Pitches are an integral part of PR, yet a surprising number of professionals don’t know what makes a pitch successful. They are often left wondering why a particular journalist never takes a briefing. In search of the best pitching advice, I attended a few seminars on the topic and compiled a list of what media folk consider to be the most important components of a pitch.
- Do your research on the journalists and publications that you want to pitch. Don’t waste your time and the journalist’s time by pitching irrelevant stories. While this may seem obvious, you’d be surprised how often this still happens. To avoid this find them on social media find out their interests and what they’ve been writing about.
- Stop broadcasting and start building relationships. Instead think, how am I going to target my key people? Tailor your pitches to key journalists instead of just blasting the same message to everyone. Added bonus: Once you’ve built a relationship you can ask questions like, “Why didn’t you cover my last pitch?” “What can I do to get my client covered?” “Is there a story coming up that might be a good fit for my client?” You can further solidify these relationships by offering helpful tips and information you think could be useful to them. If the journalist has worked with you before it can be helpful to start your pitch with a reminder of this.
- Journalists value stories, not vendor-centric releases. Always ask yourself, “What is the story?” OK, your client released a new product, why should we care? The answer to this question should be your pitch. De-emphasize your client and focus on the newsworthiness or why it is important information for a user.
- Get and use customer testimonials. Do you have an end user? Get them to talk about the value of your product/service. It is important for the PR team to meet with the sales team at least once a month because sales people have valuable insights to customers the marketing team doesn’t have. Sales people can get customers to talk about products especially if you incentivize your sales team for every person they get to agree to be a contact for a story. When it’s too early to have an end user remember to focus on the problem your product/service solves not the vendor.
- Track publications. See what articles get the most clicks. What keywords get articles more hits? If you use this information in your planning stage you’ll be more likely to get your article placed. Journalists are under pressure to write stories that generate lots of clicks and interest. Know what those are! Is there an interesting trend you can provide insight into? Right now on Bloomberg, the most clicked on articles are about Goldman-Sachs and Apple.
- Help the publication drive traffic to your article. If your articles get tons of hits the publication is going to want you back. Clicks = money for them. More hits also helps to solidify your relationship with the journalist because more hits make the journalist and you look good.
- Keep your pitches short. Most writers bow out by sentence three (the patient ones may give you a whole paragraph) so make sure you get to the meat right away. This also ties into number eight.
- Start your pitch with the pitch, not small talk. Journalists don’t have all day to read your life story and credentials. Jump right into the meat of the story. Answer who, what, when, where, why in the first few sentences. Once you’ve hooked them then you can share the long list of companies you’ve worked at over however many years. Given them a reason to care right away.
- When answering HARO or other journalist service requests with reactive pitches the subject line should be the same. Journalists, like you, also work under deadline. They don’t have time to flip through clever headlines looking for email responses to their inquiry. Lay it out for them so your email doesn’t automatically get filtered out.
- Find the perfect title. The average knowledge worker receives 93 emails a day. For journalists it’s far worse. Don’t get lost in the clutter. Stand out from the noise with a clever, catchy and direct title.
If you are interested in learning more on the topic of pitches, journalist Jeff Vance hosts bimonthly, free media relations calls. To learn more and sign up for his newsletter click here. You can also check out audio replays of his calls on his site.