What journalists need from PR pitches
According to Bloomberg, in the US, there are six Public Relations professionals for every journalist, and the rest of the world is catching up. That means the journalists you’re contacting are overwhelmed with pitches; many of them poorly thought out or irrelevant. It’s your job to build a reputation as a thoughtful PR professional who knows the relevance of their stories and who can tell them best.
Here are some tips for how to make that happen:
Get to the point
Long-winded PR pitches will lose a journalist’s interest almost immediately. It all starts with the subject line – your pitch might be great, but a poorly written or dull subject line can send it to the Trash folder. Write a snappy email subject line that will grab attention, but stay away from clickbait. Now, as far as the actual pitch goes, Shakespeare said “brevity is the soul of wit”, and that holds for PR as well; it’s critical to offer journalists a unique point of view without taking up too much of their time.
Instead of including a full press release, consider writing just a paragraph or two about why this story is right for their publication or website, and then offering an interesting spokesperson for an interview or invite the journalist to your event. If you have a specific publication in mind that you want coverage in, consider offering them an exclusive.
If you are sending a press release, make sure it includes all the relevant information and a couple of jargon-free quotes that talk about why this is important for consumers or a wider community – not for the company or organization.
Personalize your PR pitches
Are you still writing bland, generic press releases and sending them to every journalist in the entire country who has ever written about this sector? Stop. You’ve probably already noticed that you’re getting very few responses, and for good reason. In this article on the Hustle, a journalist actually breaks it down for you.
Only large, international organizations who are making announcements that are of interest to many different audiences across different geographies should be distributing mass emails - and even then, sparingly.
Instead, do your homework and let it show. Spend an hour researching and shortlisting the most relevant journalists for your story (if you’ve got more than a couple of hours, you can also conduct more extensive media research). Read some of their past articles, and reach out to them explaining why your story is right for them. You can reference articles they have written in the past on this topic, and why your story is one that will be relevant to their readers. Isn’t this more time-consuming? Perhaps. But chances are it pays off.
Think about the journalist’s audience
As a PR professional, your number one priority is to get positive coverage. You know what the goal is and perhaps you’ve even got KPIs you know you need to hit for the quarter. With all this in mind, it can be easy to forget that journalists don’t care about any of that. Journalism faces enough challenges as it is – all you want is an engaging story for their audience. Your PR pitches should keep the journalist’s goals in mind rather than your own.
Read our post on securing earned media in a digital world.
Include high-quality images and video
Images bring your story to life, so they are crucial to your PR pitches. Avoid generic ones and instead include high-quality, vibrant images, showing off the people involved. Don’t send anything blurry, low-resolution or just plain boring. If the image is to go into print, it needs to be at least 1MB. If you’ve got engaging and professional video footage, include that too.
Rather than clogging up a journalist's inbox with huge file sizes, include one image on your email, and then a link to somewhere they can download more if they need to – your media library or a Dropbox folder, for instance.
See how other brands have used the media library feature in their PressPage newsrooms.
Don’t look for free advertising
Unless you’ve got a wide reach and strong brand recognition, the launch of a new product probably isn’t going to make the news. Media companies rely on advertising revenue to survive; they’re not going to give you space to advertise your products for free. Sometimes it takes some time for a brand to come to terms with this, and your role here is to manage their expectations and educate them on what makes a real story.
Journalists will determine whether your story is newsworthy or not and cover it based on criteria like timing, significance or prominence. But if it’s a bog-standard product launch, don’t be surprised if you’re redirected to the advertising department.
Build relationships with journalists
When a journalist agrees to run your story, be responsive. Answer any follow-up questions promptly, and facilitate them in as much as you can. You’ll need them again in the future. Consider asking them to go to coffee or a business lunch where they can discuss big stories they’re working on over the coming months, and you can identify potential opportunities for your brand or your clients’ brands. Once you’ve established a mutually beneficial relationship with a journalist, sending PR pitches to them becomes a lot easier.