How to Write a Pitch That Doesn't Get Tossed
August 17, 2016
Reporters receive hundreds of email pitches each week—and they don’t read most of them. Why? Because typically they are stuffed with meaningless buzzwords and provide no value. So, as a communications professional, how can you create pitches that are compelling and entice a reporter’s response? You’re going to have to make an effort.
Reporters want meaty pitches that are tailored to them. Sell them on the story. Here are seven ways to spice up your pitches.
1. Build the relationship
Before approaching a reporter, take the time to get to know her. What has she written about recently? What interests her? The more information you know about each reporter, the more successful you will become in targeting specific pitches to the right people and getting coverage. By doing the upfront research, your pitch will be more succinct because you’ll know what information you need to convey to the reporter.
2. Perfect the subject line
The subject line of your email is the gateway to your pitch. Similar to a headline in a newspaper, if it isn’t straightforward and compelling, you’re less likely to read. Be creative with the subject—it needs to stand out and convince the reporter to read. Additionally, it would be wise to do some A/B testing and determine which wording garners the highest open rates (you can track this via email platforms such as MailChimp).
3. Be succinct and show value
Reporters are busy, just like you. Don’t bore them by copying and pasting a press release into the body of your email. Let them know what the story is right at the top of your pitch. While opinions vary on the ideal length of a pitch, brevity is always the more efficient approach. Pitches should quickly and concisely show value (and relevance to the reporter’s past work). Also, consider using bullet points where appropriate.
4. Cite data
Data adds credibility to a story. You’re not just blowing smoke when you can illustrate the impact of your story with real, hard facts. If your client doesn’t have access to their own data, do some digging. Conduct research and cite other sources; make it as easy as possible for the reporter.
5. Offer third-party sources
Ever heard the expression “check your sources?" Well, reporters need to verify the facts in order to remain objective. Make it easy for them and provide suggestions. Customers, partners, influential social media users, or industry analysts make excellent third-party sources to offer to a reporter.
6. Use visuals
Not to sound trite...but a picture is worth a thousand words. Many clients have a library of compelling visuals. Use them!
7. Offer exclusivity
According to the Harvard Business Review, the most attractive characteristic of a pitch is “exclusive research.” Offer exclusivity to your top choice reporter, first. If they are not interested, move on to the next.
So, what does a perfect pitch look like? There is no easy answer to this question. Pitches must be tailored to the requests of the reporter and will vary for each story. But Paul Sawers, a seasoned reporter, provided this example of a good pitch from a (fictional) startup seeking coverage of a new app:
Hi [First Name],
I’m [full name], founder of a London-based startup called [name + link to website], and I think you may be interested in our new product. We’ve developed a GPS-powered app that helps drivers instantly see how much they’re spending on petrol with each journey they make, and whilst there are similar apps out there (e.g. xxx and xxx), this is the first time an app has been created that uses up-to-date, real-time data from local service stations around the world.
We are releasing the Android version next week, and we expect the iOS version to be approved shortly after. I’ve attached a few screenshots of what the app looks like, and here’s a link to a video that demos exactly how it works.
I thought I’d give you first refusal to review this app before contacting other publications. If you could let me know if you’re keen to learn more, I’d appreciate it.
Thanks a lot for your time.
While the pitching process may seem daunting, it is important to remember one thing: Reporters like pitches. The relationship between a company and the media is a symbiotic one. Companies want the public to read about their products and services in top-tier publications. Reporters need companies because they are what will ultimately give them good content. While reporters receive upwards of a hundred pitches a day, they want you to contact them. You keep them in business and they keep you relevant. The only question is whether or not your content it’s relevant and exciting enough for their readership. So save your time and theirs and make an effort to create valuable, tailored pitches.
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How Proof Strategies Can Help
Proof Strategies (formerly Environics Communications) is a full-service communications agency committed to insight-based problem-solving. We believe anyone can ask questions, but few ask the right ones. Better questions change how we approach your business challenges. As a brand steward to some of North America's most respected and well-known companies, our strategic approach is guided by data-driven research, deep subject expertise, smart creative and digital solutions to engage audiences in new ways with measurable results.