Make That Perfect Pitch
You know that media coverage helps to generate discussion about critical issues you’re trying raise your for your client’s customer base or public in general. But getting coverage is not always easy – sometimes, it doesn’t fit with a particular editorial line-up or news of the moment, or perhaps the pitch just doesn’t cut it.
And there could be a number of reasons for the fail – the way the pitch is crafted; it’s missing an angle; or quite simply, it doesn’t grab the attention of the editor. I’ve heard many editors complain about the fact that some PR professionals just don’t take the time to research the media or the journalist – there has to be a match (angle) that will benefit both the media and the story you’re trying to convey.
So, what works and what doesn’t when it comes to pitching story ideas? Let’s start from the beginning.
What’s a pitch?
A pitch is a brief letter, written to accompany press releases, media advisories or full press kits. A pitch is a teaser and pitching is like a trailer to a movie. You don’t tell the whole story, just enough to pique the interest of the editor.
There are many ways to get your pitch right but it’s important to know how NOT to write a pitch!
- Starting off the email with “Hi there”
Do your homework! Always find out who you are writing to. “Dear” followed by their first name is the ideal way to start an email. If you really can’t find their first or last names, “Dear Editor” is your best bet.
- Sending blindly
Did I mention, do your homework? On top of finding out who you are writing to, find out what their publications are about. If you sent a pitch about a music company to a fashion magazine, not only will you make a fool of yourself, the editor is likely to blacklist your email and won’t take you seriously the next time you send a pitch.
- Pitch length
You have to remember, editors receive lots of emails and they have to sift through the bulk to sort out what’s relevant and what’s not. They won’t have time to read long emails about why they should be interested in your story. Length is the potential deal breaker. Write in short, digestible paragraphs that are easy to read and understand.
Drafting pitches will help you understand what the heart of the matter is and how to speak about it concisely. With practice, the process of creating a pitch will eventually take place in your head so that you can draft better releases/alerts.
- Start off with your best shot
Drive the message in with the first two sentences. Your aim is to make the person reading your pitch to go “Oh I didn’t know that!” or “That’s an interesting angle”. If you can’t capture their attention in the first 10 seconds, it’s highly unlikely that they will continue reading the rest of the pitch.
Don’t just write about the product or service or company. Show how it would be relevant and useful for their audience. Tell them why their readers might care. Explain why your story is of value to the editor.
- Target your pitch
Even if you have only one version of a press release, you can still target your pitch to a particular media outlet by crafting a specific pitch letter. The purpose of the pitch letter is to frame the story in a way that makes it clear to the editor that it fits in with that media outlet’s approach.
- Have good “pitch hygiene”
It may seem rather trivial, but it is really important to make your emails easy to read! Keep to the same font type, font size, and colour. Minimise bolding. You wouldn’t want your email to be mistaken for spam. If you’re following up on a previous email, remember to append the email you are referencing to. Editors won’t have time to go searching for it in their inboxes.
- Follow up
How persistent is persistent? A polite nudge 2 weeks after you first sent your pitch is acceptable. Don’t email the same editor more than once a week.
Do you have tips to share about writing a pitch? Feel free to share your comments on our blog or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!