Media Pitching: the Guide (with Examples)

Ever been stuck with a story, not knowing how media pitching works? Struggling with writing a PR pitch? Uncertain about how to get journalists to look at your mail? In this article, we’ll break down the structure of the pitch and guide you through the process. Along with the ultimate guide to media pitching, we’ll share successful examples to help you prepare for your next pitch. By the end of this article, you should know the basics of how to pitch journalists. We know that pitching is frustrating and can get tedious when journalists don't respond to your emails. However, to pitch is part of the job and can be made less frustrating when you've got the basics right. So let's perfect that email to get the journalist's attention!

As a startup or new tech company, getting your name out there can be challenging. Our mission at PRLab is to help businesses overcome this challenge, working with fast-growing companies globally to secure media coverage for them and build them a solid reputation.

May 30, 2021 |

15 minutes

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1

What is media pitching?

If you are familiar with the world of PR, you’ll know that public relations doesn’t function the same as advertising. Its purpose is to generate awareness for a brand, not of their products or service, but their value and importance within their industry.

Pitching in the PR world refers to presenting your angle or story to a journalist, in order to get it featured in their publication. A pitch is usually a short email, personalized message 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.

PR professionals will usually pitch to reporters, editors, outlets, journalists, bloggers and influencers.

It is highly unlikely that you’ll be featured in Forbes or Harvard Business Review overnight unless you are already a very influential business. Reaching these heights requires patience, you need to grow your reputation before journalists will feature any startup that approaches them.

It is also not enough to simply write one pitch. Different journalists will be interested in different angles, so approaching them with the right one will help you convince them to pick up your news story.

SUMMARY

In essence, pitching means to present your ideas concisely and convincingly to others. It is the act of communicating your ideas, your message, your story, service or product to someone else and selling it to them, persuading them of its value.

2

Researching your pitch

Keeping the basics of media pitching in mind, let’s start at the beginning. Without research, you can’t write a successful pitch. You have to fully understand your own story. Only then can you formulate a winning pitch. You also need to understand the current news landscape.

1. Desk Research

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.

2. Data

Remember, you want to collect data for your pitch. Statistics are worthy to report, since they add credibility to your story. The key is to take the data and give it some zest, make sure your statistics tie into value adding information that keeps the audience engaged.

Note that data should never be forced just for the sake of having data in your pitch. It should provide a unique insight you have. 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. Judge if your pitch really needs it.

3. Reference material

You can start a collection of the type of content and news angles you like, this way you’re starting to collect references that can help build your story’s character and direct the angle you’re taking.

4. Trends

As we 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 is not newsworthy, grounded in a relevant context. You need to research trends and keep tabs about what’s being reported in your industry scope.

Relevance ensures that your audience’s interests are catered to. Relevant content also helps to pitch a story that your target publication is interested in. It wattents that your angle fits the perspective of the journalists you want to cover your story.

Building yourself a position of authority will only work if you are talking about the cutting edge trends, and addressing the pain points and needs of your audience.

5. Contact Information

In your research, 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.

6. Educate Yourself

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, networking events, and by maintaining good relationships with your peers. They may know something you don’t!

7. Customer feedback

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, networking events, and by maintaining good relationships with your peers. They may know something you don’t!

8. Competitor analysis

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 the edge that will differentiate your story from theirs, if you know what your competitors are talking about.

SUMMARY
Any 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.

3

Structure of a pitch

Now that you’ve done your desk research, you can start crafting your story. Keep in mind that pitching is not just writing some story. There’s a structure to it, with some media pitching characteristics you need to adhere to.

The body of a pitch

The body is where you flesh out your subject line, making it critical to stracute well. The most effective way to write the body of your pitch is to divide it into the following:

1. Context

First, you want to provide the scenario, the context and the bigger picture of the story you are pitching. Your aim is to set up the story so that you can then present your business as the solution to the wider societal problem. This is a very important step as it is what makes your pitch value adding and more than just a sales pitch.

2. Problem

After presenting the context of the story, it’s time to present the problem that your pitch is addressing. This problem will only have credibility if you have backed it up with research. Make sure to use valid sources from research institutions, 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.

3. Solution

This is where the protagonist comes in to save the day, be it you or your organization. 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.

SUMMARY

Always keep it short. You don’t want to include attachments or write an essay. You want to get interest shown in your news, so that it’ll be covered. Think of your pitch as the first impression you make, before sharing all about yourself.

2. E-mail format

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 of itself.

The key is to give away some part of the story while not giving it away completely. If you are offering exclusives such as interviews, you should also mention this here.

You also want to stick to the facts. Buzzwords such as ‘ground-breaking’ or ‘world-beating’ are too subjective and don’t come across well in a subject line. Keep it relevant and short enough that the entire subject can be seen in the preview. Consider the following examples:

  • Story: HR is overworked and overwhelmed, here’s how to aid them.
  • Story: This CEO developed a formula to help others set goals remotely
  • Thoughts on an article: Record high hiring freeze? How recruiters can stay active
SUMMARY

Keep the subject line informative, but try to avoid buzzwords. Keep the email short and don’t give away too much of the story all at once.

3. Make it personal

With a great subject line, hopefully, the recipient has opened your email and started to read your pitch. In media pitching, the emphasis is on quality over quantity. With this in mind, be sure to personalize your email. 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 are proactively approaching 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.

Personality and exclusivity will also have the journalist’s interest more seriously. This is because you’re allowing them the opportunity to add their unique style to your story. Keep in mind that your pitch should be flexible for the journalist to make the story match their platform’s criteria.

SUMMARY

In short, explain why you’re reaching out to the specific journalist or publisher. Remember you’re working on building a relationship with the receiver. Keep the pitch exclusive to them.

4

Newsworthy qualities of a media pitch

There are certain elements journalists look for when scanning over your pitch. If your news carries some of the following qualities, it runs a higher chance of being covered.

Newsworthy qualities:

  • Proximity
  • Prominence
  • Timeliness
  • Oddity
  • Consequence
  • Conflict
  • Human interest
  • Extremes/Superlatives
  • Scandal
  • Impact

Proximity. The location of the event will affect the impact on your audience. People care more about things that are happening near them.

Prominence. The familiarity of the person, place or event makes for a stronger news angle than someone or something no one has heard of.

Timeliness. 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.

Oddity. Something being unusual, shocking and out of the ordinary makes a story worth covering.

Consequence. A story becomes newsworthy if there is a direct impact on the readers.

Conflict. Readers are always interested in drama, as it provides us with a story to tell. In fact, conflict in stories literally releases serotonin in our brain!

Human interest. Situations that inspire human emotion make for a good story. This can be both positive and negative. Think about how a story is able to make you feel angry or content.

Extremes/superlatives. Audiences love to read about the best, the first, the biggest, the fastest. You know what audiences don’t like?

Dishonesty. Make sure you can back up your claims.

Scandal. There's a lot of infamous stories out there. People love sharing them to gossip about.

Impact. The more people involved in a story or the more people impacted by the news, the more newsworthy it will be.

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. Although, corporate scandals arise when brands try to cover up dishonest work.

With these elements in mind, you can word your pitch to keep yourself at the forefront of the industry. Incorporating some of the qualities in your pitch will also help you stay focused on the tone of your news. You can also match qualities to journalists and their usual work.

SUMMARY

Your story won’t need to carry all these qualities. Your business and the industry’s perspective will influence which qualities are tied to your pitch. For B2B, proximity, prominence and timeliness are most common. Try to match qualities to the journalists and their work as well.

5

What news to pitch

Not all stories are newsworthy stories. The scope of your industry and the work you do will determine what type of news celebrates more coverage and recognition. For example, startups and scaleups tend to receive great interest from funding announcements.

Here’s a short list of possible news to pitch:

  • Brand Expansions
  • Change in leadership
  • New product Launch
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Awards and endorsements
  • Crisis
  • Industry reports
  • Whitepapers
  • Industry research
  • Opinion pieces
  • Educational materials or infographics

When your company grows, it is worthy to pitch about expanding into new countries and regions. Not only can you pitch to your existing market, but also the new market you're entering. Through this, you make your presence known among the audiences you’re pursuing.

A change in leadership or a new important figure joining your company is worth mentioning to your audience. Investors and other stakeholders like to have transparency and a notion of what’s happening with management.

Launching a new product line or service means that your business is expanding. Tell the market what’s coming and how this’ll benefit the industry.

Mergers and acquisitions usually make big news in the business world. Diversifying your portfolio of brands? You want that covered!

Awards and endorsements give good impressions. They’re a symbol of your work and an indication that you’re recognised as one of the top companies in your field.

News isn’t always positive, fatalities or crises also make the news. They’re usually reported when a serious mishap happened that impacted the company’s employed or business deals.

Industry reports and whitepapers are greatly beneficial to pioneer an industry. If you have enough knowledge about a topic to publish an industry guide, do it. Industry reports help solve problems and benefit your industry.

If you have significant industry research, that’s share worthy news. It shows your involvement in your field and the contributions you make to promote your niche.

People love opinion pieces, especially from CEOs and industry leaders. If you can hear it directly from a thought leader, you’re more engaged with the content compared to just someone on the internet.

Content such as editorial articles or infographics are nice to use for visual engagements. They’re to the point and illustrate the main highlights of your news.

Now that you have an idea of how to structure your content and what news to share, you might wonder how to get in touch with journalists?

SUMMARY

Consider the scope of your industry when planning what news to pitch. For startups and scaleups, funding announcements get good traction. Try and think what news will benefit your business and add value to the industry.

6

How to find journalists

As well as writing a successful pitch, you also need to know where to send the pitch and focus your efforts on the relevant publications. As previously mentioned, pitching is not something you can do by sending out emails en masse.

Doing so makes the exclusive aspect redundant, and could mean you have to refuse the story to some journalists, which is not something you want to be doing to maintain positive relationships and a professional image.

This means that although it is time-consuming, you should be sending your pitches to individual journalists one at a time, prioritizing the publications with the most reach and relevance to your story. Here are some tools you can use to find the journalists that are right for you.

  • Google Alerts. Google alerts are a way to monitor the search results for a given query. By getting emails whenever a specific query shows up on the web, you can track media coverage of a particular topic, and take note of the journalist who has written about the topic in question. To set up a Google Alert, go to google.com/alerts, type in the query you want to monitor. You can customize what results you want to receive as well as how often.
  • HARO. HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out and is a platform that connects journalists with relevant expert sources. This makes it easier for journalists to meet their deadlines, as well as making it easier for you and your brand to tell your story. There is the option for a free account, as well as various subscription options.
  • Journorequests. It is another platform that can help connect you with journalists and bloggers. It’s a free service and works by filtering requests from journalists for quotes and other information on Twitter, making it easy to find the journalists writing about the subjects relevant to your story. This is Manually searching publications. Sometimes you got to do the dirty work yourself. 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.
  • Your PR agency. Making use of professional help will get the job done quicker and save you a lot of time and frustration. Your PR agent should be able to compile media lists of key publicists for you. This way your tier one media, tier two, and so get personalized to the orientation of your news. You also run a higher success rate of actually getting published.
SUMMARY

Focus your efforts and make use of online tools to find relevant journalists, it saves you time and means that your press releases and new stories will be read by more relevant audiences.

7

Media Pitching Checklist

Here’s a quick 3-step checklist to make sure you remember all you need to do for your pitch.

  • Research: Review industry trends, collect data, summarize relevant news events, review competitors, understand what shareworthy news you have, find your angle.
  • Structure Pitch: Choose what to pitch, make it newsworthy, captivating subject line, email format, make it personal, body (context, problem, solution), keep it short, don’t give away the full story.
  • Compile media lists: Find journalists, publicists, prioritise media, keep pitch exclusive.

8

Mistakes made in pitching

The key indicator of a media pitch is in its name, it’s a pitch - an introduction. A pitch is not the full story, it is not a press release or coverage story just yes.

The Mistake: Submitting the full story

A common PR mistake is to think you need to share the entire story. This makes your pitch too lengthy. Although emails with a great deal of information are a show of our expertise, you want to stay focused on creating personality and keeping attention on your news highlights.

A short pitch will direct your focus. It is greatly important to keep your pitch meaningful. A loss of focus will result in the journalist rejecting your story or archiving it.

SUMMARY

Don’t sell your full story. Keep it short and focused when you pitch.

The Mistake: Promoting instead of pitching

Remember, you're not trying to sell or promote a product (that’s for advertising) and you don’t want to be generic. You want to be interesting, media pitching is about building a story and to entice the readers. Make sure the angle you're taking is captivating and that it compels the journalist to find out more.

The story you’re pitching should contribute to the industry in some way. There should be a value-adding benefit to it. For example, an opinion piece from an industry expert is a nice story to share, sharing industry insights. Telling the market about a product’s features is not news, it’s advertising.

SUMMARY

Remember you’re not trying to advertise a service or product. You want to be insightful and informative with your story.

The Mistake: Not researching the journalist

You didn’t tailor your pitch to the journalist’s style. Before reaching out to a journalist, be sure to research their work and make sure your pitch appeals to them personally. Reading their last few articles will give you a feel of the audience and the niche.

SUMMARY

Make sure the journalist and your pitch share some similarities. This will create personal appeal.

The Mistake: Lack of appeal

Your pitch isn’t captivating. This comes down to your subject line, be sure to stay on-topic and have a strong subject line with your introduction. You could always follow the “question, promise, exclusivity” approach when pitching. This is a general sequence to make your pitch more appealing and have the journalist contact you for more.

SUMMARY

Captivate the journalist. Use the subject line and introduction to make an impact.

The Mistake: Poor timing

Lead times are crucial, you don’t want to pitch last minute. Preparation and a solid strategy will benefit you greatly, much more than a pitch that’s just thrown together on short notice. Make sure to look at publication schedules and submission deadlines, if the news site has one.

SUMMARY

Always have a timeline in place. You don’t want to pitch last minute.

The Mistake: Too much jargon

Don’t make it difficult for journalists to read your pitch. Write like you will for the general public, easy to explain and conversational. Too much industry lingo will rather make you sound pretentious than win you a publication. Keep the jargon relevant to where it’s beneficial and don’t have it dominate the pitch.

SUMMARY

Keep it conversational, but still professional. Only use jargon where absolutely necessary.

The Mistake: Too little or too much follow ups

You do not want to crowd the journalist’s inbox. The best is to send a reminder a few days after the email, asking for feedback. A general rule is to not message them more than three times. If you do not get a response, it likely means it isn’t the time for your story. If you were published, remember to thank the journalist and maintain a healthy relationship with them.

SUMMARY

The golden rule is to not message more than three times after pitching. Maintain a healthy relationship with the journalist and don’t crowd their inbox.

9

What’s difficult about pitching?

Media pitching can be really difficult, until you get the hang of it. In reality, getting a journalist to pick up your pitch is the hardest part of the PR process. Not many PR professionals are fond of pitching, simply because it’s tough.

Getting coverage is the main tricky part. On average, journalists receive between one and five pitches per business day. Highly coveted blogs and popular business channels can receive between ten and twenty per business day.

So already you need to be inventive to get noticed between a pile of pitches. Not only do you need to grab the attention of journalists, you need to pick the right publicists for your story.

Remember, the angle of your pitch needs to match the journalist’s perspective. Research their field and see what topics they write about.

Especially when you’re starting out, you want to give journalists stories that will benefit their portfolio. Not knowing who you’re pitching to is detrimental. Get to know your journalists and build relationships with them.

Not knowing how to approach the media is also a downfall. Be sure to greatly research the landscape to be certain about where to pitch and who you want to contact. Think critically about the audience you want to reach.

The important part is to not get discouraged by journalists not responding to your email. If you sent a targeted pitch, it’s likely that it wasn’t a good fit for the timeframe. In your followup, ask value adding questions or give more information when appropriate.

Always be ready to problem solve and have a plan B. Even if it’s a different spin on your story. Make sure to have more than one idea to pitch. Your story can be sculpted in multiple ways, if it’s flexible. Try your different pitches until you succeed, just don’t spam the same journalists.

Most importantly, be straightforward. Think like the editor, you’d want to see a clear cut story. Not buzzwords and a long clever introduction that obscures the news. This does not mean to pitch generic news (this won’t get you noticed either). Being clear cut means to have an engaging subject field with to the point news.

SUMMARY

The most difficult part of pitching is to get noticed. On average, journalists get 1 - 5+ pitches. Be inventive with your subject line, but keep your story to the point (without being generic). Also, give the journalist a story that will benefit their portfolio.

10

Examples of successful pitching

Here are some examples of how to structure a successful media pitch, broken down into its individual parts.

Media Pitch Example #1:

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 CEO’s if they want further information.

Media Pitch Example #2:

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.

Personalisation: 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 reevaluated. With budget cuts imminent, some external programs commonly used by companies will have to be brought in house.

One luxury which 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 candidates 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.

SUMMARY
If you have a captivating subject line, powerful introduction and to the context, you’re already on track for a great pitch. Remember to make your pitch exclusively addressed at the journalist in question and don’t give away the full story.

11

Conclusion

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.

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