5 Steps to Crafting the Perfect Pitch

Elisabeth O'Donnell, Jul 16 2019

categories: PR

Tags: , , ,

Strong, trusted relationships are quintessential to successful public relations. When it comes to getting reporters in your corner, your first connection will probably happen over a quick email pitch, among dozens of other notes attempting to pique their interest. How do you spark an everlasting connection? Account Supervisor Hanah Johnson shared her secrets for crafting the perfect pitch and forging lasting relationships with key influencers.

Q: How do you know who to pitch to?

A: Before going out with any pitch, it’s important to do your homework.

What is the story you’re trying to tell? Who is the intended audience? Who would care about this? The answers give you a sense for the types of publications you want to go after. From there, drill down into each outlet’s staffed reporters to figure out who owns the coverage area for your story. Read through various reporters’ recent articles to find the right fit and make sure you can envision your client’s story fitting into their stream of coverage.

As you spend more time working with a particular client and become more familiar with the industry, you’ll learn who the key influencers are. This doesn’t mean they’ll be relevant for every pitch, though. Always think critically about your pitch angle and tailor your target lists accordingly.

Q: When is a good time to pitch to media?

A: There is no science behind the best time of day to pitch. Many PR professionals claim that the morning or early afternoon is best, for various reasons (catching reporters as they come online, before they run up against deadlines, while they have downtime around lunch etc.). In general, I’d agree with this, but I think it ultimately depends on each reporter. Today’s news cycles move so quickly and many reporters work on multiple stories a day, so mornings and early afternoons can get just as cluttered as any other time.

It’s more clear what times should be avoided – like the end of the day, and especially end of day on  Friday. While Friday afternoons may create downtime for certain email recipients, it’s also a busy time for reporters who need to meet end-of-week deadlines. To be safe, target the middle of the work week.

Q: How do you craft the perfect pitch?

A: The pitch must have substance and relevance. If you’re pitching a piece of news, is it truly newsworthy? If you’re pitching your client’s take on a hot trend, is it unique? If you’re struggling to figure out how your story adds value to the reporter’s coverage or to the audience, it’s probably not worth pitching. This goes back to the importance of doing your homework and making sure that what you’re pitching is relevant to who you’re pitching to.

Remember to get to the point quickly. Reporters get bombarded with pitches continuously and simply don’t have time to read lengthy emails. Explain why you’re writing in the first couple sentences.

Make it authentic, writing as though it’s exclusively written for that particular journalist (if it’s a copy-and-paste job, they’ll know). Tailor the pitch based on your relationship with them, what you know about their workflow or what they’ve covered recently.

Q: When should you follow up with the reporter?

A: Following up on your pitches is valuable and can go a long way, though it’s more important to be respectful of reporters’ time.

For major news or an urgent story, picking up the phone the next day (or even in the afternoon if you pitched in the morning) is a good idea, and can be more efficient for everyone – so long as you follow the cardinal rules: make sure the story is truly relevant and keep it concise.

For more evergreen stories, I like to give my pitch targets at least a couple days to respond, and when I do follow up, I keep it brief – just a sentence – as the most important information was previously covered.

Q: How do you maintain relationships with reporters?

A: I think it all comes down to treating reporters like real people and acting like one yourself:

  • Be polite. Respect their time and their craft.
  • Know their beat inside-out. Understand exactly which niche they work in.
  • Note what makes them tick. Learn how they like to work and what bothers them.
  • Take interest in what they write about. If you enjoy their content or have opinions to share, tell them!
  • Show that you’re an unselfish resource. Share information and sources – even if they are unrelated to your client — to establish trust.
  • Appreciate key influencers. Think about offering embargoed or exclusive opportunities to reporters you regularly work with.
  • Find touchpoints outside of the pitch process. Engage with them on social media. Or meet them in person if you get the chance, using it as way to learn more about what they’re working on, and less about immediately plugging your client.

Reach out to March for professional help in getting your story to the right people.


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