5 tips for successful pitching

Here’s how to throw a thoughtfully targeted strike and secure the coverage you crave.

A great softball pitcher doesn’t simply close her eyes, rear back and heave the ball toward home plate.

She chooses a pitch based on the game situation, the batter’s tendencies and the weather conditions.

A media pitch is similar. Let’s look at successful media pitching with this softball analogy.

The grip

A pitcher’s grip determines the ball’s trajectory and where it will end up. In terms of PR, “the grip” is the research, preparation and consideration that goes into ensuring that correct stories are thrown to precise locations.

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Finding the right grip is all about uncovering crucial details about the outlets you’re pitching, including the types of stories particular journalists favor. Depending on the reporter, they might be CEO features, technology trend stories or colorful personality profiles offering business insights.

Whatever it is, if the grip isn’t right, the pitch will sail wide.

The signals

The communication between a pitcher and catcher must be clear, even in the coded display of fingers designating which pitch to throw. This initial exchange of information can make or break the game.

The first part of a PR pitch the journalist sees is the email subject line, which must be direct, concise and inviting.

The journalist should see the essence of the story before opening the email. Like the pitcher/catcher signals, it should never be misleading. If the writer opens the pitch and sees that she’s been tricked, she’s not likely to open any pitches from you again.

Take extra time to craft clear, compelling subject lines; don’t treat them as an afterthought. Let your signal be an honest impression of what, exactly, your pitch is about.

The windup

The windup—your lead and opening paragraphs—begins the pitch with a tantalizing start.

A compelling story introduces you to key characters, provides big-picture context and offers an example that sets up conflict or suspense. It also sprinkles in details or data that underscore the client’s credibility.

If the story is told well, the reader will want to know what happens next.

Don’t oversell or overshare here; let your “windup” be an enticing cliffhanger.

The release

The release serves up the satisfying resolution of the dramatic question.

Appeal to journalists’ fear of missing out on a great story, and concisely present juicy tidbits that will help them craft a winning piece. A PR pro’s “release” should be a story roadmap for the journalist.

The follow-through

A PR pro’s follow-through should make a request in a polite, straightforward manner. If an editor doesn’t respond, wait about 24 hours before following up. Follow up once before moving on. Multiple pings aren’t “persistent”; they’re mostly annoying and ineffective.

Of course, the follow-through isn’t the end of your work. A pitcher must be ready to field the ball after the batter connects, right? If a reporter wants to pursue the story, and the PR contact makes an error by responding in an unprofessional manner, the game can still be lost.

As in softball, winning PR is all about teamwork: Helping your clients succeed entails arranging interviews and supplying every element the news outlet needs.

A version of this post first appeared on Crenshaw Communications’ PR Fish Bowl blog .


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