How to pitch stories to journalists

2012 was one of the greatest years yet in cinematic history. Forget the golden era of Hollywood; the films released that year were the most exciting we’d seen, possibly ever. The Avengers came together for the first time. We said goodbye to Christian Bale as Batman. And of course, the iconic ‘Cups’ song became a phenomenon when Anna Kendrick came onto our screens in Pitch Perfect.

As PR professionals, we need to learn our own version of being ‘pitch perfect’. Pitching is often the first impression we give to journalists and is an essential part of relationship building. So with this in mind, here are some tips and tricks on how to plan the perfect pitch without a hitch…

Warming up

Research can make or break your pitch, so it’s always better to put the time in and know whom you are pitching to and exactly what you are pitching for. Take time to understand the audience, both of the publication and of the email you are about to send. Whilst some journalists may prefer the traditional method of telephone call, others may prefer email or even a direct message (DM) through Twitter.

Follow the journo ‘beat’

I’m not even forcing the pun with this one. This is terminology commonly used for a journalist’s specialist subjects. Some key questions to ask yourself when planning your pitch are:

  • Does this journalist have interest in this subject area?
  • Have they covered something similar or perhaps a client competitor recently?
  • Does the journalist write content for the audience I am looking to reach?

If you are confident that the person you are pitching to is the right one then go right ahead.

Bridge

Getting to the point can be tricky. The average pitch should be no longer than 200 words (preferably less!). If you cannot describe the value of the content on offer within this word count, it’s going to be difficult for the journalist to understand. Stay succinct; steer clear of the waffle.

Chorus

Now that you have got to the point, it’s important to repeat the key messaging for the client throughout. Although this piece will never see the public eye, it’s essential that the core values you are aiming to display are evident in the small details too. Key messages form the backbone of many PR strategies – use them!

Don’t fear duets

Don’t be afraid to put time into the back and forth that can occur when pitching and securing a piece. Working with a journalist to create the most striking story can be a collaborative process. Remember that journalists are content creators too, and will have valuable insight and ideas to bring to the table.

The standing ovation

Try something new. If you have written a pitch and you find it quite boring, the chances are – it is. Try to put a different spin on a classic pitch. Can you give it a theme? Perhaps of a classic musical film that definitely rivals Mama Mia…

Just as in the world of acapella and music, there is no formula guaranteed to make your pitch a hit. It’s all in the background work you do beforehand. Finding the right journalist and hitting the right note takes planning and strategy.

So go on; hit them with your best shot.

Written by Jasmine Geddes, senior account executive at agency Hot Tin Roof PR

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