8 tips for a perfect pitch

Making your pitch eye-catching, convenient, and convincing is the way to grab a reporter’s attention.

You can have the best and most impactful news in the world, but you’re unlikely to receive media coverage for it if your pitch is off. If you contact the wrong reporter or send a lengthy, tortuous email, you’ll be promptly sent to their spam folder, never to be thought of again.

If you want more media mentions and social buzz, you’ll need to perfect your pitch. Here are eight tips to help you generate publicity:

1. Establish rapport with media and influencers. While most journalists and bloggers prefer to receive pitches via email, you should build a relationship outside of the inbox. Follow reporters on Twitter or their preferred social networks. Many reporters are too busy to meet in person, but you can sometimes swing it. Attend some of their events or conferences. You’re more likely to talk with them at an event than when they’re in the office or out covering a story.

2. Know your reporter. You should only contact a reporter if their beat and audience is relevant to you. Reporters only want to receive a pitch if it’s important to their readers. Anything other than that will be regarded with disdain and deleted.

3. Speak like a human being. You’re not asking for an audience with the queen, so don’t write like you are. Also don’t be so informal that you litter your emails with emoticons or triple exclamation points; you do need to exercise professionalism. Use the same style you would observe when first emailing with a potential client or business partner.

4. Get to the point. Pitches aren’t the time to be a long-winded. Most people read their emails on their mobile devices, which means you’re working in a small space. A good rule of thumb is to introduce your pitch by the end of the first paragraph. Strong subject lines also help.

5. Answer the five Ws. Reporters will love you if you answer the five Ws for them: who, what, when, where and why. For bonus points, you can even answer the “how.” Answering the questions will help you frame your story and will prove its relevance to the reporter.

6. Offer other media. Words are not your only resource. Don’t rely on them alone. Many news outlets have cut their photography and video budgets, which means they need media assets. Take the initiative and offer reporters whatever supplementary photographs, diagrams or videos you have.

Don’t attach any media files to your pitches; they make for large emails, and emails with attachments often are blocked by firewalls. Instead use links and tell the reporter you can furnish other digital media if needed.

7. Use bullet points. Think about how you read. Your eyes probably gravitate to the bullet points found in an email or blog post. Use the instinct to your advantage and call the reporter’s attention to the key facts.

8. Use proof points. Numbers and statistics can make for a convincing argument, but only use them if they help you paint a better picture. Also remember that exact numbers like 1,807,389 can make a simple subject unnecessarily complex. Consider rounding off numbers for the sake of readability. Using specific examples or case studies are another example of compelling proof points.

Crafting the perfect pitch takes work, but it’s never a wasted investment. As you send out more refined pitches, you’ll find yourself in tune with the reporters, journalists and bloggers receiving them. By making a few simple tweaks, your pitches will turn into stories covered by news outlets and blogs alike.

Mark Thabit is senior vice president of marketing and project management at Vocus.

Topics: PR

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