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Beginners Guide To Media Pitching

You’ve got the story, but how do you get journalists to pick up your content? The answer is by perfecting your pitch. This article will break down the structure of pitch and guide you through the process with support from successful examples.
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Introduction

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.

If you are familiar with the world of PR, you’ll know that this media coverage doesn’t simply function as an advertisement. Its purpose is to generate awareness for a brand, not of their products or service, but their value, and importance within their industry. This could be done by producing research to reveal exciting insights into relevant topics, or to share the news that you have secured funding, communicating trust from investors to consumers. 

There are various types of media, stories and angles you can use to get into the media, but unless you can get this content into reputable media outlets, the impact will be minimal. Thus, it is important to learn the art of pitching. 

What is pitching?

Pitching in essence is the act of presenting 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. 

Pitching in the PR world then is presenting your angle or story to a journalist, in order to get yourself featured in their publication. By getting featured in top tier publications your brand is being seen by thousands of readers, creating associations of trust. By also landing hyperlinks, your domain authority and overall SEO efforts will also see an improvement. You can read more about how this works in our guide on PR metrics. Here are some examples of news you can pitch to a journalist.

  • Funding Announcement
  • Expanding into a new country/region
  • Announcement of a new important figure joining your organization 
  • Launching a new product or line or service (not a feature)
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Winning an award/endorsed by an important figure
  • Fatalities/ crises
  • Industry report/whitepaper
  • Research into industry
  • Opinion Pieces
  • Content such as editorial articles or infographics

This news alone isn’t enough to get featured in reputable publications. To make a successful pitch you need to take this news and root it in a greater context that is relevant and engaging to the journalist and their audience

It is highly unlikely that you’ll be featured in Forbes or Havard 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.

With that in mind, let’s start at the beginning, looking at how you write a successful pitch. 

Researching your pitch

Think about the content you read. No one likes to read boring articles or blogs, we want to consume stories that are exciting, relevant and engaging. 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.

That is why before you write your pitch, you need to do some research. You need to find out the trends in your industry that your audience is interested in, or that your target publication is interested in. 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.

Here are a few ways you can stay ahead of the curve and take advantage of new opportunities.

    1. Update your news feed with relevant information. Customize your social media feeds so that you are kept up to date with relevant news and topics.
    2. Make use of your team. Don’t just be on the lookout yourself, encourage your team to share interesting trends and news that they come across.
    3. Subscribe to industry journals. Follow established journals and publications that publish research and share relevant content, educating yourself on the industry.
    4. NETWORK. Don’t just information online, always be on the lookout for tips and hot trends from conferences, networking events, and by maintaining good relationships with your peers. They may know something you don’t!
    5. Engage with your customers. Don’t understand the insight of your customers. A valuable source of information, getting feedback from them through surveys and engaging through social channels are great tools to understand your industry from their perspective, and will help you focus on what they find interesting and need to know.
    6. Keep tabs on your competitors. Don’t live in a bubble, make sure you follow the competition, keeping an eye on what works, or perhaps isn’t working for them. 

These might be effective tools to find news, but what are you actually looking for? You can use the ten elements of newsworthiness to hone in on relevant stories and increase the chances of your pitch getting picked up.

10 Elements of Newsworthiness

  1. Proximity. The location of the event will affect the impact on your audience. People care more about things that are happening near them.
  2. Prominence. The familiarity of the person, place or event makes for a stronger news angle than someone or something no one has heard of.
  3. Timeliness. Current news has more impact, with fresh news everywhere the media landscape quickly loses interest.
  4. Oddity. Something being unusual, shocking and out of the ordinary makes something newsworthy. 
  5. Consequence. A story becomes newsworthy if there is a direct impact on the readers. 
  6. 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!
  7. Human interest. Situations that inspire human emotion make for a good story. This can be both positive and negative. We love to read about how someone’s pet might have saved their life as much as we sadisticly enjoy getting angry when we read about incompetent politicians.
  8. Extremes/superlatives. Audiences love to read about the best, the first, the biggest, the fastest. You know what audiences don’t like? Dishonesty, so make sure you can back up your claims.
  9. Scandal. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good scandal? 
  10. Impact. The more people involved in a story or the more people impacted by the news, the more newsworthy it will be.
With these tools you can keep yourself at the forefront of your industry, and have the knowledge of what story you can include in your pitch, as well as finding the most relevant journalists to send your pitch to when the time comes. However for now, let’s look at how to actually write your pitch!

Structure of a pitch: The subject line

The subject line

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. Just keep it relevant, and short enough that the whole thing 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

Make it personal

Now with this great subject line, hopefully, the recipient has opened your email and begun reading your pitch. With 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.

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. This is why it’s also important to make sure that as well your pitch being personal, it’s also exclusive

It’s important you disclose information to journalists one at a time, if you send it out to multiple people and they all show interest, you may have to turn people down, which can jeopardize relationships and making it harder to build trust.

The Body of a Pitch

Now that you’ve personalized your email you’ll want to move onto the body of the pitch which will be with the aim of featuring one of these topics. The most effective way to structure the body of your pitch is to divide it into the following:

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

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.

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.

To summarise the structure of your pitch, it should be organized as such:

Subject line

Personalization → context → problem → solution

Example of a Pitch #1

Let’s go over an example of a pitch and break it 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 CEO’s if they want further information. 

Example of a Pitch #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.

Finding Your 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 custom 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 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 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.

To Conclude…. Don’t Give up!

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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