Sometimes, journalists need to be convinced.
They have inboxes full of potential sources, and they won’t work with just anyone. They won’t even consider a pitch if it doesn’t excite or reach them in some way.
It’s your job to “wow” the journalist you’re pitching, and that requires research and strategy on your part. If you want to impress the press, you’ll have to get personal.
Here are the best PR “pickup lines,” outlined by journalists themselves.
1. “Dear [journalist’s name]…”
This might seem obvious, but many PR reps don’t address their media contact by their name, which only tells the journalist that they aren’t the only one being pitched.
“I receive a lot of pitches a day, and I don’t have time to reply or read through every single pitch,” said Saige Driver, staff writer and social media strategist for Business News Daily. “When I receive a pitch that isn’t addressed to me personally or it’s clear they don’t know what I cover, I just delete it. I know it’s coming from a mass email list and they are only interested in helping their client.”
Before you reach out to that reporter you had on your radar, ensure that you’re greeting them appropriately. If they typically go by a nickname rather than their full birth name, use it. Familiarize yourself with these details to avoid any inaccuracies.
“First and foremost, get the basics right,” said Nicole Fallon, CEO and editorial director of Lightning Media Partners. “Address the journalist by (the correct) name, and if you reference their media outlet, make sure it’s the right one.”
2. “I followed you on [social media site] and saw you cover [journalist’s beat].”
Many PR pros assume they can cold pitch a journalist without doing any prior research. This approach, however, only turns potential writers off to the opportunity.
Journalists don’t waste time with PR reps who don’t care to understand their beat, or who expect too much upfront. Instead, they want to work with someone who’s put in the work and is willing to build a mutually-beneficial media relationship.
“[Journalists] love when PR reps do their research on our publication and make it easy for us to envision a story when they pitch,” said Fallon. “On the other hand, if we don’t see a clear and immediate connection to our editorial strategy, the pitch gets deleted.”
Your “research” can be as simple as a social media search or LinkedIn connection. Browse the journalist’s profiles to better understand who they are as a person and a writer.
“I think the best ‘pick-up line’ was when a PR rep followed me on Twitter and liked a couple of my tweets,” said Driver. “They later emailed me and said something [along the lines of], ‘I followed you on Twitter and saw you write about careers and social media for Business News Daily. I have a couple of clients who are career experts and another who is a social media expert. Let me know if I can help with any stories you’re working on.’ They also included links to their LinkedIn profiles.”
Driver explained that this shows they did their homework, yet they didn’t feel entitled to coverage right away. They simply offered to help with any stories, introducing their clients and providing links for further information.
“In short, my favorite PR reps make my life easier,” she said.
3. “I loved your recent piece on [article topic] and shared it on my social media.”
Like it or not, flattery typically works. Journalists invest time and effort into every piece they create, and it’s nice to get recognition for that.
However, anyone can spew praise for selfish reasons. If you truly want to impress a journalist, you’ll have to be genuinely supportive and that requires dedication.
Sarah Hancock, content manager at Best Company, said that one of the best pitches she’s ever received started with the PR pro complimenting her on an article she’d published, then telling her that she shared it across her social media channels.
“The fact that this particular PR rep took the time to actually read one of my articles, share a genuine compliment and promote it to her followers not only made her stand out, but it also made me feel like she knew and valued me and my work, which made me more eager to respond to and work with her,” said Hancock. “It was a small action, but it really went a long way in terms of personalizing the pitch and starting the relationship off on the right foot.”
Fallon added that journalists will often pay more attention to PR pros who reference an article the journalist either published or shared on their social media sites, and tie it to the topic they’re pitching—of course, with a different angle.
“[These approaches] both clearly demonstrate that you’ve done your homework and have thought about why the reporter should care about your pitch,” she said.
4. “Recent research found…”
Journalists love stats. By listing your information off-the-bat, you will instantly grab their attention. Not only does it show you’ve done your research, it also gives the writer more information to work with.
“Leading with a strong statistic or fact is always a safe bet; reporters like to have hard data to support their stories,” said Fallon.
While you want to keep your pitches brief and direct, you don’t want them to lack substance. Adding factual data will deem you credible to journalists.
Bonus tip: Finesse your follow up.
Many PR pros are either too afraid to follow up or do so too aggressively. Both can harm your chances of connecting with the journalist.
“You definitely don’t want to be hounding a reporter multiple times a week if you haven’t heard back (I always recommend writing them off as a loss if you don’t get a response after three emails), but the truth is, pitches really do get lost in our inbox,” said Fallon. “Give us a day or two, and if you still haven’t heard from us, send a polite follow up—ideally with a little extra tidbit you didn’t include in your initial email.”
Remember: Journalists are people, too.
Sammi Caramela is a freelance writer. A version of this article originally appeared on Muck Rack, a service that enables you to find journalists to pitch, build media lists, get press alerts and create coverage reports with social media data.