Journalists and marketers are in strong positions to help each other succeed. Marketers strive to build brand awareness by telling powerful stories. Journalists look to educate and entertain audiences about trending topics.
The challenge, however, is that the media landscape is flooded — and that these core connections can sometimes slip through the cracks.
I’m in a unique position where I sit on both sides of the fence as a journalist and a marketer. Let me tell you — both sides are equally challenging. As a marketer, I worry that busy journalists aren’t receiving my messages. As a journalist, I worry that potentially great stories are slipping by my attention.
Here is a screenshot from Help a Reporter Out (HARO), a wire service that I use to connect with PR professionals for story ideas:
Help a Reporter Out
It’s nearly impossible to respond to all of these potentially great pitches. Similarly, when I’m wearing my marketing hat, I know that journalists on the other side of the computer screen are going through the same pain points that I am.
I reached out to some of the smartest PR minds in the marketing industry to learn about their best pitching tips. Here is what they recommend:
1. Be Short. Be Straight. Get Out of the Way.
Get to the point. Don’t use these super long emails about the company. Tell the story of why its important to the writer’s readership within the first sentence.
Be straight – aka have a good angle that shows you understand what makes news.
Once you have them, leave them alone to do their job and only help where you can. Stop checking in every few hours.
—Matt Braun, Director of Public Relations at Hanson Dodge Creative
2. Be Ready for Business
Do not leave your pitch half-baked and be ready to answer questions. Have the pitch ready to go as if the reporter will want to run it immediately. The less groundwork a reporter has the do for your story the more likely they are to use it.
—Shaun Walker, Creative Director at HERO Farm
3. Be Relevant
Think beyond just what you (or your client) wants to say, and think about how it fits into a larger trend. Telling a reporter about your client’s new product/service will be a much harder sell than talking to them about a new trend that your client is a part of.
When we read news as consumers, unless it’s a straight product review, we never really see feature stories glowing about one brand.
—Drew Tybus, VP of Brand Marketing at Porter Novelli
4. Seek to Add Value
Don’t be a moocher, be a resource too! Most of the time us PR people are asking from something and not providing additional value back. Help with the stories that you are asking the reporters to create. That may mean having additional resources other than just your client or providing references for journalists stories.
The more you can help them, the more they can see you as a partner and resources. In my experience, if you are willing to help put the pieces together and make the story well-rounded, journalists respond much better and you can develop a genuine partnership with the media.
—Ronjini Mukhopadhyay,Owner at The Silver Telegram
5. Challenge Yourself to Get Loud
Switch things up and practice saying your pitch out loud. If it sounds like BS when you read it, don’t send it. The key to getting your pitch from email to reality is to be authentic — if you can’t even stand the sound of your voice delivering it, chances are, the journalist won’t either.
—Heather Anne Carson, Co-founder at Onboardly
6. Walk the Line
My favorite pitching tip, and one that works quite well, is to seek out journalists who talk about my client’s competitors, find out what they like about them, and then find ways that our product/service trumps our competitor.
—Brenna Loury, Owner at Loury PR
7. Be Relentlessly Engaging
Make the writer or news producer fall in love with your pitch. General pitches generally don’t get landed. Make sure that your pitch is well written and colorful enough to make your client stand out.
A friend of mine who is an Entertainment Editor for a top newspaper once said that your pitch has to be as engaging as the story the journalist will write.
–Abesi Manyando, President and Creative Director at Abesi Public Relations
8. Ask First, Pitch Second
Whenever I identify a new journalist I’d like to pitch, I always send them a short email to introduce myself and what we do at Onboardly first. I’ll ask if it’s cool if I send over a few high level bullet points on what our clients are working on that may fit their beat.
This short but warm intro is a great way to gauge their interest before I later send the pitch and has resulted in some great relationships with the media.
—Crystal Richard, Director of PR at Onboardly
9. Build a Social Media Rapport
My favorite pitching tip is to connect with the reporter on social media, as well. This works because their inbox is flooded with names of they don’t recognize.
Connecting with them on social media and interacting with their posts on a regular basis will get your name into their heads, so that when your pitches land in their inbox, they recognize your name.
—Brittany Berger, Social Media and Content Marketing Coordinator at eZanga
10. Be Personable
In our company, we believe that the key to a successful pitch is that–to really cater to the needs of the reporter and to make it personal. You should be a resource not a burden.
With that in mind, it’s also really important to nurture the relationships behind your screen. Take the time to get to know reporters, understand their needs, and how you can best help them.
Yes, reporters are incredibly busy, but if you can, take the time to meet them in person, offer to meet them near their office/preferred place of business/industry conference in real time and life. We’ve noticed that the most successful pitches evolve from that.
—Suset Laboy Perez, Owner at LalaboyPR
11. Pitch the Story, not the Product
Pitch the story, not the product. Writers are looking for pitches that offer a story they can put their own spin on.
If all you provide is information with no story, you offer nothing to hook the writer, which means you also offer nothing the writer can see hooking their readers.
—Nick Brennan, Vice President at Janice McCafferty PR
12. Incorporate Calls to Action
End every pitch with a clear call to action that asks a question. The question prompts the recipient to respond, where a statement like “Please let me know” is anticlimactic and doesn’t motivate the reader to reply.
—Ashley Halberstadt, Director of Media Relations at Digital Relevance
13. Don’t Be a Spammer
I convince clients the shotgun approach- where firms mass blast their pitch to thousands of reporters- the majority of which will ignore the pitch — is wrong and does not generate a return on investment.
Instead, pitch individual reporters with customized ideas that provide real value for the journalist’s readers.
—Nick Winkler, Owner at The Winkler Group
14. Engage Authentically
As a PR pro, once you’ve established a relationship – in person or via email, it is okay to follow that journalist on various social media channels. Don’t stalk them but, instead, engage with them authentically.
—Laura Knapp, Social Spotlight Media
15. Proceed with Structure
Craft an outline of the story for the writer. Don’t just tell them they should cover your client. Let the writer know who they can interview (both internal to your client and external if that makes sense), provide relevant website links, attach photos or videos, and offer ideas for images.
—Danya Bushey, President at Carte Blanche Marketing
16. Build Relationships
It’s two-fold: 1. Make a relationship and 2. Say thank you. Media relations is about relationships. Staff members, trainees, interns and others have asked me how I have had success with media, and I tell them that the key truly is cultivating a genuine relationship.
Don’t always ask, request and expect things from your friends in the media. Show interest in the stories they tell, get to know them, engage with them, then pitch stories when they are relevant and newsworthy.
Members of the media are much more likely to listen to you or read your pitch when you have taken the time to get to know them and where their interests lie. On the latter, ALWAYS say thank you.
Whether they accept the pitch or not, thank them for their time. Our team loves sending handwritten thank you notes to the folks in the media for any mention or story they do for our clients. Gratitude matters.
—Tanya Sammis, Co-owner at Sammis & Ochoa
17. Think Big-Picture
PR is about much more than an initial placement in the media. It is about building and maintaining relationships with key media, when you have a story to pitch as well as when you don’t.
—Lauren Lewis, Owner at Lauren Lewis Public Relations and Communications
What PR lessons have you learned the hard way? What valuable tip would you share with emerging leaders in the space? You pick #18 on this list. Leave us a note in the comments section below.