It’s difficult to get a reporter’s attention these days. They are constantly being pitched new stories and pitches that they can’t possibly cover. It takes some serious creativity to stand out from the pack, but it is possible with perfect PR pitch strategies! We’re going to go over some of the best tactics for grabbing their attention and selling them on your story in this blog post.
The first thing you want to do is get their attention. Whether it’s through a phone call, email or in-person pitch meeting; if they don’t like your PR pitch, or you plan B “pivot” pitches, then just move on. This might sound cold but there are thousands of reporters out there looking for new stories and pitches. You want to ensure the reporter likes what he hears from the start, otherwise good luck with getting him on board later down line. There’s a reason it seems like a neutral or negative initial response just gets worse as you go.
Your opening sentence should be punchy: this will not only intrigue the journalist into continuing reading further it helps you stand out from all the mediocre PR pitches they receive.
We all know journalists are busy people. So, if you’re going to take up their time then make your pitch count and be succinct: keep it at one page maximum (ideally two to three paragraphs) with relevant supporting materials included as links or PDF/Microsoft Word attachment.
Once they receive that initial inquiry – now what? Well ideally after reading over everything thoroughly within a few seconds (reporters are massive skimmers, so realize your time to shine is limited), they will decide to put the PR pitch in their Yes, No, or Maybe pile.
Now, chances are no one has ever said anything like “No” to you before. So when a reporter says they’ve placed you in the No or Maybe pile – it’s not personal (it happens more often than we would care for). If this is your first go at pitching you are going to have to balance your need for an answer with the journalist not wanting to be annoyed: keep following up as politely as possible until that little voice in their head finally says it might be time to abandon this person, at least at this time. The truth is journalists just don’t have time to respond to every pitch. In a perfect world, we would get replies with feedback, but it rarely happens. When it does, even if it is harsh or rude, just accept it and be gracious. A bridge not burned is still a possible path to media coverage down the road.
Make sure whatever is being pitched has something substantial behind its claims because journalists see through smoke and mirrors quickly these days! Be honest with yourself whether this story stands out when thinking back over all angles at hand so you are less likely to waste anyone’s time, which includes you as well as the journalist.
Be mindful of the PR pitch’s tone. If it sounds like a sales letter, revise straight away. The best pitches are conversational and introduce an interesting angle that hasn’t been covered before so journalists will consider it with enthusiasm instead of disregard because they’ve heard this story too many times already.
Here are several simple tips you can put to use today for perfect PR pitches:
1. Make it personal – If you want to capture the reporter’s attention, you need to go beyond simply copying and pasting your press release into an email. You need to personalize your pitch. Address the reporter by name, and show them you’ve read their past articles and admire their work. Even better, find a way to connect your story with their past work to show how perfect a fit it is for their publication.
PR Pitch Example:
2. Keep it brief – What is the elevator pitch of your … PR pitch? Reporters receive hundreds of PR pitches each week. Going through them all is time consuming, meaning you need to simplify your pitch as much as possible. Keep it short and to the point, and make sure the essence of your message comes across within just seconds. If possible, find a way to capture what your story is about in a single sentence.
3. Don’t send press releases as attachments – You want your pitch to be readily seen if they click through and open your email. Sending your pitch exclusively as an attachment is a bad idea for a few reasons, but the biggest reason is that the time it takes to open is excessive. Give your pitch and context, then include attachments as additional backup material. If you are sending a press release along with your pitch, I recommend copying and pasting it into the body of the email below your introductory pitch. As you can see from the PR pitch example in #1, an attachment makes sense as no one is going to copy and paste an entire book into an email. Another option is to simply include a link (Dropbox or Google Drive) rather than an attachment.
4. Email at the right time of day – Knowing when to email is just as important as knowing what to email. Remember, reporters are constantly up against deadlines. That’s why it’s a good idea to send your email over early in the morning before the rush to meet the deadline hits. Of course, every reporter has his or her own preferences, so it’s always helpful to find out what their “best time” to be reached is. Also realize that Mondays are days of playing catch up from email that has accumulated over the weekend so you will get an even-slimmer skimming of your perfect PR pitch than usual. Avoid Mondays if you can.
5. Write an irresistible subject line – Your subject line is important for two main reasons: 1) It’s essential for grabbing the reporter’s attention and getting them to open your email and 2) It’s responsible for making certain your email doesn’t get flagged as spam. As it relates to the first point, you need to write compelling subject lines that don’t sound like advertisements or generic, boring stories. Write subject lines that you could see as headlines in the reporter’s publication.
6. PLEASE, DON’T DO THIS!!! – To make sure your email doesn’t get flagged as spam, avoid excessive punctuation and USING ALL CAPS AS THIS LOOKS SPAMMY!!! That is just going way too far when it comes to grabbing the reporter’s attention in their inbox. That being said, I am seeing people effectively use emojis. I’d recommend using emojis sparsely and test it first with a few media to determine if those within your industry find it refreshing or annoying.
7. Link your PR pitch to a current event – Tying your story to a current event or an industry trend can make it much more appealing to reporters. This adds an extra newsworthy element to your story, increasing the odds it gets picked up. For example, if you are in the cyber-security space, you could tie your pitch to a recent security breach as it always seems we are a few weeks or months away from one.
8. Be prepared to answer questions – This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised just how many times PR people aren’t properly prepared to field questions. Make sure you’re confident in the material before you initiate contact. Think of questions reporters might ask, and be prepared to give clear, concise answers. Thinking on your feet is a great way to answer questions but also adapt your perfect PR pitch to what a journalist might actually want in terms of a story.
How else can PR people improve their pitches? Leave a comment with your best tip.
This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: https://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.