If you have a story to share, a media pitch is the way to tell it.
Pitching is one of the most important responsibilities as a publicist. A well-written pitch can help you gain national and international coverage for clients.
But, unfortunately you’re not the only one sending pitches to journalists. Not only are there five PR people for every one journalist, but — as a publicist — you’re also up against pitches from freelance writers, job seekers, and marketers.
It’s no surprise that response rates are less than favorable. In fact, according to PR Week, reporters open an average of 45% of pitches and only respond to about 8%.
Want to be part of that 8%? Write an amazing, can’t-help-but-open media pitch. Here’s how.
What is a pitch?
A media pitch is a personalized email to a journalist or editor. Some publications accept pitches via social media or website form submissions, too.
If you’ve ever given an elevator pitch, you’re on the right track. A media pitch, however, is more tailored to the journalist’s interests. It plays on the idea of reciprocity: you give the journalist an interesting, intriguing, or breaking story, and they give you publicity, which could lead to website traffic or a backlink.
How to Write a Pitch in Five Steps
If you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all media pitch template, you probably won’t find one. The best media pitches are customized to the project, publication, and writer.
Formulaic media pitches may be easy, but they certainly won’t get you any results.
Instead, we’ve compiled five important steps that will help you write the best media pitch for your project.
1. Do Your Research
First things first — who are you pitching? Always address your media pitch to a specific person. This rule applies whether you’re writing one or one hundred pitches, and even if they’re all for the same project.
Opening with “To whom it may concern…” is a surefire way to get your pitch ditched. If you’ve done enough digging to find a journalist’s email or LinkedIn page, you can take the time to address their name (spelled correctly!) in your pitch.
Your research shouldn’t stop there. Browse the journalist’s profiles to see what content they share and comment on. Some may even Tweet or post about what they like to see in pitch submissions — Google their name with phrases like “pitch me” or “submission guidelines” to find this information. Paying attention to these details ahead of time speaks volumes to journalists, especially as they sift through hundreds of media pitches.
Here’s an example of an editor I follow on Twitter. If I was pitching a new post to his publication, following his instructions would tell him I’m paying attention and respect his time:
Additionally, don’t make the mistake of pitching just any journalist at your desired publication. Most news outlets have topic editors who specialize in certain subjects such as business, technology, or fashion. Confirm you’re sending your pitch to the right journalist based on your article topic. Otherwise, don’t expect a reply.
Next, ask yourself who your journalist’s audience is. Don’t make the mistake of pitching an article irrelevant to their audience or publication. Be sure what you’re writing is not only interesting to the journalist but also to their readers.
Publications don’t necessarily care about what you want to write — their priority is what their readers want to read.
Poke around the publication’s About page to better understand who reads its content and engages with its website. If you can help the journalist do their job — engage their audience with interesting content — they are more likely to help you. (Remember that concept of reciprocity?)
Bonus points if you mention audience data in your pitch.
Here’s an example from Foundr, an online magazine for entrepreneurs. If I was pitching a new blog post to Foundr’s editor, I’d make sure research its community to make sure my idea was aligned with its readers.
2. Consider Your Pitch Channel
While email is the favored pitch medium, you may also be able to submit a media pitch through social media or a website submission form.
For the most part, the “meat” of your pitch will look the same regardless of what channel you use. But let’s discuss a few details to consider for each:
There are a few specific considerations for email, namely the subject line. Subject lines are important, especially considering journalists’ busy inboxes. In fact, 33% of recipients open emails because of the subject line, and almost 70% mark emails as spam based on the subject line alone.
In short, subject lines dictate whether your pitch is read or tossed. I recommend putting the word “Pitch” in your title and including a synopsis or headline from your proposed article. Or, you can reference a recent article the journalist wrote.
Also, take a peek at what email address you’re using. It goes without saying why an unprofessional address (perhaps from your college days) won’t help your pitch.
Social Media Pitches
When it comes to social media, Twitter and LinkedIn are the best candidates if you’d like to professionally connect with a stranger. Avoid reaching out to a journalist on Facebook or Instagram as these are typically more personal networks.
Here are a few of my best social media pitching tips:
- Review your profile image, bio, and posting history. See anything unprofessional or unbecoming? Delete it.
- Check the journalist’s profile(s) and make sure they are active and have posted in the last six months. Beware engaging with a dead account; it’s likely a waste of time.
- Consider following or connecting with them first; some profile settings don’t allow you to send a direct message without being a “friend” first. Additionally, cold social media pitches aren’t always well-received. Engage with their other content to keep your name and profile front-and-center. Show interest in their posts, comments, and conversations.
- Review what else they’ve posted about and consider tailoring your pitch to that. Their social media activity is a peek into their interests and passions.
Website Form Pitches
Lastly, some publications offer direct pitch submission forms on their website — similar to the example I shared in step one. Some journalists prefer this avenue; some barely use it. While this may seem like the most direct option, in my experience, it can sometimes lead to your pitch joining a pile of untouched submissions — especially for larger publications and websites.
If your desired publication offers this option, I encourage you to seek out a journalist’s email first and bookmark the form as a backup option.
3. Keep Your Pitch Concise
If there’s one thing journalists appreciate, it’s brevity. Your media pitch should be concise, compelling, and cut right to the chase.
The goal of your pitch is to leave its reader wanting more and reaching for that Reply button. Why should they publish your story or mention your client? Share just enough to get them hooked — then leave them curious enough to ask for more.
What should be included in a pitch?
So, what information should you share? Here’s how to structure your media pitch:
- Greet the journalist by name.
- Explain why you’re submitting your pitch. Did you see a recent article of theirs? Are you answering a query?
- Introduce your story idea with a potential headline.
- Summarize the story in two to three sentences and explain why you’re the best fit to write the article and how you plan to write it — especially if it involves exclusive research.
- Briefly describe your background and credentials.
- Include your website and include a couple of links to previously published articles that are relevant to the one you’re pitching.
- Thank them and sign off with your name and contact information.
Perhaps the most important part of your pitch is the follow-up. Journalists rarely respond the first time around, and a thoughtful follow-up email can get your pitch in front of them more than once. When sending a gentle “nudge,” follow these follow-up best practices:
- Send a reply to your initial email, not a brand new email. This keeps your original pitch content in the email thread.
- Keep your follow-up much (much!) shorter than your initial pitch.
- Avoid aggressive language. A guilt-trip won’t get the job done.
4. Be Prepared to Deliver
As a publicist, you’re not a stranger to unanswered pitches. But when you do receive a reply, always be prepared to deliver. Every time you create a media pitch, have an article outline to match.
Avoid pre-writing your content — your articles should be as timely and relevant as possible, and pre-written work can become outdated quickly. Gather your necessary information, research, and resources, and keep your pen poised for when an editor may respond.
5. Do a Final Review
Imagine this: You spend hours compiling a well-crafted media pitch only to click Send before checking spelling and grammar errors. Regardless of how brilliant your idea is, I can’t imagine any journalist would accept it if it’s presented in a less-than-spotless email.
When pitching a news outlet, every written interaction with them counts — from your subject line to the signature. It reflects on your ability to write a high-quality article.
Before you send your finalized pitch, do one last sweep for misspellings, grammar or punctuation mistakes, forgotten words or hyperlinks, and other overlooked errors. Better yet, have a trusted colleague or writer friend review your work.
Don’t spend hours developing an amazing article idea only to have it overlooked due to a simple error.
Over to You
A winning media pitch can bring your clients indispensable publicity, traffic, and revenue — for free. Put these tips and best practices to work when writing your next media pitch, and let Covered Press help. Covered Press tracks all media mentions and helps you create gorgeous reports for your clients. Try it for free today.