As public relations professionals, our job is to bridge the gap between the media and our clients, and part of that process is cultivating positive interactions with journalists. Just as you want to make the best first impression in a face-to-face meeting, the same goes for your initial interaction with a journalist via e-mail. And every interaction thereafter. But what contributes to their first impression, and continued trust in you via e-mail?
When you pitch a story to the media, you’re suggesting that you have information that is so beneficial to their readers, that it’s worth their time to review. But because most journalists receive hundreds of pitches and news tips every day, yours has to stand out.
Here are five elements that make a solid written media pitch:
- Have a strong subject line. Your subject line is the first bit of information a reporter will see from you, so this is your initial chance to grab her attention. You can opt for controversial, witty or to-the-point subject lines, but be sure it clearly conveys the idea you’re pitching. Do you have compelling video or still shots to accommodate your story? Definitely note that in your subject. It’s important that your subject line displays what type of content you can offer.
- Get to your point quickly. If a journalist can’t determine what you’re offering him soon after beginning to read your pitch, chances are he isn’t going to keep reading. Don’t tip-toe around the idea – make your point quickly.
- Make important information stand out. Again, because time is limited, it’s a good rule of thumb to make your most important information stand out to the reader. You can do this with bold or underlined font for the most important takeaways from your pitch. And, if you made your main point quickly, the reader should be able to understand what your entire pitch is about just by skimming the e-mail.
- Know who you’re pitching. Out of respect for the folks you’re pitching, and to gain their respect, invest the time in learning something about the outlet or individual you’re pitching. Make sure you understand the types of content the outlet publishes. Let the reporter know why you chose to send your pitch to her specifically. Perhaps she recently covered the same topic in a news story as you are pitching, or she wrote a column or section about it. Understand who you’re pursuing and be confident about your decision to send him or her your pitch.
- Tell why the information is beneficial. If you don’t know how the information is relevant to an outlet’s readers or viewers, or why a specific reporter should latch on to your information, why are you sending it? State in your pitch why the information affects or is beneficial to the outlet’s audience. If you think the story would best fit in a particular section of their publication, say so. Show that you know why the outlet’s audience cares about the information you’re providing.
When you’re pitching to the media, remember that you are interacting with a person, not a machine. By sending a clearly written, direct and conversational pitch to the appropriate contact, you’re encouraging positive interactions between you and the journalist. Be respectful of his or her time and be diligent in only pitching relevant information. If you get a reply, always send a response, even if your pitch was declined. And remember that with every pitch you send, you’re cultivating a working and respectful rapport with the media – not only for yourself, but on behalf of your client.