort.
Understand the publication you’re pitching to. Does your pitch fit the interests of that outlet’s readership? Are you familiar with their interests? It sounds like basic information but being relevant to the journalist/influencer or their outlet is half the battle of pitching successfully.
Journalists receive countless emails every day from PR and most prefer email, rather than a phone call. Getting a phone call when they are mid-flow writing that all-important story won’t help your cause. An email allows a journalist to look at your pitch at the right time for them.
Find the right email address for them. As well as the contact address book we’ve built up over the years, we also have access to all the up-to-date journalist databases for contact details. Failing that, sometimes journalist details can be found on the outlet's website, but know that many websites don’t disclose staff contact information. If this is the case, you may be able to connect with them via LinkedIn. If you start your email to “Dear Editor/Newsdesk”, it is highly unlikely that you will get a response.
Where is the story?
There may be a story that your client wants to release that won’t be newsworthy or exciting. The task of a PR professional is to make it compelling. Find the angle in the story that will pique the journalist’s interest. This comes with practice and experience. Read news stories, identify hooks, understand what makes something compelling. If there is absolutely no story to be found, provide honest feedback. Perhaps your client or your employer’s new story is better suited to being a post on their website this time, rather than wasting a journalist’s time. Most clients do not want “yes men” as PRs, rather they are paying for your expertise and consultancy.
Get to the point
What is the pitch about? What will make a journalist press open on your email? Summarise your story pitch in one compelling sentence. If it’s boring or vague, it’ll be deleted. Use a teaser for the title or use the most interesting stat from your research if applicable.
Communicate the contents of the pitch in your email - if it is research, write “research” in the pitch followed by the title. If your story is a new product launch, write “New product” followed by your title as the subject line.
Address the journalist by their name and don’t be over-familiar if you don’t know them. It’s always better to err on the right side or formality. After all, you are contacting that journalist as a professional on behalf of your client.
Make the introduction short and don’t use jargon or buzzwords. Not everything is an innovation or disruptive. In fact, make your pitch short but impactful. Tailor the pitch to each journalist where relevant. Remember to add why it matters - either as an issue, for your target journalist or their readership.
What to include and what not to.
Don’t litter your email with images and attachments. You can add links to images and press releases to a cloud-based resource such as a Dropbox folder that the journalist can click on if they find your pitch relevant to them.
Bundle everything up in that email that the journalist may need for their story. Links to quotes, links to any research, images without cluttering up your email. Don’t make the influencer in question scroll through a long essay. Chances are, they will get fed up and ignore your email.
At the bottom of your email provide details of how a journalist might get a hold of you - email, direct phone number. If you are available on social media, include those contact details too.
They work to tight deadlines and may need a quick response from you and there’s nothing worse than not being able to contact you when they need that quote from your client or want a particular piece of information about the brand you are representing.
If you come through quickly with the right information at the right time for a journalist, it is a big step in building a working relationship with them.
Be helpful and honest
If you state in your pitch that your client is willing to do an interview or has a customer or a case study that you can offer, ensure that you can follow through. Provide dates and times when your client is available where possible, make sure that case study is good to go if the journalist requests it.
Other times, the journalist may contact you requesting if your client’s customer is available, whether they can speak on a certain topic. If this is not possible, please be honest and yes, if possible and realistic, you can offer an alternative, say an email Q&A from your client if they do not have availability for an interview, for example.
Follow up, but don’t be pushy.
Journalists do get so many emails on a daily basis so even if your story is relevant, it may have been missed. If you are 100% sure that your story is right up their street but for whatever reason hasn’t elicited a reply, you have a couple of options.
Revisit your pitch and cast a fresh eye over it. Was it compelling, did it really tick all the journalist’s/media outlet’s boxes, If not, rework it to make it more relevant. Secondly, you can re-send the email politely checking in with the journalist. If you don’t get another response, drop it.
Timing can be everything. There are certain times of the day that could be better for certain journalists. Journalists working on a monthly publication may have a different timetable to press working on a daily newspaper. To add to the complexity, each publication goes to press at different times with some outlets, having ongoing deadlines. Going back to point 1, do your research.
You can take a look at the journalist’s social media to see if they are on holiday or at a major conference or on deadline. Some publications provide editorial calendars. You can take a look here to see what is coming up for them. Pay attention and time your pitch accordingly.
If you liked this, we have a whole series of pitching tips, check them out here.