For every PR, pitching to journalists is a core part of our jobs, but as we currently outnumber the working journalists in the industry, our pitches are facing stronger competition. So, how do we step up to this new challenge?
At Shift6, it’s our business to stay on top of the changing media landscape, so we spoke to a range of journalists from the tech, travel, lifestyle and business sectors to learn some crucial intel about their working life, how they prefer to be pitched, and how to stand out from the crowd.
Deliver The Story On A Plate
Many journalists are tasked with writing several articles per day. This leaves very little time for reading long and complicated pitches. The easier your pitch is to digest and envision as an article, the more appealing it is. If you can deliver a potential headline, the hook, the meat of the story, the relevant links to back it up, and a dropbox link to any high-res images they may need, you’ve done half of their job for them.
The Subject Line Is Key
Starting with a great subject line has two major benefits. Firstly, this is your chance to get the journalist’s attention against hundreds of other emails in their inbox, and secondly, it’s an opportunity to serve up a ready-made headline for your story to entice them. Research the publication you are pitching and the type of article titles they lean towards and craft your subject line with the same tone and language, this will encourage them to view your pitch as a potential fit and gives you more control over the message.
Top-Load Your Pitch
For very busy people, reviewing emails and then having to open attachments as well, represents a waste of their time. Make sure all of the relevant information is within the body of the email -including the press release! Begin with the vital data and why it is of interest within the first few lines, then back this up with the full release. Make sure images are available within a dropbox link as large attachments cause your email to be marked as spam by a lot of servers.
Never Cold Call
No one likes a cold call -not even journalists! Interrupting whatever they are doing to pitch over the phone is more likely to cause irritation than win you a piece of valuable coverage, so stick to email, and possibly back this up with a direct message on Twitter if the journalist is an active social media user. As you will need to email the story details anyway, a phone call is double the work for both you, and them.
There’s Rarely Time For Networking Events
Although in the past corporate or launch events were a great way to network with journalists and pitch stories, nowadays there’s rarely time to attend something extracurricular, and with branded events, there is usually no benefit to going as the information gathered could easily be provided in a fraction of the time by email.
Provide A Strong Hook
Journalists are looking for something their publications readership will find valuable, so it is crucial to bear this in mind when pitching. Readers love quotable stats and figures in a simple soundbite they will remember and repeat in conversation. This type of hook includes unusual studies that people can relate to, anniversaries of historic events, and other topical content of this nature. Craft your story for each pitch in a way that will appeal to the readers of each outlet you are outreaching to and improve your chances of having your piece published.
Serve Quotes And Case Studies
Every pitch needs something solid to reference, facts and stats are the backbones of every story and provide the journalist with a data source they can reference. If your story has a case study as the point of interest, including the most important findings in the pitch email’s subject line is a good idea, such as; “X% of Millennials can’t actually afford avocados according to survey by [insert brand]”. Make sure the core findings are present in the email, then follow up with a link to the source of the data. For quotes and data, highlighting this info, or using bold type makes it far easier for the journalist to quickly scan your pitch for the crucial information.
Personalise The Pitch
When you are doing outreach, it conserves time to send out a mass email to every publication on your list, but a journalist can sniff out a generic, impersonal email from a mile away and this isn’t going to help your cause. It’s always best to adapt each email to the specific outlet you are pitching to. Make sure you address it to the journalist by name, reference a previous article published by the outlet that has a similar topic to the story you are pitching to show you have done your research and that your pitch has genuine value. Always mention the website’s name somewhere in your pitch too; “Thank you for taking the time to review this, it would be great to work with X”. A service such as Buzzstream can automate your mass email and make the personalisation of each one easier by auto-populating the body of the pitch, then allowing you to make these small edits before sending.
Our Journalist contacts have provided some amazing tips to help you craft the successful pitches that help them work with you in the time-effective manner that suits their working life. Do you have any of your own pitching tips to share with the PR community? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below!
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