Free booze or doughnuts aside, what’s the best way to grab a journalist’s attention?
A concise email that teases interesting, useful or helpful information is a great start. Of course, timing, tone and tidiness all matter, too. Let’s review more tips that will help PR pros move to the front of the pitching line:
Offer fresh data or useful information for our audience. Reporters are at the behest—and service—of their audience. If the information you’re pitching is not of serious interest to our readers, why would we bite?
As Fast Company puts it: “What problem are you solving, why is your solution unique, and what makes you the right person to solve it?”
It doesn’t have to be a groundbreaking study or a fully formed article; sometimes just an interesting infographic, clever chart or substantive quote is a helpful asset that can pump up a piece. Side dishes that can enhance the flavor of a story are just as welcome as content entrees.
Before you pitch, consider:
- Would this pitch make the journalist’s job easier?
- Is this information something that would inform, entertain, educate or engage the audience of this publication?
Ragan Executive Editor Rob Reinalda shares this success story:
I saw this opening line, and I knew she had done her homework:
“I’m getting in touch because I came across several articles about remote work on Ragan’s blog. So I thought I’d send your way something you may find useful.”
In any case:
- She took time to see what we write about.
- She’s offering something of value and interest to our audience.
Make it snappy and compelling—but not salesy. Lots of pitches might merit consideration, but they’re so bloated or poorly written that you’ve lost credibility (and the journalist’s interest) by the third paragraph.
Start with a snappy subject line that’s likely to grab attention. Then, write an intriguing lede in your email that teases compelling content. You might offer a few tasty bullet points after that, but keep that word count down. A journalist will get back to you if she’s interested.
Of course, sneakiness does not pay. Journalists have keenly developed BS detectors and can sniff a whiff of salesy aroma from miles away. Make your point quickly, and deliver on exactly what you promise in the subject line and lede.
PR Daily Editor Ted Kitterman puts it this way:
Just send simple, clean bullet points of the story. I want to scan it.
Also, follow-ups that offer more than just: “Hey, just want to bug you one more time.” Send something that adds insight or offers new commentary.
Anything that makes my job easier. Know what I write, and offer something interesting and easily digestible.
Pitch on a Tuesday afternoon. If you send something early Monday or late on a Friday, you might as well print out your pitch, light it on fire, and toast some marshmallows. Shoot more for the middle of the week.
According to Polite Mail, which analyzed 200 million employer-sent emails, messages sent on Tuesday afternoons tended to garner the highest open rates. This is typically a good time to reach journalists, too.
Email is still the best. Some reporters don’t mind fielding social media pitches, but many abhor this tactic.
As Muck Rack writes: “Pitching someone via social media direct messaging should be your last resort.”
Email’s still the best way to pitch a reporter. Social media messages get lost in the ether, but my inbox is like the deli counter. It’s hectic, with plenty of shouting and jostling, but I will eventually take your order (unless your order is terrible, offensive or pure baloney).
Most journalists won’t have time (nor interest) to “jump on a call” with your co-founder to discuss whatever thing he wants to sell our audience on. However, if you’d like to email a paragraph that sheds light on some relevant topic, that’d be great.
Communicate like a human being. Believe it or not: Reporters are people, too.
Journalists have been known to come off as smug, curt or flat-out rude, but we are simply human beings who have been unburdened from the cultural norms of using flowery language and exclamation points. Most journalists are just deadline-squeezed people with hearts of gold underneath the gruff exterior.
However, mindless jargon and confusing corporate buzzwords have been known to send us into fits of righteous anger. So, please communicate in plain, straightforward language. Don’t blow smoke, and we should all get along just fine.