5 pitching secrets from an ex-journalist

Having moved from news to PR, the author shares a few insider tips that can help you break through the iron gate and land coverage—and establish rapport with your media contacts.

5 pitching secrets

There’s an important—and, ideally, symbiotic—relationship between reporters and PR pros.

Good story ideas are valuable, but the presentation is crucial, and what public relations practitioner doesn’t crave coverage?

During my time as a journalist, I learned what good and bad pitches look like—and that most journalists simply don’t answer emails from PR pros.

I still don’t know the secret to getting a reporter to politely reject a pitch (rather than ignoring it), but there are key elements that help prompt a journalist to say “yes” to a story idea—or at least ask for more information. Here are five essentials:

1. Be informative, but concise. Make sure your pitch isn’t too long or too short. Journalists don’t want to scroll through half a dozen paragraphs to know what you’re pitching, but they also don’t want to be left wondering what you’re trying to get across. Include in your pitch: who your client is, their area of expertise, and why they’re a good fit for the publication. If reporters have to do research just to find out what the company does, they’ll be less inclined to want to write about it.

2. Offer options. Narrow pitches are a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the journalist will know right away whether the topic is intriguing, but if your client sounds interesting and just can’t be used for that particular story idea, reporters might want to feature them in something else. Say up front that your client could speak about a few different subjects. Flexibility gives you and your client a much better chance of coverage.

3. Ask reporters what they’re working on. Journalists absolutely cannot accept every pitch they get, so it’s incredibly helpful when PR reps ask for a list of upcoming topics a journalist is working on. With that information, you can review your clients (whom you already know well) and tell the reporter who might be able to enhance a piece they’ve got in the works. It’s a highly effective tactic for getting your client quoted.

4. Stick to email pitches unless you’re told otherwise. Every reporter has a preferred way of being pitched, but proceed with caution and stick with the email pitch at first. Although pitching via Twitter DM or LinkedIn message is becoming more common, some journalists (myself included) prefer not to receive pitches through their personal social media channels, so don’t do it unless they explicitly say it’s OK.

5. Give journalists the same respect you want. You’re busy; they’re busy. The client you’re setting up for an interview is not the only one you have to deal with. Likewise, the story you’re working on together is not the only one they’re currently writing. We all juggle multiple tasks, so if you can extend a bit of patience and understanding to a journalist, a good one will do the same for you.

Nicole Fallon is the co-founder of content marketing agency Lightning Media Partners.

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