Preparing the Perfect PR Pitch

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OK — you’ve found the story. You’ve lined up a positive quote from within your company — and maybe (if you’re playing in the big leagues) a favorable comment from a professional business analyst. You have the facts, the figures, and the human interest that transforms facts into stories and news. Now what?Now you go down this four-item checklist and prepare yourself for success.

1. Perfect PR pitch – the note you need to strike in the pitch

When you pitch a story, you’re selling an idea — an idea about you and your company. You’re selling it to a jaded individual who’s been there and seen that — but you’re also selling it to an individual who NEEDS story ideas and leads. Not yours — he or she is flooded with leads and ideas — but still, the self-interested reporter or editor is always looking for the next good story. Your job is to tell that story briefly and compellingly — just as if you were trying to hook a prospect during a 30-second elevator ride. To do that, you need a “perfect PR pitch” — a brief, compelling and well-told story that will link your publicity needs with the reporter’s rational self-interest. If you sell or have sold, if you know how to quickly grab the interest of a prospect, you already have the basic skills of pitching.

2. Shotgun vs. Deer rifle – focusing in on the right media

You may not be a hunter (I’m not). You may not have ever even held a firearm. But you know — thanks to the media — the difference between a shotgun and a deer rifle. One, the deer rifle, sends a carefully-aimed shot for a long distance — if your aim is true, you hit your target. The other, useful at short range, sends a large number of shots — like a handful of gravel — out at a target. Because of the number of shots, if the range is close and the aim is reasonably accurate (not precise — why bother) you’re bound to hit something. Both approaches have impact — but which is right for your story?

Pulling Hair

Shotgun press releases — those sent out over reach plenty of reporters and wind up on thousands of online databases where they can be found. To work with a shotgun approach, the news should be either really compelling (you’ve just bought out Microsoft) or so un-compelling that it makes more sense to cast your bread on the waters in hopes that somebody, somewhere will take a bite.

Deer rifle press releases are distributed (or rather, the pitches are made) to very select news media — and generally to specific reporters at those newspapers and magazines. You choose the targets after reading the publications — and the stories your target has written (a quick Web-search on Yahoo! or Google should help you find online copies of those stories — if not, a trip to the library will pay hefty dividends). Deer rifle stories are generally important stories, but stories that require a special familiarity with your product line and market space. This is where the industry targeting offered by comes into play.

One is right for you — but it may be a different one at different times. For a really big stories, both approaches may be right — five to ten targeted media followed by a shotgun-blast press release using

3. Phone vs. e-mail (or even antediluvian fax?)

Recent studies show that as many as 80% of reporters in a given (high-tech) market space prefer to receive a PR pitch via e-mail. This is a major change from past procedures, and even from preferences of just a few years ago (when many reporters were gun-shy of e-mail). Of the remainder, fax is preferred to a phone pitch by two-to-one. Since you’re not likely to know the reporter and know his/her preference, go with the default setting and send the pitch by e-mail (NOT as an attachment — those get deleted un-read unless a reporter has asked for and is expecting an attachment). If you want to further insure success, send a FAX, too. But do not call without doing your homework on the reporter — that’s the fast track to failure.

4. Initial contact and follow-up

Make your initial contact via e-mail or fax. Depending on the timeliness, send a brief follow-up e-mail (or fax) in 24-48 hours, or even a week if the story is timeless. DO NOT CALL — not unless the reporter has told you that phone pitches are OK. And if you do phone, do not wear out your welcome, or try to be Mr./Ms. Personality. Keep the call brief — unless the reporter chooses to extend it. Ask: “is this a good time?” or “Do you have a minute to hear a quick PR pitch?” or “Would you prefer an e-mail, or do you have a minute to hear a quick PR pitch?” or something like that. Then listen to the answer. And heed it — even (or perhaps especially) if it”s not what you want to hear.

This article, written by Ned Barnett, originally appeared in PR Fuel (, a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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