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The People Behind the Headlines

May 22, 2015 Bradford Group Administrator

“A lot of us are of the philosophy that stories don’t come from pitches, they come from relationships.”
– Maggie McGrath, personal finance reporter at Forbes

Public relations is about the relationships, not the contacts. When you’re pitching a story for your client, think about the person behind the headlines. Who is she? What college did she graduate from? What does she do when she’s not writing for Forbes?

Best Pitch I Ever Got is a great resource to learn more about the reporters you’re pitching. Their bio, the stories that interest them, their likes/dislikes in a pitch and, as the title suggests, the best pitch they ever got.

Here are three tips for successfully pitching reporters (and making sure it’s a positive experience for everyone).

1. Invest the time. Understand a reporter’s beat and recent coverage before hitting the ‘Send’ button on a pitch. Jason Abbruzzese, a business reporter at Mashable says, “The PR people who have taken a bit of time to get to know me, my beat, what I’m interested in and the types of sources I’m looking for always have my ear.”

It is much more effective to have a small list of contacts you have a relationship with vs. a large list of people you randomly blast information to.

2. Put down the phone. How would you feel if you received hundreds of emails a day, followed by 20 unsolicited phone calls – all from PR people asking if you’ve received a pitch they sent yesterday? Overwhelmed? Annoyed? Frustrated? Rightfully so.

Remember that reporters are people, too. They attend meetings, work against deadlines and deal with their bosses, just like you. Don’t disrupt their workflows.

When following up on a pitch, follow up once via email about three days after sending it. If you don’t get a response, move on.

3. Keep it brief. Your pitches should be short and sweet, yet powerful. These are my pitch must-haves:

  1. Get the message across in the headline or first sentence.
  2. Tell them why it’s newsworthy, why it’s better than the competition.
  3. Make it easy to read. Include relevant links, boldface important facts and lay out information in bullet points.

Whether you are a business owner or a fellow PR professional, we’d love to hear your best practices for reaching out to media in the comments section below.

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