At P4 group, PR is our bread and butter. We know what makes news, but no matter what the topic is or who the journalist might be, we know the cornerstone to creating headlines is nailing the pitch.
Before you even think about writing a pitch, you want to make sure you know who to pitch to. While sending out a blast media release can sometimes seem like the easiest option to get your message landing in the inboxes of many, you will undoubtedly see greater coverage outcomes when you take the time to ensure your message is placed in the hands of those most relevant to the story – and more importantly, most likely to get your message in front of your target market.
Keep your finger on the pulse of the media landscape by doing your research on current industry trends and surveying the media outlets – and more specifically – the journalists who are covering topics relevant to you. With this approach, you will not only be well on your way to landing your story in the most relevant outlets, but also create a reputation for yourself as a strategic, thoughtful pitcher in the journalist community.
When you’re writing a pitch from behind your computer screen to a big-ticket news desk, it’s easy to lose sight that it will be a person at the other end opening your email. Whether it’s disingenuous or not, making the journalist feel like you have taken the time to send them a tailored email can go a long way. In fact, in the Muck Rack State of Journalism 2020 study, journalists cited that a lack of personalisation was the number one reason they reject media pitches.
Many of us will vouch for how valuable it is to have ongoing, positive working relationships with journalists who we can address in a friendly and familiar matter, but if you don’t have that network just yet, a good way to start is by creating personalised conversation starters.
In many cases this can be as simple as using the journalist’s social media to engage with their content and keep tabs on their recent stories. The ‘insider info’ you can gain as a follower can be great fodder for your pitch email.
For example, ‘Hi Sarah, I loved your recent story on infrastructure projects across Victoria and wondered if you’d read the latest paper from UQ on comparative infrastructure builds across Australia in the last two years?’
If you’re connected on social media, you can even try that as a platform for pitching as you can usually bring a more casual, friendly tone. Above all – at the very least (and we cannot stress this enough) – get the journalist’s name and news outlet correct! Proofread, proofread, proofread.
One of the biggest pain points for those on news desks, sifting through hundreds of pitches and leads each day, is receiving a story that has no timely announcement, no supporting research and is not backed up by facts.
Linking your story to a recent government announcement, a newly released research paper or journal, or even just another news article on the topic, will not only show the journalist that your story is relevant, timely and newsworthy, but will also show that you have taken the time to do some of the leg work they would be doing to formulate a cracking story.
To go one step further, we recommend suggesting some key story ideas, talking points or angles that they might like to pursue. By thinking beyond the pitch, all the way through to how a journalist could actually use this content, it will showcase that you are truly invested in the outcome of the story and committed to accommodating their writing or broadcast needs.
When all your ducks are in a row and you’re ready to prep your pitch to stand out from the crowd, we recommend putting the most vital information centre stage and keeping a focus on exactly what makes your story unique.
It’s best to keep a pitch as succinct as possible but when selling a winning story and as word-lovers, we know that can be the biggest challenge so this will require the age-old tactic of simply being brutal.
Cut words out as much as you can and lean on having a more detailed media release attached. Make use of dot points to break up wordy content and leverage little details like bold, underline or italics to draw the reader’s eye to a key word or phrase.
Finally, it doesn’t hurt to throw in some witty one liners, creative language and catchy phrases to get your audience hooked.
A great place to kick things off is by crafting an attention-grabbing subject line. This should be short and include a few key words that relate to your story and will have the greatest impact on the journalist based on their interests.
As soon as you have hit send, you open yourself up to calls and emails from journalists any time of day so be equipped with knowledge about your story to answer any and every question they may throw at you.
When fielding through journalist inquiries, keep a smile on your dial and bring an accommodating approach to your engagements, remaining conscious that they are often working with very tight deadlines.
Even if you feel they may not end up covering your story, another opportunity may arise next week where you need to reach out again and having an existing good rapport will only boost your chances at coverage next time round.
If you’re getting radio silence through no responses to your pitch, don’t immediately think your story is a no-go for the journalists. Never be afraid to follow up with an email or phone call. Sometimes you’ll even find the journalist never saw the first email and many other times, they saw it and were interested but other deadlines piled up, so your story has fallen to the back of the deck. They might just need you to prompt them to bring your story back to front and centre!
We could talk all day about PR and media relations so if you want to learn more about how to land your story in headlines, reach out to our Communications Director, Laura Carlin: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Caley O'Neill