Perfect Pitch: 5 Smart Tips to Help You Slow Down and Plan Ahead

December 1, 2014


These days, communication moves at lightning speed, and so do we. But to make your pitches stand out and get the best results, it’s crucial to take the time that you need to research and create the best content, write an effective pitch, research a thoughtful target media list and customize your outreach.

One key element of a successful media relations campaign is planning as far ahead as possible, and educating your colleagues and clients on which strategies and content will receive the most media coverage — and why.  

If your client can’t tell you why something is newsworthy and timely, then you won’t be able to explain it to journalists. Ultimately, the media are your clients too, and if you lose credibility through bad pitches, then you can’t be effective. Strong media relationships are more important than any one story. 

If you ever get an assignment that seems impossible, then you must be ready to push back and say, “I want to make sure that you get the best return on your investment.”

So how do you do that?

When you start creating pitch content, it’s important to think like a reporter — and not necessarily like your client. Clients have information that they want to convey, and it’s your job to say, “OK, but what will reporters really care about?”

Remember to focus on quality over quantity when pitching. It’s best to customize content in a separate pitch for each reporter you’re targeting. This approach will generate the strongest coverage and great long-term relationships. Also, look on the reporter’s Twitter feed first to make sure that he’s at his desk working and not on deadline on a breaking story, at a conference or on vacation.

Take a lot of time to research your media list. Creating a good media list can be a senior vice president’s job. Before you pitch your contacts, get to know their interests through their Cision profiles, websites, LinkedIn profiles and Twitter feeds. 

And a word about spamming: Nobody should ever blast out a mass pitch and BCC more than one journalist at a time. As a friend of mine said, “Every time you spam a journalist, a unicorn dies.” Spamming would be like a guy who blasts out one BCC email to every woman he knows to try to get a date. And the recipients might blacklist you or your organization or put you on a spam list.

So if your boss or your client says, “But we don’t have time to customize all of our pitches and reach out to each journalist individually,” then you can respond, “Then why should reporters take the time to listen to us?”

It’s better to research and pitch five reporters thoughtfully — through a phone call, an email or a social media message — and have three of them say yes, than to pitch 100 and get one response. Media relations done well is hard work that often takes time both with the client and with the media.

With all of this in mind, here are five tips for pitching:

1. Be familiar with what journalists write and what they’ve covered recently. That’s a given — whether it’s obvious in the pitch itself or whether you spell it out — and that research will help make sure that you don’t pitch them a story that they’ve already written.

2. Keep emails as short as possible. As long as you tell reporters what the news actually is, you can add more details and photos later. Some reporters won’t open anything with attachments, so don’t send them in your first email. 

3. Consider your timing. Give a reporter as much lead time as possible, make sure that you have a timely news hook and make sure that you’re catching them at a good time of day. If you’re making an announcement on a certain date, then plan to reach out several weeks ahead of that date to let them know.

4. Reporters like to write about people. If you don’t have a human-interest story to share, then go find one. 

5. Reporters receive hundreds — if not thousands — of emails each day, so catch their attention by summing up the whole story in the headline and personalizing it.

Anne Isenhower
Anne Isenhower is a national and global media relations consultant based in Atlanta. Follow her on Twitter: @anneisenhower.


paul dusseault says:

Sage, counsel, Anne, from a real pro. We all get direction from a lot of people who don't know much about media pitching, but we know what works. Results forgive all sins.

Dec. 12, 2014

Nadine Bonner says:

Good advice, but I would add one point: if you are pitching a publication, read the publication you are pitching first. Or at least take a look to see if it is a fit. I've recently moved back into journalism, and I am astounded by the constant barrage of inappropriate pitches I receive. You don't have to send off for a hard copy anymore - you see a digital version on our website.

March 24, 2016

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