I once had a conversation with an editor of a mainstream newspaper who said she didn’t care how PR pros pitched her as long as they didn’t waste her time. OK, seems simple enough. Yet getting your approach just right can still be daunting, so I thought it would be a good time to revisit the rules for successful story pitching as this is something I have been focusing on a lot recently.
Keep your pitch under 200 words
Some PR pros would make the case for fewer, but there are instances where more is actually more. However, the prevailing rule is the shorter, the better.
Those of us who opt for minimal subject lines and two-sentence email pitches need to be prepared to answer all logical questions, arrange interviews, supply statistics or other data, and essentially close the sale. There’s nothing worse than having a journalist bite on a pitch for a time-sensitive story and having to spend a week digging up research or wrangling a client for an interview. Be ready to go.
Get strategic with your subject line
The same editor told me the simplest subject line is the best. If you know the editor well, go with “Hi Jane, it’s me.” If not, find a compelling few words that get the message across without being too clever.
Can your story be tied to a trend?
If this sounds tried and true, it is. The best PR pros are voracious media consumers and this gives them insights into what’s current in pop culture, politics, tech breakthroughs and world events. The best pitches are often those that point out a connection to a hot trend.
We’ve got the beat
Demonstrating knowledge of journalist beats is one of the most direct routes to interest in a story idea. And it pays to go the extra mile. Dig deeper to find out if the journalist covers the software or hardware, or whether a regional publication includes your client’s hometown or if that consumer reporter ever covers new products or only trends. This extra step can be the difference between a productive relationship and a snarky email ousting you on your media misstep.
Be fearless in your follow-up
If a reporter has opened the door to the possibility of a story but doesn’t commit right away, don’t give up. I don’t condone mindless pestering. I do advocate building on what has already been pitched to flesh out an angle even further. This approach can heighten the urgency of your story and help a fence-sitting journalist decide to cover.
Get results by being persistent
If an editor doesn’t snatch the bait the first or second time, try a third time. And if still no snatch, follow it up with a phone call and prove you believe in the story, and give it one last chance to get the story featured.
Not every story will get covered, it is impossible to think otherwise, but make sure you have covered the facts and tried to sell your heart and soul. If you fail, get thinking about your next media hook.