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The media pitch: six things to include

Posted on 23 Nov 12
By Nicholas Holmes (Twitter / Google+)

I've seen a lot of pitches from both public relations professionals and companies, and I can tell you there's a massive gap between the best and the worst media pitch. And while I doubt any journalist has ever said 'that was the perfect pitch', there are several elements which can make or break a message to journalists. Make sure your note includes all of the below, and you'll be pushing yourself much closer to the top.

 

An exciting subject line

Please, dear God, not 'PRESS RELEASE.' Make it clear that this is something the audience that the journalist is writing for will be interested in. Don't just use the press release title - find the most interesting angle for that specific journalist and make sure you're clear that you've done that, for example by including the publication's name. This makes it clear it's not a distribution list, which will be appreciated.

If you can, make it clear you're prepared to work with the journalist your pitch is being sent to by including an offer of collaboration, an exclusive angle (interview or stats for example) or an offer of an early preview. Ideally, use words with a sense of urgency such as "new", "today", "upcoming" or "expected". 

 

A good first sentence

Though I never objected to 'hope you're well' as much as this author (from the public relations world) seems to think journalists do, it's difficult to argue that there aren't better openings to a media pitch. Get to the meat of your pitch within 20 words or you'll have lost the journalist - no back waffle, no preamble about the company's previous successes and no paragraph of flattery (this can come later).

Make sure the first sentence is a continuation and expansion of the tantalising information you included in the subject line - so if the subject was "Exclusive on Company X's new camera software", the first line should be "Hi X, Would you be interested in an exclusive interview about Software Y, which will launch next week and is aimed at audience Z?" (audience Z, obviously, should be the readership of the journalist's magazine/blog/newspaper).

Ideally, fit as much information as you can into this sentence - every word counts now as the journalist is reading but probably won't continue forever.

 

Some humanity

Pronouns are your friend here - journalists want to feel that they're being communicated with on a human level, person-to-person, and aren't being spammed by a public relations machine. So make sure that somewhere before your last line, you've made it clear that you're a person and you're keen to work with the journalist instead of just expecting them to cover you.

This is also the place for some flattery (see above). Not obvious flattery, because that's annoying. But enough to make it clear that you've done your research, you know what the journalist writes about, and confident that you're doing him or her a favour with this media pitch. So you could reference a trend that they've written about, reference a tweet, or mention and article as supporting evidence of your argument that they'll be interested in your pitch. For example: "Further to your article on competitor X last week..."

 

Options

Every good media pitch offers options. Today's journalists can present articles in a variety of ways, whether through an interview, a slideshow, a podcast, a feature, an announcement, some comment, a diary item or anything else. It's the public relations person's job to support the journalist in whichever way they want to cover your story.

So make sure you're clear on what you can make available in terms of interviews, case studies, images and multimedia, and make sure you're pitching far enough in advance that the person has time to think about how they can make your story work. If you can do it politely, it's not necessarily bad form to suggest a part of the publication that you think your news might fit in (e.g. "I thought this might make a nice news-in-brief item for this week's paper"), but don't push it.

 

Who, what, when, where and how

These are the basic tenets of journalism, and they should be in a public relations pitch, even if they're all in one sentence which ends in a plea to read the full press release below. Don't leave out critical information such as when or where a product was launched, who's behind the announcement or how the journalist's readers can get involved (this is actually among the most common omissions, because it normally involves a purchase price). You'll expand more later, but you need to leave the journalist feeling that this is a tangible story at the end of the pitch note, which is best accomplished by including this basic level of detail.

 

Contact details

All of them. And some for a colleague who can support your work in case you're unavailable. I've been pitched stories in the past which would have run if I could have got them in before a deadline, only to spike them because the right public relations person was in a meeting and there was no-one else to tell me the key piece of information they had omitted in the media pitch and the press release.

Next week, we'll post some media pitch examples and structures that work - until then, let us know in the comments if you think we missed anything.