This post originally appeared on Newswire.ca
With tips and advice from some of the Canada’s top reporters and journalists, this post will ensure your pitch is fine-tuned to perfection.
Your pitch is not your news release.
Time is of the essence for journalists and they simply don’t have the time to read a long email. Alan Carter of Global News, stresses, “Time is short so brevity and clarity is the best.”
The pitch should explain, as briefly as possible, the story angle a journalist might want to explore about your news. Include minimum basic facts as rationale. Include the name and relevance of a spokesperson available for interview. Say whether this angle and spokesperson is being reserved for this outlet uniquely. Be sure to say why you thought this particular journalist is a good fit – reference a past story they have written as proof you’re not casting blindly.
If your pitch is related to information also issued in a news release, you can include in your pitch as copy cut and paste below, and as a link to your news release on newswire.ca. Journalists who like the angle but who may not know you that well will appreciate a quick way to verify the legitimacy of your news. Most journalists won’t take the time to open an attachment they didn’t request. Don’t worry – if they like the angle, they’ll contact you for more info if they need it.
Tailor your release for specific journalists and outlets. Andree Lau, Senior News Editor at Huffington Post Canada, says that PR professionals should “know what kind of stories we tend to cover. I have all the time in the world for PR people who tailor their ideas to our audience and our style, but I filter out PR folks who regularly send me irrelevant pitches.”
Sending a generic, or even worse, a completely irrelevant pitch to a journalist is a sure fire way to get your name added to a “block senders” list.
“When you’re pitching, do your research and know your audience. I’m constantly amazed at how many pitches I receive to cover stories that aren’t based anywhere near Washington or aren’t related to anything I would ever report on,” said Jackson Proskow, Washington Bureau Chief at Global National.
Make sure your angle is interesting, and of interest to the particular journalist that you are pitching to.
Alan Carter of Global News looks for a unique angle in pitches. “Take the time to look for a unique angle to pitch. Feeling like one of thousands being pitched an idea doesn’t motivate me.”
This can be the hardest part of pitching. For one, your boss or client will be eager to see how many stories you placed, and sending out pitches one by one with unique angles takes time and effort. It can also be difficult to come up with multiple unique angles on some news items – but it is never impossible.
Why not pitch an online slideshow depicting a highly visual story to one outlet, and a one-on-one with the lead scientist on the project to another? Is there a customer willing to share their experience? Is there a story that exists within the project team that you can share for an interesting inside-out view of the news?
To save time, prewrite all your pitch emails in advance and save them in your drafts folder. Then you can just pop in the email addresses and send them all within minutes of your news release going out. Preaddressing draft emails increases the risk you’ll send it before you mean to, so hold off on that.
PR professionals are persistent characters by nature and while this may work in other areas of your work, pitching to a journalist can be a delicate process. Continuously following up with phone calls is not needed or appreciated.
“Don’t call to see if we’ve received your email. If we’re interested, trust us, we’ll call you. And, our interest tends to diminish commensurate with every subsequent email and call about it,” said Dawn Walton, Managing Editor at CTV Calgary.
Ron Nurwish, Huffington Post Canada’s Social Media Editor, only recommends calling if you have made a mistake in the news release or if there’s something else incredibly urgent.
Throughout our Meet the Press series, email has come out on top as the preferred method of contact for reaching journalists.
A wire service is an important and trusted source of information for journalists. CNW takes significant strides to verify senders to ensure the content is from a credible source. This is a comfort for busy journalists seeking quality and timely content. When your pitch points back to a news release on CNW, journalists — who may not know you yet by name — will know your information is legitimate.
If you are considering using a wire service, download our free Buyer’s Guide: News Release, Content Distribution & Promotion Providers.
Digital news pioneer and independent technology reporter Saleem Khan has this to say about pitching, “Don’t sell (it won’t work). Stop saying everything is innovative or revolutionary. Be factual. Be focused.”
No one knows a journalist’s audience better than they do, so provide them with reasons why you believe your company or product will be of interest to that group.
Save the sell points, marketing-speak and exhaustive features list for the company blog post.
Every pitch should offer a dedicated spokesperson. It is important to ensure that your spokesperson listed is approved to speak on behalf of the company and prepared to speak to your pitch, (and is aware that the PR team is pitching them as an expert!) Your spokesperson should be able to comfortably answer any question that a journalist may have on the subject.
Anita Bathe, a Reporter for News1130, says: “If you’re going to send out a news release or make a pitch, make sure your spokesperson is actually available to us that day. There’s no point in sending something out if you don’t have anyone for us to clip.”