Pitching tips from a former reporter
There are four questions every pitch should answer so that the reporter
reading it knows it’ll be worth the time and effort of writing a story.
They say that pitching is 90 percent of baseball. I would argue that the same is true for public relations.
Securing meaningful coverage is the bread and butter of a successful PR
campaign and the most straightforward way to showcase results. However,
as most PR pros know, getting the story placed takes a lot of blood,
sweat and tears. Having been on the other side, I understand the
challenge and want to share a few pitching tips based on my personal
One of the biggest hurdles is actually capturing the reporter’s
attention. As a former reporter, I can tell you my inbox was crammed
full of pitches and press releases, most of which were irrelevant to me
and my beat. It’s important to keep in mind that a reporter will only
give a pitch seconds to pique his or her interest. Pitches should be
concise and answer key questions a reporter will undoubtedly ask when
deciding if a story idea will make the cut.
[RELATED: Find out how to craft the perfect pitch at our April PR & Media Relations event in NYC.]
I had a tough news director who would drill me on the following
questions each time I pitched a story to her. Be sure to ask yourself
the following questions before hitting send:
• Why do I care? Journalists are looking for stories that have an
impact on their readers. At RH, we try to make that connection for
journalists and explain why a journalist should care and how the story
impacts their readers.
• Why now? A news story must have “today value” and it is our job
to demonstrate urgency. Why should a reporter write about this today?
If you are pitching a story about boating safety, it is unlikely that a
reporter will be interested during a stormy week. Our team is
consistently monitoring news cycles and looking for opportunities to tie
our clients’ news into them.
• How is this new? When I was a reporter, I cringed when someone
would send an email and say, “I saw your story about X, you should write
about my company too.” This is not enough to entice a reporter to write
another story on the same topic. Chances are if they covered it once,
they won’t write again unless you are offering something new. As a PR
team it is our responsibility to look for a new angle and offer
something that hasn’t been done before.
• What can you offer? Reporters are busy and, like many
industries, they are pressed to do more with less. When developing
pitches, we outline what we can offer to bring the story to life,
including things like visuals, subject matter expert interviews and
compelling data. We work to make it clear to the reporter how our
clients can be a resource for their story, making it as easy as possible
A pitch that helps to answer these questions will have a better chance
of winning over a reporter, an editor and the audience. The more value
PR pros can add in our outreach, the more valuable we are as a resource
for reporters, ultimately bringing more value to our clients.
Holly Zuluaga is a senior account executive for Raffetto Herman Strategic Communications (@RHstrategic). A version of this story first appeared on the agency's blog.
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