10 Simple but Powerful Steps to Writing Pitches Journalists Will Love
In the last blog post, you learned nine ways you can avoid annoying journalists to ensure you have a fighting chance of getting press coverage from the publications you love. Some of those tips talked about ways to improve your pitches, but — surprise, surprise! — there’s even more you can do to make your pitches appealing to journalists.
So in this post, you’ll learn a few simple but powerful improvements you can make to your pitches which will help them stand out from the flood of other pitches reporters receive on a daily basis. Many of these adjustments also make life easier for the journalists you’re trying to build a relationship with, which will make you look far more favorable in their eyes in the long run.
Here’s what you need to do to up your pitching game:
1. Obsess over editing.
As you read in the last post, it’s vital to watch your grammar and spelling when you send pitches because busy people (like journalists) are more likely to skip over your email and attached press release if you make an error.
Before you hit “send” on any pitch you send, take at least fifteen minutes to proofread, edit, and spell-check everything you’ve written in the press release and the introductory email. If you don’t have time to do this yourself, you can use an app like Grammarly or hire a professional proofreader to ensure your content is error-free.
2. Perfect the subject line.
One of the easiest ways to get a journalist to open your email is to create a subject line so compelling they can’t help but click on it. An amazing subject line will provide concise information that teases a journalist’s interest just enough they will want to open it to find out more. This is, of course, easier said than done.
PR Couture and BuzzStream discovered 85% of publishers will open a pitch based on a subject line alone, so you want to give reporters something to care about in the first few seconds of them looking at your email pitch. One way to do this is by looking at headlines for stories they’ve written in the past, and provide a similar angle with your pitch’s subject line. You can also think of whether or not you have a connection to them or any sort of relationship, which can help the chances of your pitch getting opened over those from influencers the journalist doesn’t know personally.
3. Target the right journalist.
This should be a given, but a lot of times in your busy days as an influencer, you’re more likely to just send a pitch to the first reporter you can find listed at a publication. However, your pitch is more likely to get deleted this way, as it will fall on deaf ears if that journalist doesn’t actually write about your industry or niche.
Do your homework to make sure you’re finding journalists who are the right fit for your story. This doesn’t have to take more than 5 minutes per publication you’re interested in targeting. You can often find what beats journalists cover on a publication’s about, staff, or editorial masthead pages; another option is searching Twitter for your target publication and finding the appropriate journalist to pitch in the results.
4. Make it personal.
In addition to targeting the right journalist at each publication, you want to prove to them you’re not sending a mass email and have done your homework into what they write about. Personalizing your pitch will give you a leg up over those influencers who don’t take the time to make these small adjustments.
One incredibly easy way to personalize an email pitch is to simply use the journalist’s name directly. Of course, make sure to change this with every email you send, so you don’t accidentally call a journalist by the wrong name! You can also lead your email with proof you follow the journalist’s work by saying something like, “I saw your recent article about X, and I thought your readers would like to see this story about Y.”
5. Answer the question “Why should the journalist’s readers care?”
Another great way to ensure your pitch is seriously considered for coverage by journalists is by showing them exactly how your story is relevant to their audience. You saw this in the last point with the example of mentioning how you believe your story would interest a journalist’s readers; if you can answer the question of why an audience will enjoy the piece in 1-2 sentences, you’re more likely to get coverage.
It all comes down to the “why” here. Why should the journalist care to write your story if it doesn’t suit their audience? Why would the journalist suggest your story to their editor over another pitch? Answering these questions is vital to making sure your pitch isn’t immediately sent to the trash.
6. Avoid sounding stuffy.
When you’re pitching journalists, you’re essentially working to establish a professional relationship with them. Because of this, you might be tempted to write a very formal-sounding email, using salutations like “Dear Mr. or Mrs.,” or even “To whom it may concern.” But using formal words like these will just make your pitch sound stuffy and impersonal.
You can avoid sounding stuffy not only by using a journalist’s name, but also by writing casually like you are well-acquainted friends. This means leading your email with a word like “hey,” and even dropping a light-hearted, non-offensive joke. Look at your entire pitch as a conversation, not a textbook.
7. Pay attention to timing.
No matter how good your pitch is or the story behind it, sometimes the timing is simply off. This could be because your target journalists have deadlines they need to meet, and you sent the pitch too late, or simply because you sent the pitch on a day like Monday or Tuesday which are known for being busier in general. Do research to discover when are the best times and days to contact the journalists you’re targeting.
You also want to pay attention to what a journalist has already written about in recent days and weeks. If your story is too similar to one of those, it’s unlikely the journalist will want to cover your pitch. Wait a while to send them the story idea, or find a journalist at a competing publication who would love to publish your story instead.
8. Put the release below your signature.
The last blog post mentioned how you never want to attach press releases to an email, but instead include them in the email itself to avoid getting sent to a spam folder. However, your goal is to quickly introduce your story to a journalist right off the bat, so save your press release for after your signature.
You can also consider sending a simple pitch email to journalists without including the press release at all. Instead, you’ll introduce yourself and your story, and ask if they’d like the release and more info. Obviously, if you don’t send a release it’s just another step in the overall process, but some journalists may appreciate you keeping things as short as possible. See which method gets you a better response rate.
9. Include compelling quotes and stats.
Journalists like to see press releases and pitches which provide supporting facts and information. You can give them this information through relevant statistics and quotes, preferably from third-party sources which give more perspective on your story and how it relates to your larger industry as a whole.
Providing a few quotes and stats is also a way to make things easier for the journalist you’re pitching. When you give them this information to work with, it means they don’t have to go digging around themselves to find extra research to round out the story, and they’ll view you as a helpful source. Making things easier on a journalist should always be a primary goal when pitching!
10. Offer to provide more information.
As noted above, whatever you can do to make a journalist’s job easier is a potential win for you. This means your pitch should not only include ready-to-use quotes and stats, but it should also offer to assist the journalist in any other way they might need to write and publish your story, stress-free.
You can enable a journalist’s writing process by offering to send them supporting materials or information so they don’t have to go find it themselves. You can also offer to set up a meeting with them based on a time that works best for their schedule (regardless of whether or not it’s convenient for you).
Pitching is an art, and the more you practice it, the better you’ll get. You can Google to find examples of successful pitches (like these three here) which you can reference as you craft your own pitch. Add in the ten steps above, and you’ll be well on your way to getting featured in the press.
Have you tried any of these tips when pitching journalists before? How did they work?