First things first: we’re not talking about pitching like Roger Clemens or anyone in major league baseball. We’re talking about pitching stories to reporters.
Most reporters are inundated with thousands of pitch phone calls and emails from business owners and publicists every day. At some point, reporters stop reading pitches, or at best, give them very slight attention. Against these odds, getting your message to stand out from the crowd can seem like a near impossible feat.
Ask Yourself: Why Should the Journalist’s Readers Care?
The secret is to think carefully and creatively about what you are going to pitch a reporter. Don’t waste the reporter’s time, and most importantly, don’t waste your own. A reporter will bite on only the most compelling of pitches.
The most important part of an email pitch is the subject line. If this fails to capture the reporter’s attention, it is unlikely that your email will even be opened. A truthful, but attention-grabbing subject line is essential. The subject line should contain the most compelling reason the reporter should read further and consider writing a story o n your subject and client.
Imagine You’re Shouting Good News to a Neighbor Across the Street
When creating a powerful subject line, I tell my young associates to imagine that they are yelling some wonderful news across the street to a neighbor. The key here is to communicate the most interesting and newsworthy part of your story in the most concise manner.
Furthermore, do some research on the publication and the journalist before drafting your email pitch letter. If your news would be a perfect fit for a column that is regularly assigned to the reporter, this would be important information that should be included in the subject line and in the beginning of the email. If this reporter covers your topic or has written about it in the past, demonstrate your knowledge of her past work to lay the groundwork for both your personal credibility and to build a strong relationship with the journalist.
Ask Yourself Again: Why Should the Journalist’s Readers Care? What is Uniquely Interesting?
The pitch should then explain why your subject would be of particular interest to the journalist’s readers at this time. Is your pitch announcing an innovation or new wrinkle on a subject of interest to this outlet’s audience? Does the topic have an interesting local connection to the geographic region in which the publication is distributed? Moreover, a pitch that is tied into the breaking news of the day will vastly improve its chances of scoring ink.
I discourage the use of attachments unless the pitch hinges on a particular visual. Attachments are often difficult to open and sifting through them requires additional effort on the part of the journalist. Our goal is to serve the journalist by streamlining the process and supplying additional information only after it is requested.
Conclude the pitch with a one or two sentence description about the company, along with the company’s website. This will give a reporter, who is very likely to be conscious of the clock, the option of learning more only if she is sufficiently intrigued by the information already presented.
Finally, include your name, email, title, location, and cell phone number at the end of the pitch. Supplying the reporter with your cell phone number demonstrates your ability to deliver information on deadline and your awareness of the time-sensitive nature of the news business.
Spending that extra three minutes to put yourself in the reporter’s shoes can give you all the “leg up” and insight you need to create a pitch that not only gets attention, but develops into the placement that will l raise awareness and heighten credibility for your products and services.
Note on contributor: DeAnne Merey, President and Founder of D M Public Relations (http://dm-pr.com), is a public relations veteran with over a decade of experience. DeAnne graduated from Barnard College and holds a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School. Founded in 2007, D M Public Relations is a full-range, public relations company whose services are designed to help its clients compete more effectively both in the U.S. and abroad. D M Public Relations builds brand-name recognition for clients and leverages positive visibility to enhance profits, attract and retain customers, and expand new business opportunities. A few examples of media outlets Merey has gotten placements for clients include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Vanity Fair, The Washington Post.