7 elements of a nearly perfect pitch

There isn’t a secret formula to make sure every pitch you send will land a story, but these tips can get you pretty close.

The headline is a teaser, of course. There is no such thing as a perfect pitch.

There are only terrible, so-so, and very good pitches.

If a perfect pitch did exist, it would secure every story it aimed for. As far as I know, no pitch holds that record.

You can, however, write a very good pitch. I like to think I’ve written—or spoken—my fair share of them, though I still don’t get every hit I or my client wants. That’s just how it goes.

If you would like to create a very good pitch, read on.

While this article is in the context of media/blogger relations, these elements apply to practically anything and anyone you pitch.

Imagine you’re the publisher of the most popular, highly-trafficked blog that focuses on XYZ (insert your topic area). You get hundreds of pitches a day.

Which ones will you read? You will read:

1. Pitches with a succinct subject line.

Save the creative headlines for your actual news releases—if you still use them. The most successful subject lines are to the point and say exactly what the email contains.

For example: “Pitch: _____.”

No ambiguity there. Write your client’s/campaign name or the gist of the pitch, and then explain it in the email body.

2. Honest pitches.

I can’t stand pitches from PR agencies or consultants that purport to be the client. It’s silly. If your client is So-And-So Nonprofit, why would it have a PR agency name in its email address?

For a profession that is still plagued with the “spin” moniker, it is just silly to do this. Be upfront. Say who you are and what the campaign is about. Don’t engage in a smoke-and-mirror show.

3. Pitches that demonstrate research.

Any PR pro worth her salt will tell you she spends hours and hours building pitch lists.

Once you build your list, go through each outlet and get to know each one. See if the contact reporter has written similar stories or has a strong interest in your topic.

If he does, lead your pitch with a reference to that. For example, “As I was reading <name of blog post> on <subject>, it occurred to me that <client/campaign name> might interest you.” Explain a little more as to why, but not more than a couple sentences, if that.

If the reporter hasn’t written similar stories but you still think he is a good fit, ask straight out: “Would you be interested in <client/campaign> that <explain more>…?” Explain how the campaign/story would interest his target audience. Remember, it’s all about the reporter and his outlet, not you or your client.

4. Pitches with clear calls to action.

If there is a specific call to action you hope the reporter will include in the story, be clear about it. I’ve never had any reporters or bloggers call me out for doing so.

On the other hand, I don’t demand anything. For example, when I pitched Oxfam America’s International Women’s Day campaign, I was clear about what we wanted: folks to send the eCards and/or give out the eAwards.

The worst that could happen is that the reporter will say no. But, at least you asked.

5. Pitches without attachments.

Enough said. Never add an attachment to a pitch.

6. Pitches that have no spelling errors.

Again, this is self-explanatory.

7. Pitches that begin and end politely.

I never heard of politeness killing anyone. Kindness maybe, but politeness? Nah.

Regardless of whether I know the person I’m pitching, I always sign off with “Thank you,” or “Thank you in advance for your consideration.”

After you send your pitch, your work has just begun. Please don’t think your pitch will succeed just because you wrote it well. Often, it won’t, but at least it will help to open the door.

Shonali Burke runs a successful agency of one, is the founder of the popular #measurePR Twitter chat, and Adjunct Faculty at Johns Hopkins University’s M.A. in Communication program. A version of this article first appeared on Waxing UnLyrical.

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Topics: PR


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