Media Pitching Best Practices: 41 PR Experts Reveal All
I have been saying for years that PR is the future of online marketing. This has mostly fallen on deaf ears, except with my clients who have reaped the benefits.
Many in the digital marketing industry are still living in the dark ages.
Why? PR link building is hard work.
It requires a well-structured plan — frankly, good luck outsourcing.
Public relations starts with finding and pitching to journalists. A misstep here and your efforts will be fruitless. Nail this step, and build powerful organic links that will stand the test of time.
In my opinion, the best link building strategy is rooted in digital public relations
How did I rank #1 for SEO Expert? PR link building.
Yes, your content is fantastic, it is intelligently written, and it is ultra-helpful.
Journalists must cite sources if they want their articles to be valid, so they are always on the prowl for experts to serve as critical sources. When you serve as an expert source for a journalist, you can often receive a link credit back to your website.
There are no better backlinks than those that come from high-authority news sites.
If you establish yourself as an authority, as I have with SEO, journalists may seek you out to serve as a source for a story they are working on.
But, journalists aren’t going to have the time to hunt down every source. Often, they depend on PR pitches.
For example, a journalist for The Chicago Tribune might be looking for experts for a story that involves the eye-health benefits of drinking carrot juice daily.
If you are an optometrist with a local optometry business, you would be a prime candidate to serve as a source for the story.
However, if you write a sloppy email to the Tribune’s writer, you are likely to get passed over. You lost out on a potential significant high-authority backlink or mention.
The purpose of this article is to teach you how to write media pitches that work, impresses, and are valued by journalists.
I have assembled the top Public relations experts to provide their best tips on pitching media, journalists, and writers.
1. Do your homework and Know which reporters to approach
Treat story-pitching as a sales process. Your story is your product, and the media is your potential customer.
Do the research to figure out which outlets and reporters would be interested in what you’re trying to sell them, and when you present your idea to them, know them enough to sell your story to them in a way that they’ll want to do something with it.
2. Connect with existing narratives
It’s always easier to join a conversation than start a new one. Don’t just know your reporters. Know your industry as well.
You have to be as well-read as possible, so you can fit your pitch in with emerging narratives and established talking points. See what opportunities exist to plug your pitch into pre-established discussions, and insert yourself as best you can into them.
3. Offer creative assets and more
Knowing how busy the media is on any given day, always offer ways to help them round out your story.
Do you have unique creative assets, like pictures or videos, you can give them access to? Can you connect them to a customer for a quote? Is there an opportunity for live action shots? If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of these, make them available.
It is not the reporter’s job to promote your company. The old school self-serving press release is ineffective. Think about the big picture, the industry and/or the community and how your company’s news plays a role in that realm.
For example, I often pitch Davenport University’s nursing program. I develop related story ideas surrounding economic impact in the communities we serve, the hands-on student experience, the impact of technology on education, etc. I cannot ask media to do a story solely on the fact that we have a great program. That’s not a story. Instead, I put my reporter hat on and think about the stories that are within our program.
Next, brainstorm creative story angles to share your company’s stories and consider what kind of sources a reporter might need for an interview. Make sure those sources are available before sending a PR pitch! There’s nothing worse than a key source taking off on vacation right after you submit the pitch!
Then, succinctly communicate the story via email to the reporter, taking into consideration the kinds of stories they like to tell based on previously published stories on their news site.
2. Timing is key.
Be aware of current events, as well as both local and national news. *When there is breaking news, such as a new royal baby or a local crisis, it may not be a good time to send a pitch.
You also should *be aware of what’s hot in pop culture* — and find ways to tie that information to your pitch. For example, the university I worked at
previously had a religion course called From Revelation to ‘The Walking Dead.’ I pitched a story to the media about the course — which was about apocalyptic biblical texts — to media right before the season premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead. After persistent pitching, it was picked up and ended up having a reach of more than 545 million.
3. Note the photo, video and/or audio resources you have available upon request as some newsrooms may not have a large enough staff to gather the
It also is important to note what kind of access you can provide to reporters. I have often worked with reporters to provide them access to classrooms, special events, laboratories and more.
For example, Davenport University has an incredible nursing lab with human patient simulators. As a media relations professional, I am always happy to work with a reporter to get them in a lab to see these simulators in action. I also help gather students who can speak about their experiences
to help save reporters time.
Understand How to Write a PR Pitch Email
Sample Media Pitch Email
Media Pitch Types
There are two main types of media pitching we will be dealing with today. It is important to distinguish between the two, although both share many fundamentals regarding how we pitch them.
A cold pitch is pitching a journalist a story idea that you feel you could contribute to, acting as a source. This means the journalist has potentially not considered the story.
If you are an optometrist, you might see big news breaking about poor eye health being related to wearing a specific type of sunglass brand (I’m just making that up for example’s sake).
Maybe this news ran on CNN.
In this case, you could cold pitch DallasNews.com a story that counters the claim. You would cite your expertise in the field, along with your credentials, and hope they decide to run such an article and follow up with you as a source.
Another example would be with you discovering new research in the field of vision health. You feel strongly that this new research would make a great story, so you put together a media pitch.
The inquiry pitch means that the journalist is writing the story and has reached out for help from potential experts to serve as sources.
In other words, the journalist does not need to be pitched over the story idea. They only need to be assured that your expertise offers value to their proposed article.
In both cases, how you pitch the story will make or break your inclusion as a source into the story.
1. The most important thing to do before you pitch is research.
I know, PR is supposed to be this glamorous industry filled with beautiful people that should be able to sell water to a well. But, there’s a ton of work done on the back end that is not sexy or fun that will increase your probability of quality coverage tenfold.
Conduct research to determine what questions your audience is asking (or even better, what they should be asking), and then use your understanding of the client to help answer the question, How does my client solve X problem for Y customer? And there’s your pitch.
2. Relationships with journalists are valuable.
Many people will say that maintaining good relationships with the press is a way to get good media coverage — and they are right. However, developing those relationships is hard work. It takes one good pitch to land an excellent piece of coverage. However, it takes one bad pitch to be written off, and many, many good pitches to earn the trust of just one reporter.
You’ll get pressure from bosses, clients, and colleagues to hound reporters until they respond. Maintain your integrity. Only send valuable, newsworthy, forward-thinking pitch ideas. Seriously, stick to your guns on this one. It will pay off in the long run.
3. Make sure to check all the boxes for the client.
Finally, it is important to understand what constitutes as good media coverage can be subjective — that is, if your client does not recognize the
value in something, is it still good? They are the ones paying the bills, after all.
When you get a hit you are proud of, step back and ask yourself if the coverage aligns with your client’s business objectives, messaging and positioning. Is the overall sentiment positive? Are you reaching a target audience? If it checks all the boxes, present it to your client in a way that details its value. PR is widely misunderstood. Good coverage can offer a teachable moment for your client, but you have to be the one to recognize that opportunity and run with it.
1. Make a third-party source available if possible.
Oftentimes, one of the first problems with a pitch is that it is overly promotional. If you make an outside source available for comment to a reporter, it automatically boosts your credibility and saves the reporter the hassle of having to fill in the missing pieces of your proposed story.
2. Check the comment pages of stories.
Targeting a reporter that you think is perfect for your client? Give the comments section of their articles a look. People comment about what they see wrong with the article, ways to advance the conversation or share what they’d like to see written about next. If you can pull that comment and share it with the reporter and provide a source, it’s very convincing and shows that you did your reading.
3. Work with the marketing team for data.
Is your client or company running any advertising on social media? If they are, you should reach out and sit with the person running those ads. The feedback will be able to give you critical information on the interests and demographics of your audiences.
It’s all about the headline; journalists need a reason to open your email- think about how many they receive each day and the process they will use to sift out the good ones. Keep journalists guessing with snappy headlines which include questions and tempt them to open the email and read your press release.
2. Reach out to personal contacts.
If you’ve built up personal relationships in the past, make use of them in the future. Good outreach and PR is all about relationship building. Remember, you need to both give and receive; don’t instantly expect to obtain coverage from a contact if you’ve done nothing to support that journalist in the past. Make sure you offer to share any coverage they give you on social media, which will act as an added incentive for them to cover your story.
3. Keep it short and snappy.
Journalists don’t have a lot of time when it comes to reading press releases and the content that introduces it. So, carefully craft a short opening paragraph detailing what you’re promoting and how you think it’s relevant to that specific person. Your content needs to stand out from the crowd, so the punchier, the better.
Include a link to a portfolio (or page) of previous media coverage that you’ve secured for your client. This will validate the marketplace appeal of what or who you’re pitching.
2. Follow the three C’s.
When pitching, it’s essential that your presentation is clear, concise, and convincing. The easier it is for a journalist or editor to grasp what you’re selling, the easier and faster it will be for him/her to share the info and move it forward in the approval chain.
3. Include a single call to action.
While it might seem obvious what you’re looking for when you get in touch with journalists or editors, be specific about your goal. Is it to see if the journalist/editor would like more information about the topic that you’re presenting? To set up an interview with a client? To provide more examples of the client’s work?
Whatever it is, ask the question so that the journalists/editors can reply with a precise response.
We live in an age where our inboxes are bombarded with messages. If your message is concise, the reporter will be more likely to read it.
2. Be clear.
When media pitching via email, clearly state what you are asking at the beginning of the pitch. Reporters are very busy and likely won’t respond to you if they can’t figure out what you’re asking.
3. Do your research.
If you want to become a reliable source, always do your research on a reporter before sending them a pitch. This will allow you to make sure the pitch fits into their coverage. If you build a reputation of sending relevant content, reporters will be more likely to look at future media pitches.
You get three emails per day filled with queries from reporters and journalists for the stories they’re working on. It’s a great, easy way to garner coverage for your brand. Just remember to pitch on topic (and no spamming) or you’ll get blacklisted. That applies to any pitching you do, be it on your own or via HARO.
2. It’s not about you!
You and your contact already know that you’re pitching something that will ultimately benefit you and/or your brand if they run with it. That goes without saying. Your goal is to give your media contact a lead that their audience will love, something that makes their job easier.
Editors, journalists and producers are busy.
They don’t have enough time to get it all done, but they need solid, engaging news. And that’s how pitching on-target with their interests helps them out. If you’ve done your homework, then you should know how your story will appeal to your media contact, and how or why it will resonate with their specific audience. How do you know for sure if your story is of interest to them? That leads to number three…
3. Know your contact(s) and pitch on-target.
Ask yourself these three questions before your pitch your media outlet and contact:
Do you understand the outlet’s areas of interest?
Have you researched your media outlets contact?
Can you directly tie your pitch and your angle to the interests of the publication and the person you’re contacting?
If your answer is yes, congratulations! You’re ready to pitch. If your answer is no, do a little more research to make sure you’re pitching on target before hitting send.
But what about just blasting my press release out for the world to see? Sorry. Gone are the days of expecting the media to cover a story you shared via a press release. While I still always write a press release, I use it as a deep-dive that lends context. What really matters here is the pitch. That’s your email. It should be short, concise, and the recipient should immediately understand why you contacted them. 3 paragraphs: Intro, the meat and sparkle, and how to reach you. After I draft my pitch email, I paste my press release in the body of the email, below my signature. It’s there if a journalist wants additional info. But I don’t expect people to run it directly.
Remember—DO NOT ATTACH ANYTHING to your email. It will go straight to spam or trash. Editors don’t like large file sizes clogging up their inboxes. Instead, provide links to images and videos, or offer them upon request. I find that many small businesses and entrepreneurs tend to be shy with their PR.
It’s important to remember that you don’t need a relationship with a journalist to start the conversation. While relationships never hurt, it’s not a requirement. The only requirement is that you’re pitching a solid, honest story that will resonate with the outlet, journalist and their audience. And that’s what will ultimately help you build your own relationships.
So many brands think that once they engage a PR agency or team, they can put it on autopilot and watch the placements roll in. In reality, engaging a PR team is only the beginning. While a thoughtful, strategic PR team can take you a long way – it is the job of the brand to bring topics, content or subject matter experts to the table that can fill the PR content funnel with engaging, timely and relevant materials.
Even the best PR agency or practitioner in the world cannot help you if you have nothing to talk about.
2. Target meaningful audiences.
If you ask any brand manager about her PR goals, most likely she is going to mention the desire to secure large, national press placements—like New York Times or Good Morning America. While this might seem like the ultimate PR “win, it should not be considered the end-all, be-all of successful PR.
Today’s media audiences are incredibly fragmented so that a brand can make the same impact through a combination of smaller, targeted outlets. Ultimately, a brand’s goal should be to reach the people it truly needs to reach through the channels that matter most to their audience.
1. Make relationships with reporters before having a story you want to pitch them.
If they know your name when the email, phone call or tweet comes in with a pitch, they are more likely to be interested. This also goes for once you have worked with a reporter, make sure that you keep a list of every reporter you have ever worked with and when emailing them do not forget to mention the last story that you worked together on.
2. Use Twitter as a resource for public relations pitching.
Sending reporters a direct tweet will often have less competition than an email their inbox.
Another benefit of tweeting a reporter is even if they do not cover your story they often retweet your pitch to their followers. This allows for a new audience to learn more about the story you are trying to promote.
3. Don’t forget to include the associated press in your PR pitching.
If they pick up the story, it will be most often be seen in newspapers and TV stations from coast to coast.
It is important to know your audience, and it is two-fold. One, you need to know your reporter well. It is important to know their beat, what they regularly and recently cover, and take a look at their social media footprint. Two, on top of all that it is essential to understand their audience. The most straightforward things to focus on are; how does their audience consume media and what types of stories are getting the most engagement
2. Keep it short and sweet.
As a PR professional it is your job to understand what reporters are interested in. Don’t send them long emails with paragraphs of adjectives. Send pitches that get straight to the point. I try and stay around 200 – 300 words.
3. Use Bullet Points.
Avoid hiding the critical information within emails. Write a quick intro and then use bullet points to highlight the key pieces of information that would be relevant to the specific reporter’s audience.
Nothing frustrates a news professional, especially producers and assignments editors, more than receiving a pitch during a newscast or breaking news. There are a few windows of time that can, at most stations across the country, be considered sweet spot times.
– Between 7 am and 9 am – most newsrooms will have assignment editors or producers coming in around that time to line up potential stories for the day and look ahead. Most newsrooms have morning meetings at 9 am or 9:30 am. So if you have news that day in the daytime, you want to be in that conversation. Top of mind increases the probability of news coverage.
– Between 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm – On the TV side this is after the noon show and before the standard afternoon editorial meeting that helps decide the late afternoon and evening coverage. Same rules as our previous point apply.
– 7 pm – 9 pm Never between (9 and midnight) – this is the time slot after all local afternoon shows and before the evening. This is also the middle of the day for anyone who works the late afternoon/evening shift (nightside). This time slot is also a good time to send your press release in for consideration the following morning.
– Magazines – you must check each magazine’s respective editorial calendars. Pitching your product for the health edition of a beauty book 30 days before the magazine is published is pointless. Depending on the circulation of the magazine, editorial lead times can 90-150 days. Naturally, there are online editions they may accept your pitch, but make sure you specifically pitch the online editors.
*times referenced are East Coast. But you can apply the model in any time zone.
– Breakings News – Be aware what is going on in the specific markets you are pitching before your email or call. If there is major breaking news. DON’T CONTACT THEM. Not only is it annoying for newsroom professionals, it highly decreases your probability of earning coverage.
2. Make an effort, tailor the pitch the type of media outlet.
The who, what, why, when, and where are still essential. Add an element that takes into account who you are targeting.
– For television, add some description of what visuals may be available. Depending on what media market you are in and the quality of the story, the visuals may be the deciding factor
– For print/online (newspapers, magazines) – make sure you specifically target the reporter who covers the beat your story is associated with. Make sure you hone in on the effect the story has on anyone interested in or involved in the beat you are pitching too. For instance, a new technology company’s invention to help doctor’s offices track patient’s progress, pitch to the reporter who writes for the medical and/or tech beat. Keep in mind sometimes the media outlet itself is a beat or industry based, IE: Tech Magazines, community-based papers only care about stories clearly tied to that community, mommy bloggers, etc.
– Radio/In-studio TV segments- make sure you are clear that you have a guest available to be interviewed for the X topic.
3. Less is more.
Pick just a few main points to highlight in your media pitch. Too often a business wants to talk about a story and then many other wonderful things about the company. Stick to the essential elements. You must remember that in many markets around the country traditional news outlets get hundreds of press releases per day.
National news outlets see thousands. It is one of the reasons why hiring a publicist with established contacts is important; it helps increase the probability of being considered and possibly covered. The good news is there is more news than ever.
1. The top thing I can recommend is to take your time.
Working under tight deadlines and balancing multiple projects, PR professionals sometimes trip over themselves in a rush to get it all done. Typos, wrong journalist names, missing subject lines—these common mistakes can be avoided by slowing down a bit and focusing on the task at hand.
2. It’s important to build your own library of knowledge on each journalist you pitch.
Website bios and contact databases hardly, if ever, tell the full story of a journalist, what they might cover, and how they prefer to be pitched. As you receive feedback from journalists, it’s beneficial to consolidate those responses into a unified database that you and other team members can use to tailor future pitches.
3. Pick up the phone and call the journalist.
While it’s quicker to reach a large number of media contacts through email and social media, it’s increasingly difficult to stand out in a crowded inbox. But the most successful pitchers are the ones who can synthesize their story idea into a natural conversation with a journalist over the phone. Not only does it make it more likely that your angle will be considered, but the journalist is also much more likely to click on your next email.
1. Niche placements can be just as effective if not more than top-tier placements.
Many people mistakenly assume that the only PR placements that matter are the ones in publications like the New York Times or The Washington Post. Depending on your client, niche publications can give you even better results than placement in the New York Times. This is because
niche publications have a particular audience as opposed to a broad audience.
If you are representing an organic baby brand, a niche publication that caters to natural and organic baby products will likely give you better results than aiming to get a placement in the LA Times. While top-tier placements are still a huge PR win, it is crucial that you don’t write off the smaller publications.
2. Research editors before a media pitch.
Before you pitch your client or product to an editor, make sure they are actually a good fit. If you represent a sporting goods store and you pitch the culinary editor at the Wall Street Journal, you aren’t going to get a response. While this may seem obvious, a lot of PR professionals don’t take the time to perform in-depth research before pitching an editor.
Even if you think that you have the correct editor, go and look at their most recent articles. Often, writers and editors will switch roles within their publications. Just because they wrote about sports a few months ago, doesn’t mean they necessarily still write about sports now.
3. Create a catchy subject line.
Journalists get hundreds of pitches every day. As a PR professional, it’s your job to come up with something that will catch their eye. This often means coming up with a snazzy or unique email subject line to increase your opening rate. When a target journalist is scanning through a hundred emails, they probably aren’t going to open every single one so try to make your email stand out from the rest!
Best subject line pitch examples
1. Tips & Tricks for Pitching to Win – From Small Businesses and Startups to Entrepreneurs and Innovators
2. Dallas Startup Lands High Profile Billionaire Investor
3. Exclusive: IT Company Releases New Dating Technology
4. Writer pitching a sneak peek at Texas’s least-known BBQ joints.
Make sure the reason why you are reaching out is in the subject line and/or the first few sentences of an email. Media are receiving tons of pitches every day. If you are not able to summarize the story or idea in a quick, digestible manner, you are never going to hook them into reading the rest of your pitch.
2. Always take your time to know your reporter especially if you are crafting a pitch for them and reaching out to them often. Are you pitching them because you recently saw them cover something relevant? Tie that into your pitch! Media appreciate it when you show you understand their beats and what they like to write.
3. Don’t hesitate to make a phone call but do it with respect.
Always ask the reporter you are calling if they have time for a quick chat first before diving head in with the pitch. If yes, fire away! If no, move on. Once you have their attention, make sure not to take too much of their time. Keep your elevator pitches on the phone no more than 30-45 seconds!
4. Get to know your reporter.
If you are working with the same person over and building a relationship, ask them out for a coffee or drink if they are based in your area. I have developed some great relationships and met some great friends just through this!
1. Embed a small image in your email pitch to an editor.
I pitch products a lot. For some reason last summer, I did a series of media pitches and did not include an image. Later I saw that one of the outlets wrote about my client’s product but did not include my client. When I asked the editor why she said that I did not add a photo, so she forgot about it!
2. Pitch the correct person.
You may find a contact from an online database or contacted them last year, but before pitching them this time, make sure that they are still at the outlet you are pitching and that they are still covering the same topic. Often, you can look at an outlet’s website, search the writer’s name, and see when he or she last posted an article. If the latest article is not a recent one, it’s a good bet that they have moved on to a new role.
That being said, when pitching, keep the journalist in mind. It’s their job to cover newsworthy topics that will entice current and prospective readers. Avoid overly self-promotional topics. You are simply wasting their time and your own, as it will likely not be published.
2. Always be thinking ahead.
Requests for quotes from high-ranking officials, statistics, and images, and prepare accordingly. Many journalists have tight deadlines and will likely
require quick turnarounds regarding feedback.
Brand & Community Manager, OnePitch
1. Weekends, take a breather.
Avoid sending pitches over the weekend and risking them getting lost in a journalist’s inbox. According to the data we have collected at OnePitch,
over 75% of responses from journalists occur between Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
2. Always provide the why for the journalist.
Rather than simply stating what your client is doing, provide your media contacts with what the potential impact would be for their audience. Relevant stats and metrics can also be used to back up why the journalist should pursue the story.
3. Less is more.
On average, journalists spend less than 1 minute reading an email pitch before they decide whether or not they are going to respond (AdWeek, 2014). Take a direct and straightforward approach to your email pitch to make sure that a journalist can quickly and easily understand the value of
pursuing a relationship with you and your client.
PR Expert, Author, Speaker, and Advocate, Rhonda Rees
1. Use a unique press release.
I have found that the best way to get great media coverage is to create a winning press release that has an active subject angle or hook.
2. Come up with a very concise email subject line.
Make editors, producers or other booking contacts want to open up your message. This should be kept to no more than around 65-70 characters. Tying your subject into the headlines, offering a unique perspective or creating something original will help you to get the media’s attention.
3. Create a concise paragraph or two at the beginning of your message that will peak their interest, and get them to take a look at your press release so that they’ll want to read further.
4. Develop an email list for targeting.
It’s also smart to put together a tailor-made media list, and to distribute it to the right audience, with the correct editor, producer or contact’s name. Follow-up in the form of sound media relations is also very important. I get on the phones and speak directly to key editors and producers, etc.
For a back-up, making use of web-based wire services is also recommended. PR Web, PR Newswire, and EIN Presswire are some examples. Many of them can also distribute your information to the Associated Press, and provide analytics reports as to where your coverage was granted.
It is also smart to market this effort by posting any media coverage to a website, blog, or by sending it out through social media. Email marketing, making reprints of article mentions, or handing them out at events is also an excellent way to ensure that you will always be remembered.
No one wants to hear an endless pitch if they just aren’t feeling what you are offering. This might push them away from you potentially in the future for working together. As well as possibly making sure to never respond to emails or calls again depending on how lengthy the amount of content you intend on sharing.
2. Be professional and personable.
Use your best manners and don’t let your emotions of a potentially failed pitch get the best of you. Remember, not everyone who may say no at a certain period of time is gone forever. With professional, being kind and remembering to say thank you for your time, please, and thank you may just land you another chance at another point in time. Building relationships with potential clients and friends can go a far way in this business. You never know when you might be able to help each other out.
3. Don’t become a spammer.
Don’t bombard someone with dozens of emails, calls, or check-ups. If you haven’t heard a clear surefire answer by the end of a period simply say something along the lines of Hey there, my accountant wanted to clear all of our current accounts by the end of the month and wanted to see if the pitch was a yay or a nay. Either way, I appreciate you for taking the time to sit down and talk. I really enjoyed it. Short, simple, and to the point as the major theme.
Journalists receive countless press releases and tips each day with each pitch starting with the typical hi xx, hope you’re well!. They know you don’t care how they are, so start with something a little a personalized greeting that feels genuine. Whether it’s bonding with them over a show they’re obsessed with according to their Twitter bio, or mentioning your thoughts on an article they had previously written; a personalized greeting can go a long way.
2. Grab attention
It’s hard to sell something to a writer that isn’t necessarily looking to buy so you want to sell it as your life depends on it. As a PR pitch example, I headed media efforts for Livia’s Indiegogo Campaign which ultimately won my pr agency PR Daily’s Best PR Campaign of the Year.
Livia is a wearable device that helps ease the pain of menstrual cramps so how did I make something so unsexy get viral coverage? I was bold and put it out there with the subject line Periods Are Bloody Awful! Livia’s Here To Relieve Your Pain.
3. Take no for an answer.
Sometimes publicists don’t know how to back down when a writer has passed on a story. It’s okay, and this can even be used to your advantage! You can reply to the journalist and ask them what stories they are most interested in. That way, in the future, you can send the right story their way, and it’ll hopefully end up in a slam dunk.
1.Pitching is all about where and how you sell your story.
While it’s one of the basic principles of public relations, there is an art form to it.
Make sure your pitch is newsworthy and relevant. Journalists are often sifting through hundreds of emails daily. To stand out from the pack, make sure that your pitch is succinct and interesting.
As you’re drafting your pitch, take a moment to ask these questions:
What is the newsworthy component of this story?
Why should this outlet pick up this story?
How does this story relate to past stories that this outlet has covered?
If you have trouble answering these questions your pitch might need to be developed more, or you may want to consider a different angle.
2. Pitch your client’s story as part of a larger trend story.
With shrinking newsrooms, publications rarely feature just one business in a story. PR professionals should do their homework and see how their client’s story can fit into a larger narrative.
3. Foster off-email relationships with reporters.
Set up a phone call or, even better, an in-person meeting so reporters can put a face to your name, ensuring that your pitches have a better chance of not ending up in the trash.
4. Follow up but don’t overload your media contacts.
Journalists are very busy, so more than likely they won’t be able to respond right away. In general, we like to follow up with our contacts one week after the initial pitch. After that, it’s best to move on if there has not been a response.
5. Personalize your pitch.
Chances are you’ve cultivated a relationship with your media contacts. However, blind copying several journalists on email pitches can feel impersonal and often does not result in a response. Instead, send out pitches to each media contact separately and make sure the pitch makes sense for that specific outlet and the reporters beat. For instance, a pitch rounding up the best sparkling wines for the summer would make sense for a food and beverage outlet, but it would not make sense for a lifestyle publication that focuses on home decor.
6. Practice reactive pitching.
If a publication recently published a story that your client would have been perfect for, now is the time to act! For example, we found an article from a widely-read publication highlighting a company’s achievement in zero waste. We happened to have a client that was also taking great strides in diverting waste away from landfills, so we reached out to the reporter and made an introduction. A profile about our client profile was published a week later.
Learn to Reactive Pitch Based On a Publications Recent Articles
Make connections with your journalists before you pitch a story.
Draft a creative story pitch instead of a cold press release and provide backup information.
Personalize each email so that it mentions why they should be interested in your stories.
2. How do you get top journalists and producers to respond to your pitch?
I build a portfolio by prospecting journalists in the tech industry and region by using multiple channels such as Meltwater, Mention, HARO and
Google Alerts. I spend time on researching the beats of journalists in their industry, then build relationships with those journalists, finding opportunities to help them write great stories.
When it comes to pitching, I consider building a connection on a personal level rather than promoting our name. Having to say that I mean I am working with reporters and editors as a fantastic resource by sharing relevant news and proactive story angles that create value for their audiences.
Along the way, don’t forget to chalk up your biggest hits on a Press page.
Journalists like knowing that you’ve been covered in the past. The more success you have, the more momentum and credibility you build, and eventually, reporters may start knocking on your door for a story!
Be A Reliable Provider Of Information, Journalists Like to Work With Established Sources
When it comes to securing earned media for your clients or your company, having a great story is not enough. More often than not, your success will be determined by your ability to craft an effective and engaging pitch that will reach the right journalists.
1. The Subject line is ESSENTIAL.
A common mistake when pitching is not paying enough attention to the subject line of your email. It’s the first (and often the last) part of an email that a journalist will see. Make sure to treat your subject line as if it were the title of a news article. Stay away from “click-bait” headers like “Must see the product from XYZ” or hyperbolic descriptions along the lines of “Incredible news from XYZ.”
2. Keep it short and on-point.
Reporters receive dozens (if not hundreds) of pitches every day, so they don’t have time to read lengthy emails. By respecting the reporter’s time and keeping your pitch concise, you’ll be able to significantly increase your chances of getting a response.
3. Make it personal.
When it comes to effective pitching, quantity does not equate to quality. As opposed to carpet-bombing your local media market, research a handful of reporters who are most likely to be interested in your story based on their previous work. Reach out to them by name.
In addition to leading with the reporter’s name (spelled correctly!), research the recent articles they have covered to make sure your story fits within their wheelhouse.
2. Keep it short and sweet.
Journalists are extremely busy, so keep your pitch brief. If it does not fit on one page, it is too long — if you can keep it to 2-3 paragraphs, then even better (especially as it will not be as overwhelming for journalists that see it on their mobile devices).
You should also include a link to a page on your website with more details about the story you are pitching.
3. Remember to proofread carefully.
Forgetting this final step can have a drastic effect on your results. Write your pitch, step away for at least an hour (if not a full day) and come back to it with fresh eyes for a final proofread before sending. If you have a coworker or colleague that can review it for you, that is even better!
The spray and pray method is not useful in securing quality media hits. Sending irrelevant pitches to reporters may even have a negative effect, as the reporter could remember you as the annoying person and further clogged their email. Conduct your research on both the outlet and the reporter to make sure your pitch will be something that could fit.
Sending a single pitch out and then sitting idly by will not get results. Follow up and offer a new data point or news hook to make the follow up worth reading, and not merely a circling back to you on XYZ. Do keep in mind the outlet you’ve pitched, a follow-up email or call the next day may be appropriate for a daily paper, but it is far too soon for a magazine or long lead outlet.
3. Research, be a social media sleuth.
By researching a reporter thoroughly on social media, you can find valuable information. For example, that the reporter is on vacation. Thus you needn’t waste your time with follow-ups at the moment. A pet peeve for phone calls (in which case stick with email) or a shared mutual interest that you may be able to break the ice with.
Limit your words, break down your pitch to a single soundbite.
3. Be responsive.
When a journalist asks for additional information, quote or data provide it, promptly
How to Write a Media Pitch
Formatting Mean Efficiency
Having a consistent format to your media pitch means a more streamlined process.
Because website’s such as HARO offer lots of opportunities several times a day, you would need to make things as easy on yourself as possible.
Additionally, you may want to have an employee, or someone outsourced helping to send out pitches to journalists. In either case, having a solid, easy to follow, format, is logical stuff.
The Meat: The beginning should get to the heart of the matter. Staying with our optometrist example, the first paragraph needs to clearly and succinctly explain your story idea. Define your story concept to the journalist. In the case of responding to an inquiry seeking an expert source, you will want to get right to the value of the proposition.
The meat of the pitch should immediately bring to light any trending news, new research, or even anecdotal evidence that you’ve experienced on a personal level. This will quickly validate your pitch because you will show that you are an expert by introducing yourself and you will hook the journalist by supplying unique, pertinent data or trending dialogue.
Remember, the news is built on trending subject matter.
Your pitch serving as an extension of that trending subject matter automatically makes you an enticing proposition as a source.
CTA: Just like with any and every aspect of sales and marketing, your call to action will be the essence of your pitch.
To achieve a successful format, you will want to come up with some hard components, such as your expertise, your years of experience, and a variety of calls to action. All of which can be seamlessly plugged into a new pitch.
You will need to write out the pertinent, fresh details, but there is nothing wrong with having a format that works ready to go on the fly.
Be Timely and Relevant
If you are responding to a journalist inquiry on HARO, you need to be fast. This is where predefined formats can help you out.
If you are pitching a trending news story, you need to pitch it before the narrative has run its course. Proposing stale stories will quickly get your email deleted.
Journalists get hundreds of story ideas per week, your story idea about the 2016 election might feel somewhat outdated to a journalist that’s looking for 2018 midterm election story concepts.
With HARO, when a journalist puts up a query looking for sources, they have done so with a timeline in mind.
Even if the journalist says, “respond by [3 days from now],” the early birds will most definitely get the backlink worms.
It’s simple, journalists want to get to work and beat the rush with their stories.
They want to write up their story, plug in their sources, and move on to the next big thing.
If your pitch isn’t one of the first they see, the odds of you being used is low.
Due to this, the use of a PR company that has the resources to respond to journalist inquiries with immediacy can be of real help.
If you don’t want to use a public relations company, it might be a good idea to put an employee on the task of checking the HARO emails several times a day. HARO will send out emails with newly posted inquiries three times a day. If you attempt to respond to a query from several days ago, you are probably wasting your time.
Hence, having replying quickly is critical.
Know Your Reporter
On HARO, the reporter’s beat is defined because they’ve requested the source
However, if you plan to cold pitch Dallas Morning News, don’t just grab a journalist’s contact information and hope for the best.
Journalists are busy.
Assuming that they will cover all stories, or that they will forward your story idea to the proper editor or writer, is reckless.
In fact, a journalist who doesn’t cover trending health news might not even realize that your story offers value for the health beat writer.
Additionally, your pitch will suck if you aren’t pitching the correct reporter in the first place because you should always cite that you have “followed their coverage” on a cold pitch, at least in some capacity. It will add to your perceived worth.
Don’t Write Novels, Get to the point…
I know how difficult it can be to restrain a pitch. Sometimes when we write, we feel the need to explain the in-depth reasoning behind our concept. We think we are being more professional and proving our worth by going into greater detail.
Instead, it turns out; we are boring the journalist to death and getting our pitch deleted.
The more concise you are, the faster the journalist gets to the essence of your concept, and the faster they end up at your call to action. That’s where you want them.
Often, experts will over-validate themselves with credentials feeling its necessary to win the pitch.
“My name is Jim Steen; I’m an optometrist in Fort Worth, Texas. I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas in 1983, eventually graduating from The University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science. I participated in several double-blind vision studies that eventually went on to blah blah blah….”
This is all excellent stuff, and we are all proud of you, but it is just overwhelming.
“My name is Jim Steen, as a 15-year practicing Optometrist in the Fort Worth, Texas area, I have seen several cases of poor vision being related to specific sunglass use. I have also participated in relevant studies involving the matter.”
Boom! We got right to the heart of the matter.
You also don’t want to go off on any deep dives concerning your opinions or even what you consider facts in the matter. Your provided credentials have already determined that you know the subject matter, no need to write the story for them in the pitch.
Some journalists prefer you go ahead and create your quotes for the story as part of the pitch. You need to do so in those specific cases.
If you are responding to a posted query, it will behoove you to follow the postings instructions. As mentioned prior, some journalist might ask you to go ahead and write out your quotes to the story. Some might ask you to discuss your credentials more in-depth.
Always follow instructions even when you think your intuition over the matter is more profound.
Following instructions to the letter is the most critical aspect of a pitch.
On cold pitches, many websites may have contact forms for story ideas. Make sure you use them at first until you establish a relationship with a journalist.
Media Pitch Samples
Now that we’ve gone over some hard details over what makes a successful media pitch, well, successful, let’s have a look at some sample cases and put our knowledge into a working media pitch.
I will divide this up into both a “cold inquiry” and an “inquiry pitch.”
Inquiry Pitch Example
Here’s a real HARO posting by Healthline.com from November 6th, 2018.
A new study says growing up with pets and in rural environments
might be good for your physical health and mental health.
Compared to people raised in urban settings, people who spent
their early years around pets and bacteria-rich settings might
be at a lower risk for mental illness and produce lower stress
responses. We’d like to speak with mental health experts and MDs
who can explain the benefits of these elements, why they might
be so healthy, and what people can do to get the benefits even
if they can’t move to a farm.
Feel free to send initial responses and ideas. I’ll also follow
up with specific questions to pitches that fit what we need for
This is an excellent example because the requirements for this one are super open.
In this case, we need to craft our media pitch within the realm of a concept that we can best serve as a source.
My name is Jim Steen, I’m a General Practitioner in Waco, Texas. Having practiced as a medical professional in pediatrics for two decades, I can cite a great many examples as to why this mental health phenomenon is absolutely true.
Pets are proven to help children cope with anxiety; so much so, I recommend to parents of child patients who suffer from extreme anxiety to try “borrowing” a friend or family member’s dog for a week to see if symptoms subside. As it turns out, parents typically do notice improvements.
Your story idea is outstanding and essential, please contact me to serve as a source as I feel I can offer a wealth of resource.
You can see from the sample above that I immediately define who I am, what my profession is, and how I’m highly relevant to the reporter in short-order.
The second paragraph follows the instructions of “feel free to send responses and ideas.”
The third paragraph wraps up with a call to action and shows passion for the journalist’s story concept.
Cold Pitch Example
At the time of reading this article, who knows what topics may or may not be trending. That said, referring to the early “timely and relevant” section for more details over this matter.
In this case, let’s return Dr. Steen to his Optometry roots and assume he just read an article by a journalist named Bob Bagger in the Kansas City Star. The article was about the trend that has many millennials ordering carrot juices at juice businesses hoping to ward off vision issues that tend to arise later in life.
Hi Mr. Bagger,
I much enjoyed your article, “millennials seek vision in their future by downing carrot juice now.” As an Optometrist with 20-years’ experience in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I echo your article’s sentiments on carrot juice, but also wanted to point out an idea for an even broader take that encompasses more than just carrot juice for eye health.
I commonly recommend egg yolks, salmon, and even dark leafy greens for my millennial patients as a way to not only improve vision health today, but also protect vision well into old age. I believe that millennials’ eye and vision health is compromised by technology, I have a list of essential recommendations in this area as well.
Please contact me regarding this idea, I’d love to serve as a resource for such a story and continue your efforts to spread awareness regarding eye and vision health.
If you notice, I kept with the “millennial” aspect of the subject matter because I assume that the journalist, Mr. Bagger, likely is trying to key in on that massively large demographic with his work.
In paragraph one, we have the meat and potatoes. In paragraph two, we define the exacts of our idea in a concise fashion. We add on new potential ideas to the narrative.
In paragraph three, we lay out our call to action and thank Mr. Bagger.
Following Up On Pitches
With anything you want in life, it often takes following up to get it.
This is the same concept with media pitching. You should always have a plan to follow up on pitches that don’t reply to you.
The follow-up needs to be even more concise than the original pitch.
Hi Mr. Bagger,
I wanted to quickly follow up and see if you were interested in my proposed millennial eye health article that I sent to you last week.
Thanks and Best Regards,
Waco Optometry Partners
Don’t overwhelm in follow-ups, you already made the main pitch, no need to rehash.
If this is a HARO inquiry, following up might not be the best use of your time.
Remember, that journalist likely received hundreds of pitches within the hour, it is unlikely that a reminder of your pitch will move the needle back towards you if they’ve already chosen someone else (which they most likely have).
PR Marketing Experts Have The Advantage
There is nothing wrong with the do it yourself approach. I’m a self-made success, I have most certainly done many things myself. My hands are calloused. However, at some point, scaling a business becomes impossible without the benefit of outsourcing tasks.
If your competition is using a professional PR company, you’re likely outgunned. That is just the facts.
PR firms often have established relationships with highly influential journalists.
A digital PR expert will commonly reach out to you with opportunities. Your role will be providing quotes and insights which involve your expertise. The PR Expert will advise you taking unique angles and crafting your pitches.
The Final Pitch
The ultimate goal of being used as a source is to receive a link, or at minimum attribution. You know that, I know that, and the journalist knows that.
Some big media sources just don’t add links anymore. Some don’t do it for new sources. Some might do it, but only after you have established a relationship with them.
The primary goal for you is to win the pitch.
You are not going to win a pitch that says, “I will serve as your source but only in exchange for a high-authority backlink that isn’t a no-follow.”
You are networking, developing contacts. This is public relations.
Once you have established a relationship with the journalist, you can then kindly ask if you can get backlinks. Remember, many journalists do not make the ultimate call editors do.
As a side-note, unlinked mentions are still valuable in my opinion. Google’s algorithm is getting better and better at identifying mention as trust signals.
Your ability to put together an intelligent, influential media pitch will make or break your PR campaign.
If you fail at pitching story ideas or responding to queries, your public relations dreams are dead in the water.
I have a “Rolodex” of media sources and earned relationships. Let’s establish YOU as an authority and source.