Tips for Successful Media Pitching

By Alison Littman, Ben Glicktstein & Emily Powell

You sit down at your desk and scan the long list of reporters you’re about to pitch on behalf of your client. You take a deep breath, pick up the phone and dial…

What usually happens on the other line? Does the reporter sound excited to hear from you? Does he or she sound rushed? Can you hear the commotion of the newsroom in the background?

You may be wondering how to break through the clutter and engage reporters or editors with your pitch. The good news is: media pitching, if done correctly, works, and it works well. Reporters and editors are looking for great stories and will appreciate it if you bring them one. Below are a few tips for ensuring success when pitching the media.

Lesson Number 1 – Make your story great

Perhaps you’ve been given a product, service, project or cause, and you’re wondering how to make it interesting to a reporter. For example, maybe your client is a water district that would like to generate positive media. How do you make your story unique, so it stands out amongst other government agencies and programs? Sometimes it takes brainstorming, and you may suggest that your client takes on a new initiative or project to highlight the agency in a new way. In the case of the water district, perhaps you inquire about initiating a scholarship program that offers college scholarships to future engineers in the city. They could partner with a school to run a science fair competition and award the winners with scholarships. With careful coordination, this initiative would help the water district make the news. The key with this approach is that the pitch focuses on real people and connects them to what the water district is doing from a unique perspective, making it more appealing to a broader audience and enticing a reporter to cover it.

Lesson Number 2 – Pick a few reporters to pitch, and pitch them well

Sometimes it’s not a numbers game. Calling 150 reporters will probably not yield a single story unless you pitch relevant content to them. In order to do so, you must research the reporter’s past articles. Reporters have beats or topics they cover, and some could even be classified as experts in their fields. If you’re pitching an editor, look at the stories included in his or her beat or even the editorial page. To pitch a reporter or editor well, refer to an interesting point they made in one of their articles; discuss an argument they put forth; or bring up a quote you found gripping. In other words, say something that will tell them you’ve read their articles and understand what they’re looking for. That way, you can explain how your story will fit into their program or publication.

Lesson 3 – Be concise with email pitching

Since reporters receive more than 60 pitches a day by email, you want to ensure that your pitch rises above the rest. And there are a few simple tips to do this. First, be brief with your pitch, using short sentences to highlight relevant and interesting information. Reporters know within the first sentence or two if the pitch is worth continuing to read, so select your words carefully (no more than 150 words!). Resist the urge to introduce yourself and your organization right off the bat (including your signature block and attachments) as well. Rather than providing all the details about your client or program in the initial email, ask the reporter if you can send him or her more information in a subsequent email. Ultimately, most reporters get to decide what they cover, so make your pitch specific and relevant to their audience, be sincere and don’t give up!