Sending email pitches into a digital black hole can be an incredibly frustrating feeling for anyone working in public relations. You think you are a master storyteller with great relationships, and you have a client with a great story to tell. But you draft up your story (pitch) and send it to dozens, even hundreds of media outlets, only to receive nothing back.
If only you had the magic touch to get those reporters to respond. Unfortunately, every reporter has different things that catch their eye, so it is difficult to say exactly what a reporter wants. However, as a former business reporter who now spends time pitching on behalf of my clients, I can offer some insight into what a good pitch entails.
Here are seven things that reporters tend to look for when reading pitches from PR professionals:
1. A different angle: When I received PR pitches as a reporter, one of the first things I looked for was an angle that hadn’t caught traction with other outlets. Although reporters tend to be incredibly insightful people and often find a news angle themselves, PR professionals can always help reporters come up with new ideas
2. Something concise: Look, we all lead busy lives and have crammed email inboxes. Reporters are no different (in fact, their inboxes are probably more full than most). Therefore, don’t expect a reporter to read your dissertation of a pitch. Keep the pitch NO LONGER than two paragraphs. One paragraph is even better
3.Material Information: Did your company recently merge? Complete a fundraising round? Launch a $100 billion initial public offering (or something slightly smaller)? Material information, defined as information with the potential to change the financial value of a company, tends to catch the eye of a harried reporter. Include this information in your pitch and your chances of coverage increase exponentially.
4. Subject experts: Maybe your company doesn’t have anything newsworthy to offer right this minute. That’s ok. When I was a beat reporter, I occasionally received emails from PR professionals representing lawyers, professors and research analysts offering their expert insight. You wouldn’t believe how often I used this information.
CAUTION: If you are going to tout someone as an expert, make sure they are truly an expert. Nothing ruins a PR professional’s credibility faster than touting up some dud pretending to be a know-it-all.
5. A familiar sender: At the end of the day, public relations is all about relationships. Therefore, try emailing a reporter not with a pitch but with an introduction of yourself. Then ask the reporter more about their beat, how they like to be contacted, etc. If you really have a lot of free time, stop staring at your computer screen and invite a reporter you frequently work with out for a drink. No PR pro ever invited me out. Which is too bad – I probably would have taken them up on the offer.
6. Familiarity with reporter’s work: It should go without saying, but make sure to send a pitch to the reporter who would normally cover the organization you represent. Better yet, show in the pitch that you have read some of their prior articles. Even better yet, follow and engage with reporters on Twitter. But at least make sure that you aren’t sending a fashion reporter something about telecommunications (which has happened to me many of times when I covered telecomm).
7. Something that will go viral/something easily shared on social media: Yes, I hear the people in the peanut gallery bemoaning click-bait journalism. But like it or not, reporters are increasingly judged by how much traction their stories receive online. If PR professionals can pitch something that is likely to go viral, reporters will be far more likely to give you the time of the day.
At the end of the day, PR pitches involve some trial and error and the rejection will never completely disappear. But if you follow some or all of these steps, you’re likely to have some more success.