Top tips for pitching to journalists
Pitching to journalists is an essential part of media relations but can sometimes feel a bit daunting to those who are new to the industry. When you are relying on a good pitch to accompany your great story it’s important to get it right the first time.
I spoke to a few PR professionals who regularly pitch to journalists, and asked them to provide a few tips.
“Make sure the story is relevant to that journalist – No matter how good your pitch is, if it isn’t a subject area the journalist writes on or is interested in it is completely pointless pitching it to them. Do your research into who you’re pitching to first.”
Peter Remon, Account Executive, BlueSky PR – Higher and Business Education
“Many media databases, including ResponseSource, have curated pages for journalist’s tweets, or profiles where you can view their Twitter feeds. By paying attention to Twitter and recent articles the journalist has written, you can easily spot what a journalist is interested in.
Tailoring your pitches to the journalist’s interests and recent activity will ensure your story is relevant for their publication or the feature they are working on at that time. This applies across all sectors, including engineering trade press, a media sector Stone Junction works with closely.”
Leah Elston-Thompson, Senior Account Executive, Stone Junction
“Explain what you’ve got and the reasons why you think they might be interested, but try to keep it short, sweet and relevant; basically – no ‘hope you’re well’ or details about your heavy weekend! If they tell you they’re not interested and that it’s not one for them, don’t be afraid to ask them why not and what they’re specifically interested so you only reach out to them in the future with more targeted stories; most of the time, they will be pleased that you’re showing the initiative to actively try to send them more relevant material instead of repeatedly wasting their time with pitches that won’t work for them.”
Samantha Summers, Senior PR Account Executive, 10 Yetis Digital
“Phone calls are not dead. Journalists are busy people and often if you send a long and complicated pitch, they won’t have the time to read it through. Getting their attention for two minutes on the phone and then sending extra information through afterwards over email is a great way to put yourself on their radar – and when they see you in their inbox they’re more likely to take an interest because they’ll know who you are. You’re on your way to building a valuable relationship.”
Robyn McLellan, Associate Programme Executive, Hotwire
“When I first started working in PR, pitching to the media always felt like such a daunting task – so much so that I used to dread it! Thankfully I’ve picked up some great advice over the years and now I think nothing of it.
My top tip for changing your perception of pitching and increasing your chances of getting your story picked up is to be prepared.
It sounds obvious but make sure you have thoroughly read through the story you are selling in before you pick up the phone, and not just the headline. Really knowing what you’re talking about will make you feel infinitely more confident than if you don’t. If you don’t understand something when you’re reading through the release, ask someone on your team to explain. It’s better to ask the question before the question gets asked of you.
I always find it useful to jot down key details from within the release including dates, spokespeople and locations so you have them to hand if you get asked. Someone once told me that you should be able to recite the client’s boilerplate word for word on demand! I think that’s probably a little extreme, but you should definitely be able to cover off all the core information about your client if you get put on the spot.
There will always be questions you can’t answer and that’s okay too, but having a response prepared for the ones you don’t know will help – even if it’s just that you will double check and get back to the journalist straight after the call!”
Laura Jones, Senior Account Executive, BrandContent
“Use a short and positive subject line if pitching via email, as this is likely to get the attention of the journalist. Keep the pitch short – journalists may click the ‘trash’ button before they’ve even read your email if it looks like too much work.
If a journalist has ignored you, it doesn’t mean they don’t need you. They may file your press release or media alert away for a rainy day or add you to their list of contactable PRs.”
Stacey Byles, Senior PR Account Executive, Antidote Communications
“As an ex-journalist, I have been on the receiving end of pitching and I know how irritating it can be when someone hasn’t done their research. Not knowing who you’re calling and what they do wastes everyone’s time. Now that I work in PR, I always do my research. I make sure I know who I am pitching to, what publication they write for, what industry they write about, how they like to be pitched to and when their publication goes to print. In the long run, it means I speak to the right people and get some great coverage in the right publications and the journalists get a relevant story. Everyone’s a winner!”
Helen Gaskell, Senior Account Executive, Big Cat
“Understanding what each contact needs and the ways in which they work is often the difference between nailing some great coverage and losing yourself to the deleted folder. Having a full idea of your contact’s area of expertise is always a good place to start, though getting your head around whether they are open to a phone call, if they work from home and when their deadlines are also inform your pitching and improve your chances of success.
Less can be more when it’s targeted and specific, something that can only happen when you’ve put effort into knowing your contacts.”
Ben Lynch, Senior Account Executive, Ranieri
“Do your research. Not only should you know your product inside out, you should know your contacts. Make sure you have a tailored list for each client and only approach journalists that would be interested in the specific product you’re pitching. I find it really useful to read the Media Bulletins that come through from ResponseSource about press movement, so you are always on the ball with who works where.”
Olivia Brackenridge, Senior Account Executive, The Lenny Agency
“One of the first things I learnt when I began my career in PR, as a Public Relations Assistant, was to never assume the journalist you are pitching to will be interested in what you are trying to shout about.
jmm PR is a dedicated agency who offers personalised services to clients within the kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms industry. We pitch on a daily basis and we naturally have close relationships with our press contacts.
We, however, never rest on our laurels and we steer clear of opening any communications with “I’ve got a story you’re going to love!”
It won’t do you any favours and is known to instantly turn a journalist off.
Good manners, courtesy and respect also go a long way.”
Lauren Humphries, Senior PR Executive, jmm PR
Summed up, our PR community suggests that you:
- Always do your research
- Know the details of your pitch inside out. What is the hook and why should the journalist pick it up?
- Only pitch if you know the story is relevant to that specific journalist
- Keep it brief but personal
- Check out the journalists’ tweets and recent articles
- Make a phone call if the pitch is complicated
- Always be polite and courteous
Some great advice!
Do you have any other tips? Share in the comments.