How do you make a successful pitch? Think like a journalist

How do you make a successful pitch? Think like a journalist


By Matt Hollander

Pitching a story can be a daunting task. It’s hard to ignore the expectations of clients, and often media outlets are either not interested in the story or don’t have the resources to cover it properly.

The convergence of these different objectives can leave a PR professional spinning their wheels.

However, thinking more strategically about how and to whom, you pitch can save a lot of time and frustration, and probably make for a happier client.

If you can put yourself in the shoes of your audience, you’ll have a much better understanding of how to pitch successfully. In other words, think like a journalist.

The first thing to consider is geography; the further away the story is from the news source, the less likely it is to be picked up. Although many national stories can be localized, journalists won’t necessarily bite on a story from elsewhere simply for it being told through a local voice. A genuine human-interest story will be much more attractive.

Another important thing to remember and consider is that most media outlets have very limited recourses, which places a premium on planning and efficiency. It’s not uncommon for a journalist to have their stories planned weeks in advance. Since most clients’ stories do not evolve as breaking news, pitch weeks before you want a story to run. This will also give you a wide window of time for follow up without the pressure of a deadline.

Journalists are often inundated by requests for attention. Naturally, members of the media tend be leery of anyone who may have an agenda. Considering the PR industry’s poor reputation among journalists, how you introduce yourself is very important. Keep introductions short, simple and accurate.

Whether or not you should initiate contact by phone or email remains up for debate. According to a recent survey conducted by Muck Rack, 92 percent of journalists prefer to receive pitches by email. However, this could also indicate a preference for pitches that are easy to delete. A brief introduction on the phone, followed by a more in-depth pitch via email is an effective approach that is both personal and respectful of journalists’ time.

And while this method may not initially succeed, understand that you will likely reach out to many of the same journalists time and time again. A strong professional rapport with the media will pay dividends in the long run.

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