Pitch perfect: how to grab the media’s attention
As you might imagine, pitching to journalists is an integral part of the work we do as a lifestyle PR agency.
Crafting a killer tailored pitch is a hugely important skill, especially in this era of the swamped and overworked journalist, receiving hundreds of emails every day.
So how do we make our pitches stand out and get cut through? In part it is down to our excellent contacts – we are very proud of our relationships with key journalists across our clients’ sectors. But what we communicate and how we convey it is also crucial.
Here are our tips for pitching success:
- Make it newsworthy:
First things first: get some context. Just because you are really excited about your new product, it doesn’t mean the media or your consumers will be. It’s vital that you position your news in a wider context. Is this the first product of its kind to be available in a UK supermarket? Does it tap into a trend, or conversely buck a trend? Does it represent a change in tack for your brand? It’s also really important that you identify your USPs in the context of the current market, and equally important that you spend time researching the outlet (be it print, online or broadcast) that you are going to pitch to. Find out what type of stories it covers, and tailor your story to fit.
- Take the one sentence challenge:
A really good way to start crafting your pitch is to condense the entire story into one sentence. This is the sentence that you start your email with, or say first if you are calling the journalist. It needs to be engaging, exciting and jargon-free, and encapsulate the key points in a comprehensible way. And when continuing with the pitch, either verbally or in writing, think of the inverted-pyramid model of a press release, with the most important info at the top, followed by more detail, declining in significance as you get further on. You need to anticipate that the journalist will stop listening or reading before the end, so get your good stuff up front.
- Keep it short and relevant
Most journalists will receive hundreds of pitches a day and so your subject header and first few lines are really important. It’s worth putting “feature idea” or “news idea” in your subject line, and make sure that your first couple of lines get straight to the point, as above. Unless you know the journalist, don’t bother with any preamble along the lines of “I hope you are well” or “How are you?”. Also, don’t ever apologise for getting in touch out of the blue – you are writing with a great story idea and so don’t need to say sorry!
A good email pitch should not be more than two paragraphs long – offer to send more info if they are interested/want to know more.
Be as clear as possible as to what you are trying to communicate. If you are pitching for a particular slot, say so. As in “I thought this would be of interest for your food news page.” If you think it would make a good feature, say so (“I’m writing with an idea for a feature…”).
This needs to feel like a tailored and intelligent approach, rather than a blanket release full of marketing messaging.
- Don’t give up too quickly … but don’t be annoying
There is no one-size-fits all rule on pitch follow ups. Some journalists will only reply to email pitches if they want to cover the story. Others have overflowing inboxes and say that if they don’t reply, it means they’ve missed your email.
So how to proceed? A follow up message won’t go amiss – and if you are working on something incredibly exciting and time sensitive, then a call can be a good idea. But use your judgement. Don’t hound them, and never call and say “did you see the email I sent you” as it will instantly annoy. Instead, pitch afresh and offer to send info through.
If you do hear from a journalist who doesn’t want to cover your story, do ask them why. It’s really valuable to get feedback from the media and will help you shape pitches in the future. Also, you may be able to bolster/improve/reshape the offering once you’ve had their feedback.
Words: Ellie Glason