Pitching tips from a former reporter

There are four questions every pitch should answer so that the reporter reading it knows it’ll be worth the time and effort of writing a story.

They say that pitching is 90 percent of baseball. I would argue that the same is true for public relations.

Securing meaningful coverage is the bread and butter of a successful PR campaign and the most straightforward way to showcase results. However, as most PR pros know, getting the story placed takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Having been on the other side, I understand the challenge and want to share a few pitching tips based on my personal experience.

One of the biggest hurdles is actually capturing the reporter’s attention. As a former reporter, I can tell you my inbox was crammed full of pitches and press releases, most of which were irrelevant to me and my beat. It’s important to keep in mind that a reporter will only give a pitch seconds to pique his or her interest. Pitches should be concise and answer key questions a reporter will undoubtedly ask when deciding if a story idea will make the cut.

I had a tough news director who would drill me on the following questions each time I pitched a story to her. Be sure to ask yourself the following questions before hitting send:

Why do I care? Journalists are looking for stories that have an impact on their readers. At RH, we try to make that connection for journalists and explain why a journalist should care and how the story impacts their readers.

Why now? A news story must have “today value” and it is our job to demonstrate urgency. Why should a reporter write about this today? If you are pitching a story about boating safety, it is unlikely that a reporter will be interested during a stormy week. Our team is consistently monitoring news cycles and looking for opportunities to tie our clients’ news into them.

How is this new? When I was a reporter, I cringed when someone would send an email and say, “I saw your story about X, you should write about my company too.” This is not enough to entice a reporter to write another story on the same topic. Chances are if they covered it once, they won’t write again unless you are offering something new. As a PR team it is our responsibility to look for a new angle and offer something that hasn’t been done before.

What can you offer? Reporters are busy and, like many industries, they are pressed to do more with less. When developing pitches, we outline what we can offer to bring the story to life, including things like visuals, subject matter expert interviews and compelling data. We work to make it clear to the reporter how our clients can be a resource for their story, making it as easy as possible for them.

A pitch that helps to answer these questions will have a better chance of winning over a reporter, an editor and the audience. The more value PR pros can add in our outreach, the more valuable we are as a resource for reporters, ultimately bringing more value to our clients.

Holly Zuluaga is a senior account executive for Raffetto Herman Strategic Communications (@RHstrategic). A version of this story first appeared on the agency’s blog.

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Topics: PR

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