Have you got a story to share but don’t hear back from journalists? Do you struggle with the pitch writing process? In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about successful PR pitching. Along with the ultimate guide to media pitching, we’ll share with you some successful examples to help get you started for your next pitch.
Media pitching in the PR world refers to presenting your angle or story to a journalist, to get it featured in their publication.
A pitch is usually a short personalized email to the journalist, that outlines the news and gives a reason why it should be published.
PR professionals will usually pitch to reporters, editors, outlets, journalists, bloggers and influencers.
If your article is given prominence or coverage, more attention will be paid to it. If targeted well, you will succeed in engaging new customers. In short, a successful media pitch will help you spread the word about your offering.
Now we know what it is, we will look at how to do it.
Keeping the basics of media pitching in mind, let's start at the beginning. You have to fully understand your own story. Only then can you formulate a winning pitch. You need to understand the current news landscape. Without research, you can’t write a successful pitch.
A good starting point is to read news stories that relate to your industry. This way you can get a feel of the type of content being published. You’ll likely notice that most of the stories are exciting, relevant and engaging. Nobody wants to read about pure statistics only.
Remember, you want to collect data for your pitch. Statistics add credibility to your story. The key is to take the data and give it some zest, make sure your statistics add value. Data speaks for itself, so don’t try to overdo it or make errors in thinking that data always makes a good impression on paper. Data should never be forced for the sake of data. It should provide unique insight. Judge if your pitch really needs it.
You can start a collection of the type of content and news angles you like, this way you’re starting to build references that can help build your story’s character and direct the angle you’re taking.
As mentioned, the purpose of your pitch is to convince journalists to feature your story or content. No journalist is going to want to feature you if your pitch isn’t newsworthy or grounded in a relevant context. Relevance ensures that your audience’s interests are catered to. You need to keep tabs on what’s being reported in your industry. Building yourself into a position of authority will only work if you are talking about cutting-edge trends and addressing the pain points and needs of your audience.
When researching, start compiling media lists of news sites and journalists you want to reach out to. Specifically, study the type of content featured on their blogs and feeds. Try to identify the topics and discussions they like to report about.
You want to make sure that you’re educated in the industry. This is greatly beneficial when starting to build a network of journalists. Get the support you need to gather tips on hot trends from conferences and networking events, and maintain good relationships with your peers. They may know something you don’t.
Lastly, research your competitors. Look at what they’re publishing and try to find out if it’s working for them or not. You’ll also be able to identify your unique selling point that will differentiate your story from theirs if you know what your competitors are talking about.
A good pitch needs research to make it relevant, interesting, and newsworthy. Taking the extra time to research the content, as well as the market space of your pitch, will make it more authoritative and likely to get picked up. Be sure to include any special details that will capture a perspective's eye.
Now that you’ve done your desk research, you can start crafting your story. Keep in mind that pitching is not just writing a story. There’s a structure to it, with some media pitching characteristics you need to adhere to. Your pitch needs to grab the attention of the reader. It needs to be engaging, relevant, and articulately written.
The majority of the time, your pitch is going to take the format of an email. As an email, the first thing a journalist is going to see when they open their inbox is the subject line. Making this subject line enticing is a practice in itself. Keep the subject line informative, but try to avoid buzzwords.
Consider the following examples:
This is where you follow on from your subject line, making it critical to structure well. The most effective way to write the body of your pitch is to divide it into the following:
First, you want to provide the scenario, the context, and the bigger picture of the story you are pitching, including why you're reaching out to them. Your aim is to set up the story so that you can then present your business as the solution to the wider problem. This is a very important step as it is what makes your pitch a value add and more than just a sales pitch.
After presenting the context of the story, it’s time to present the topic that your pitch is addressing. This will only have credibility if you have backed it up with research. Make sure to use valid sources from research publications and top-tier publications to give your pitch as much authority as you can. Journalists love data, so be sure to use it if you can.
This is where you address the problem. Remember, the aim is not to sell yourself, but to give an example of an interesting solution to a relevant problem that a wider audience can relate to and will want to know about. Part of the solution can be offering an exclusive interview or additional comments and insights from key individuals. Always keep it short and don’t include attachments.
This is where you let the reader know specifically what to do to find out more. So provide your direct contact details and give a sense of urgency to get a faster response.
There are certain elements journalists look for when scanning over your pitch. Here is a handful of some of these things to help you get your news covered:
The more people involved in a story or, the more people impacted by the news, the more newsworthy it will be.
Current news has more impact. With fresh news everywhere, the media landscape quickly loses interest. The lifecycle of news is short-lived, so you want to schedule your stories appropriately.
The familiarity of the person, place or event makes for a stronger news angle than someone or something no one has heard of.
The location of the event will affect the impact on your audience. People care more about things that are happening near them.
Something unusual, shocking, and out of the ordinary makes a story worth covering.
Not all these elements will apply to you or your brand. The nature of your business and the industry’s perspective will influence which qualities are tied to your pitch. In the B2B spectrum, proximity, prominence and timeliness are most commonly made use of.
Some other questions to ask yourself
If it fails to tick these boxes, then do not pitch. It’ll give media outlets a negative impression of you and your knowledge. It could also negatively impact you when you do have something newsworthy. You want their attention when you have something important to say.
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It is worthy to pitch about expanding into new countries and regions. Not only to your existing market but also to the one you're entering. You want your presence known to new audiences.
A change in leadership or a new important figure joining your company is worth mentioning to your audience. Investors and other stakeholders like to know what’s happening with management.
Tell the market what’s coming and how this will benefit the industry!
Diversifying your portfolio of brands? You want that covered!
Awards are a symbol of your work and an indication that you’re recognized as one of the top companies in your field.
News isn’t always positive. Fatalities or crises often make the news. They’re usually reported when a serious mishap happened that impacted the company’s employees or business deals.
Research relevant journalists for your media pitch list most likely to be interested in running your story. Read what they have covered previously and use it to help you understand if your story will appeal to them.
Here are some tools you can use to find the journalists that are right for you.
Google alerts monitor search results for a given query. By getting emails whenever a specific query shows up, you can track media coverage of a particular topic, and take note of the journalist who wrote about the topic in question. To set up Google Alerts, go to google.com/alerts, and type in the query you want to monitor. You can customize what results to receive and how often.
HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out and is a platform that connects journalists with relevant expert sources. This helps journalists and allows for you and your brand to tell a story.
Another platform that can help connect you with journalists and bloggers. It’s free and works by filtering requests from journalists for quotes and other information on Twitter, making it easy to find the journalists writing about subjects relevant to your story. If you have a particular publication in mind, go through their website and find the journalist who is writing about the topics your story is relevant to.
Making use of professional PR help will get the job done quicker and save you a lot of time and frustration. Your PR agent should be able to find the most important and relevant publications. You also run a higher success rate of actually getting published.
Once you’ve done the above steps, and your pitch is in the hands of a relevant party:
In media pitching, the emphasis is on quality over quantity. With this in mind, be sure to personalize your email. Do not send any pitch to an ‘info@’ email address. Address your pitch directly to the most relevant person. Explain why you are reaching out to them specifically. It could be because of the field they write about, or even a specific story they have published previously. Remember, even if a journalist doesn’t pick up this story, you are still working on a long-term relationship, and they might reach out to you or pick up on a story in the future if you proactively approach them.
It’s important to make sure that your pitch, as well as it being personal, is also exclusive. You’d want to disclose information to journalists one at a time. If you send your story out to multiple people and they all show interest, you may have to turn people down, which can jeopardize relationships and make it harder to build trust.
It is important to decide how you want to sound. Do you want to be strictly professional, or use slang in your pitch? Maybe you want to make it humorous. You will need to customize it to suit your audience.
To recap, it is important to keep tabs on industry trends, collect data, review competitors and decide on your angle. When writing your pitch, make it newsworthy, offer a subject line that will draw the reader in, personalize it for them and use the basic media pitch structure (context, problem, solution, contact instructions). Over time, be sure to compile media lists of journalists and other contacts.
Media pitching can be hard to master and takes time to get right. The most tricky part to get right is tailoring it to your specific audience and putting it in front of them at the right time. It is important to reach the right contact and make it relevant to them. Self-promotion is also one of the key mistakes and difficulties in getting right when pitching.
Here are some examples of how to structure a successful media pitch, broken down into its individual parts.
This is a pitch for one of our clients Veylinx that was successfully picked up.
Tagline: Behavioral science upending traditional market research; Veylinx closes $2M in pre-Series A round. (notice how the first sentence gives away part of the story but also generates some interest)
Personalization: This is Ross again, from Veylinx, the first and only behavioral insights platform to predict consumer purchase behavior. I wanted to share this news because I thought it might be of interest to you. (In this case, we had already established a rapport with the journalist, but here you could also say it is of interest because you recently read an article by them that was relevant to this story.)
Context: Traditional market research methods suffer from hypothetical bias — what people claim they will do is different from what they will actually do.
Problem: In fact, the gap of intention between what people say they will buy and reality can be as big as 595%. Businesses rely on this information to make major decisions, such as launching new products. (Data has been used to back up this claim)
Solution: Veylinx announces to have raised $2 million in a pre-Series A investment, backed by several prominent VCs, and is setting out to expand its unique technology that measures the real wants and needs of consumers in Europe and the US.
The innovative methodology ensures businesses obtain unbiased consumer insights with their skin-in-the-game approach - consumers have to put their own money on the line. In this pitch, we also provided a quote from an investor in Veylinx, as well as offering to put the journalist in touch with the relevant CEOs if they want further information.
Here is another example of a successful pitch to a top-tier publication for one of our clients, Recruitee. This is an example of how you can still pitch a story even when you might not have any news going on.
Personalization: My name is Emma, and I'm in charge of the communication department at Recruitee. I just finished reading both your article on 8 startups hiring in Amsterdam as well as Shubham's article on Booking seeking funding.
Context: The fact is, depending on your industry, you are either hiring or laying people off. That's why I believe I have a story that could be interesting to the readers of Silicon Canals as it deals with how startups/scaleups can continue effective hiring with a tight budget.
Problem: While fear of illness keeps most of the world indoors, it is the underlying nightmare for the economy that keeps us up at night. In the US alone, 37% of companies are considering layoffs. Even if some companies decide not to cut back, it's highly likely that budgets will be re-evaluated. With budget cuts imminent, some external programs commonly used by companies will have to be brought in-house.
One luxury that a company may not be able to afford any longer, is the use of a recruiter. The average cost of a recruiter carries a heavy price tag of 20 to 35% of the candidate's first-year salary. However, if a company is not ready to do the hiring themselves, it may actually be more costly and not nearly as effective.
Solution: Companies looking to cope with limited hiring allocations are turning to social media to attract talent, utilizing employee referrals, and investing in technology to help with the hiring process. The aim is to still provide a pleasant hiring experience for applicants, while also ensuring that talent is found. Finding the right tools to aid hiring can minimize some of the top hiring mistakes companies make.
We also ended this pitch by offering to put the journalist in touch with a senior member of Recruitee. This is how you leverage their expertise to offer further insights into this story you’ve identified.
If you have a captivating subject line, a powerful introduction, and you set the context, you’re already on track for a great pitch. Remember to make your pitch exclusively addressed to the journalist in question, and don’t give away the full story.
Pitching isn’t always successful, so don’t be put off if someone isn’t interested. The majority of the time, you’ll pitch to multiple journalists before your story gets picked up. In the meantime, continue working to make it attractive and newsworthy, updating it with new relevant research that you may find. By constantly researching and adjusting your angle, you will find success. Over time journalists will see the news and stories you are sharing, and your authority will grow as they realize your involvement and insights into an industry.