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Mastering the Media Pitch: Top Journalists Tell You How to Get Their Attention

By September 1, 2015April 25th, 2017Guide to PR, Public Relations

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations” blog series.

With public relations professionals outnumbering journalists nearly 5:1, pitching to the press can feel like a blood sport.

A survey of 500 leading digital publishers conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that on average, 45 percent of writers only publish one story per day. In fact, 60 percent of writers publish two or fewer stories per day, and 40 percent said they publish only one story per week. Meanwhile, 40% of these writers get pitched a minimum of 20 times per day. And among those writers, only 11 percent “often” write a story based on content that was sent through a pitch, 45 percent “sometimes” do, and 39 percent “rarely” do.

“I get like dozens of pitches a day, it’s crazy. I only do two stories a week. I try to read every pitch, but I can’t. I probably go through pitches once a week, or once every two weeks, something like that.” –– David Zax, Fast Company

Of course, there is a competitive edge that separates the stories that get play from those that are left sitting in the dugout: media pitching. There’s no playbook rule that says newsworthy stories need to be announced in a press release, and often, clients aren’t generating headlines week to week, or sometimes even, month to month, anyway. Media pitching is a whole other ball game. If press release distribution is the fastball, delivered quickly with uniform consistency, then the media pitch is the PR professional’s curve ball –– it can come at a target from multiple, unique angles, and be delivered with either precision or sloppily. Put simply, you pitch press with news, you pitch media with a story.

Journalists want to make the news, not reprint it. So, not surprisingly, HBR’s research also reported that 70 percent of publishers are open to getting pitched a set of ideas that fit their beat. At this point, the baseball metaphor has to be turned on its head. You want your pitch to receive a hit –– many hits, of course –– so your endgame is to throw pitches that make it easy for journalists. Fortunately, throwing the perfect media pitch is a trainable skill that only gets better with practice.

Here are some key tips to help you score big:

1) Email your pitch.

81 percent of publishers prefer email pitches, rather than being phoned or contacted via social media. Source

2) Time it right.

When sending your pitch, 69 percent of writers want to receive your pitch in the morning, 22 percent want to be pitched in the afternoon, and only 9 percent want to be pitched in the evening. Source

“I love getting pitched at the start of the week (Mondays-Wednesdays) because it gives me time to evaluate pitches and if I have further questions get them taken care of early on.” –– Heather Taylor, Advertising Week

3) Do your research to know a writer.

Learn their beat and any bylines that are related to the story that you’re pitching. Reference what they’ve written and demonstrate that you’re being thoughtful about how and to whom you’re targeting your story pitch. Source

“Don’t just look at my recent stories, look at the stories I’ve chosen to feature at the top of my page and the ones that are my most-read; those are a better indication of what I actually like to write about.” –– Maggie McGrath, Forbes

4) Keep your email message simple and to the point.

45 percent of writers want <100 words; 43 percent appreciate a cursory explanation; <200 words, and just 12 percent of writers requested an in-depth explanation, >300 words. Source

“Make the pitches short, clear, honest. Use bullet points and images, if possible.” –– Lance Ulanoff, Chief Correspondent and Editor-at-Large, Mashable

5) Same goes for your subject line.

6 to 8 words is the sweet spot range, say 75 percent of publishers, with 42 percent desiring that your subject read like the story headline. Source

“I don’t open most of my emails and it’s possible I missed something newsworthy. But I do read the subject lines, and generally, if it was worth covering, I would have answered it.” — Matthew Flam, Crain’s New York

6) Knowing what to pitch.

Its s just as important as knowing how to pitch. Pitches that earn the most responses from publishers contain raw data ––more than 85 percent want exclusive research. Source

With these techniques in mind, you can step onto the PR pitching mound with confidence.

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations” blog series.