It’s pretty well documented how frequently journalists are bombarded with news releases and story pitches by public relations professionals. Reporters are extremely busy and pulled in all kinds of different directions.
So how do you get your pitch to resonate?
Below are some pitch techniques you should avoid:
The generic pitch. One of the worst ways to pitch a story is to send a generic email to a massive list of journalists. Most journalists can tell when you do this, and might just ignore your email—unless the topic is of great interest to them. Instead of sending out a blanket pitch to hundreds of journalists, consider more personal emails to a more targeted group.
Quoting something they’ve written. This may seem like a good idea, but most journalists often see this technique. Sometimes, it can come across as insincere flattery, creating the impression you are trying too hard. If you feel a reporter has written something relevant to your client or pitch, mention it – but don’t go over the top.
Follow-up after follow-up after follow-up. Journalists receive hundreds of emails a day, and they don’t have time to respond to everyone. One follow-up is usually enough and sometimes even appreciated, but don’t go chasing a reporter if you don’t receive a response to a second email. Silence is often a journalist’s way of saying “no thank you.” A third or fourth email probably won’t change that.
Unnecessary formalities. As mentioned previously, most reporters are busy and don’t have time to read long emails, let alone write back with a lengthy response. Using simple formal language in an introductory email makes it less likely a journalist will want to interact with you. Keep it short, simple, and friendly. The most formal part of your email should be the signature, where you provide all the information they need to reach out to you.
Pitches via text or social media. Most reporters communicate by text and on social media. This might be a great way to connect with a reporter about a story idea initially. But once you’ve made contact, you will likely need to follow up by email or phone. Follow the reporter’s lead on this and send them relevant materials the way they ask you to.
News-jacking. When a big story breaks nationally, you might be tempted to use that news to tell your company story —also called ‘news-jacking.’ While this can be an effective technique, you need to be careful. Don’t make a huge stretch to connect your company to the national story. If the connection works, go with it. If not, don’t force it.
Finding the proper journalist and pitching to them professionally takes skill and experience.
For more help with pitch tactics and working with journalists, visit our Resource Center.