If you’ve ever had a great story in mind for your business, you may already be familiar with the “now what?” wall.
We’ve heard it time and again from clients: Your business has dozens of noteworthy stories to share, but the process of publicizing them leaves you scratching your head or failing to achieve results.
A public relations (PR) strategy might be a daunting concept if you’re unfamiliar with the process. According to the State of Journalism 2021, 59% of journalists have reported their relationship with PR pros to be mutually symbiotic. However, a 2021 study by Propel showed that only 8% of PR pitches receive media pickup from journalists.
These two statistics side-by-side may seem mystifying, but we’ll let you in on a little secret: The art of pitching requires a specialized approach. Journalists are hungry for the right stories for their publications, and having a solid PR representative in your corner can be instrumental in ensuring your story is shared with the right audiences.
Drawing on our team’s insight from both ends of the spectrum — as both story pitchers and pitch recipients — here are seven tips for drafting the perfect pitch.
1. Build relationships.
The “relations” portion of public relations can’t be underscored enough.
A personal touch can go a long way in the fast bustle of the journalism world. Personalizing your pitches, following up to thank reporters for their coverage, and/or arranging a coffee meet-up with a local journalist lets your media contacts know you’re interested in a partnership, not just a business transaction. After all, you already have something in common with your fellow journalists: a passion for storytelling.
If you’re searching for a place to start, an agency partner can be a helpful resource to develop these relationships for your business. Many agencies with a PR offering will have previously built long-standing relationships with media partners, increasing your chances of story pickup.
2. Do your research and personalize your pitch.
Ensuring your pitch makes its way to the right media contact is half the battle of a pitch. Pitching a story on cybersecurity to a reporter with a commercial real estate beat all but ensures your pitch will be ignored.
Prior research can go a long way in picking the right recipient for your story. Look at the bodies of work of reporters and anchors for a specific news outlet — do their past pieces line up with the one you have in mind? Take a quick glance at their website bio and the stories they enjoy writing to determine whether your story will appeal to them. While this approach doesn’t guarantee pickup, it may catch a reporter’s interest and make your story stand out in inboxes overflowing with generic pitches.
3. Keep it short and sweet.
Your pitches should be brief, engaging and to-the-point. Journalists report as many as 30 email pitches a day on average, according to Muck Rack, so you only have a few seconds at best to keep a reporter’s attention after they open your email.
When crafting a pitch, keep in mind:
- What’s the most newsworthy part of your story?
- What are the 5Ws (who, what, when, where, why) of your story?
- How does your story appeal to the target audience of the publication?
Journalists, especially those on a specific beat, are scouting for stories that engage their readership. If you can prove to them in a few short sentences that your story can do that, you may have a winning pitch.
This is also why building relationships is key: If journalists know they can trust the integrity of a pitch from you, your pitches will stand out from the rest of the pack.
4. Don’t self-promote.
Reporters are looking to tell objective, vendor-neutral stories. Using sales-y or self-promotional language to talk about your organization will almost guarantee a hard “no.”
5. Make sure you share everything needed for a story.
Journalists are often on tight deadlines and fast turnaround times — with multiple stories on the burner. The more material you can give them up front to tell the full story, the easier it is for them to pick up and the higher your chance of success.
This material includes pre-written quotes from key individuals, relevant photography, background information and boilerplate copy about relevant organizations.
6. Follow up on your pitches.
Sending a follow-up a few days after a deployed pitch never hurts, and it’s standard practice for PR pros. Many have claimed their average follow-up window for pitches is two-to-three days (Cision’s State of the Media 2021), while others have said they wait up until five days or a week.
Your pitch can get buried with other emails, sent to the junk folder or otherwise catch your recipient on an off day, so following up with a brief, personalized email can bring your story to the top of someone’s inbox and put your organization top-of-mind.
7. Time it right.
Timing a PR pitch — or multiple — can be a fickle art. Inundating your media contacts with too many pitches is a surefire way to get ignored, but you also don’t want to space too much time between pitches to lose relevance.
Maintaining a semi-regular cadence is key when it comes to pitching stories. A story pitch once or twice a month per organization, per media contact, is often a good baseline.
Looking for more PR and marketing expertise?
We’ve got you covered. Our full suite of expertise in all things PR and marketing provides exceptional value for our clients’ businesses and sets us apart from traditional agencies.
Whether you’re looking for more brand awareness, reputation management, lead generation or improved SEO, the Crux team can help you achieve your business goals. Reach out to our team to learn more.