Kimberly N. Alleyne
It’s no secret that journalists are doing more with less, primarily less time. That means they have less time to listen to or read pitches. So, what’s a PR pro to do? How does a PR pro make her/his pitch stand out and draw interest? Here are tools to enhance your pitching game and get your story at the front of the line.
1. Be familiar with the work of the journalist you’re pitching: This is particularly important if you don’t have an established relationship with the reporter you’re approaching. Knowing the topics that a journo typically covers and what she has covered recently can only increase your chances of success. Even more so if what you’re pitching has a close tie-in to a recent story the journalist wrote. So study the reporter’s work, get to know his style and the details he likes to include in his stories.
2. Know the audience of the publication you’re pitching: This is an easy one. Don’t pitch the research findings of a new non-biodegradable material to a quilting magazine.
3. S&S: Short and Simple: Ideally, you should be able to summarize your pitch in one to two (short) paragraphs. One effect of the digisphere, is that folks do not appreciate reading as in decades past. Emailing/posting dissertation-esque material puts you at risk of losing a reader’s attention in milliseconds.
4. Get the basics right: Not much to say here. It’s inexcusable to misspell a reporter’s name, or worse use the wrong name altogether. Do your homework and get it right.
5. Get social: Many journalists use social to find story ideas or sources. Some even receive pitches via social. Again, study, study, study.
6. Think digital: Think outside the email inbox, and consider innovative ways to share your message. Channels such as short video and audio messages may work well depending on the journalist’s or publication’s preferences. That leads me to my next point.
7. Know the journalist’s communications preferences: Does she only want email pitches? Does he prefer to take phone pitches on Friday mornings when it’s 32 degrees or warmer? Know this stuff. Believe it or not, there are journos who will only receive pitches via snail mail.
8. Say it with a picture: If you have a great, high-quality photo or graphic that will enhance your pitch, send it. Consider hyperlinking a visual to a press release or video. The reporter may even run it with the story, should you land the placement.
9. Be available: List the best way for a journalist to reach you, and then be available to answer follow-up questions or schedule an interview.
10. Explain why it matters: You know why it’s important, but explain why the journalist, and his readers, viewers or listeners should care.
11. Be resilient: Pitching is hard, and sometimes success is slow. Don’t take it personally if you’re pitch doesn’t land a story or broadcast. Keep at it, study, and don’t give up.
12. Believe in what you’re selling: If you don’t really care about, or believe in what you’re pitching it will show. Why should anyone else care if you don’t? Genuine interest will fuel passion, and that passion should ring through your pitch. And by passion, I mean being able to talk about the subject concisely with ease and clarity —- not desperation.
13. Build relationships: Set your goals beyond the pitch. Seek to cultivate and nurture relationships with the journalists in your space. If you learn of a story tip a journalist might find interesting, send it. Help him without expecting anything in return. Doing so will earn you the respect of your colleagues more so than will pitching aimlessly without regard to anyone else’s needs or concerns.