6 lessons for perfect pitches

Whether you’re seeking coverage during a hectic news time or nabbing headlines for your client, these tips can help you win with reporters.

There are few career fields that can be best summarized by just one aspect of the job.

For instance, you couldn’t claim that basketball players are only attempting a string of free throw shots every game, or that graphic designers work in Photoshop for 40 hours per week.

The same applies to PR pros. Our jobs rely on multi-faceted expertise, an eye for well-written copy, digital media skills, public speaking prowess and more.

Though media relations is only a portion of what we do, most PR pros spend a significant portion of time pitching. Everything PR pros do is based on a story—whether it begins with our client or in a journalist’s piece.

We use these pitches to discuss our clients with the general public, often through media relations, and often amidst the ebb and flow of the daily news cycle.

Follow these six rules to help polish your pitches:

1. Follow the news.

Before even discussing a pitch, you have to be aware of what’s going on in the world. The trick is to read every day with unending fervor.

Being a step behind in the news or not knowing the intricacies of a story can deal some damage in terms of public image—and it’s not much different for PR pros.

As a result, you should develop a hunger for the latest news. Once you become more educated on trends, breaking news and viral stories, your story ideas will become more topical and your pitches more precise.

2. Simplify your story.

There is an overwhelming amount of “filler” that has clogged up the news media machine this presidential election cycle.

With the saturation of election coverage, things can get confusing (and often, disorienting).

There’s a lesson here: Avoid confusion around your story by double checking that your facts are clear, to the point and not bogged down with irrelevant information. As you develop your pitch, ensure that you relate the most important details about your story—nothing more.

3. Perfect your pitch.

You must know what makes your story idea compelling, so you can take it to journalists with confidence.

Before sending out your pitch to journalists, make sure you refine it based on three factors: the hook, meat and next steps.

The hook should be the reason that readers will want to read your story, and the meat is the actual facts and main source of newsworthy information that speaks to a journalist. The end of your pitch should have a call to action and offer more tips or information.

4. Mold your efforts to members of the media .

Simply put, there will be media outlets that are not interested in what you have to say.

So, put effort behind knowing who might be interested in your pitch—and send it to those people. A blanket email to several news outlets with different focuses will only serve to aggravate journalists.

Some reporters respond well to thoughts and story ideas via social media platforms such as Twitter or LinkedIn. Be flexible and open to new methods of communication.

5. Know your contact.

One of the most important lessons to keep in mind when pitching is to know your journalist. After all, you don’t want to be caught in a situation where you have to backtrack.

A misstep can be as simple as not knowing the journalist’s beat, or more complicated, such as not knowing the way they like to communicate. You’re not always going to be blessed with a personal relationship with the journalist at the start, so make an effort and do your research. It will pay off in the long run.

6. Have your answers ready.

Preparation is key when it comes to pitching. Prepare for follow-up questions from reporters by having a source of information or answers ready to go.

If a journalist bites on your story pitch, ensure that you’re able to provide follow-up information quickly and efficiently.

If you plan correctly, perfect your pitch and make a compelling argument for why your story is newsworthy, you’ll be able to take care of the journalist in a timely and efficient manner.

Spencer Turney is an account executive at the Bradford Group, a PR and marketing firm based in Nashville, Tennessee. Contact him at spencer@bradfordgroup.com. A version of this article originally appeared on the firm’s blog.

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Topics: PR

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