Weeks go by quickly in the PR world when you work with such a fast-changing media landscape, and sometimes it feels impossible to keep up. It can be very frustrating when you have a pitch idea you feel proud of, but after one or two weeks, you still haven’t received a single reply from a journalist interested in covering the story. If you find this happening to you often, chances are you need to step up your pitching game.
One thing I have learned in my years working with media is there isn’t a single right answer or one “correct” way to pitch. Every reporter is different, and what may get the attention from one journalist may not even get your pitch read by another.
If you are struggling to bring in leads, we’ve got you covered. Here are five things you can do starting today to make sure your pitching game is top tier:
1: Keep pitches short, and get to the point sooner
Never start a pitch with “Hi, my name is X, and I work with X. How are you?” If it takes a reporter reading several sentences before finding the story you’re proposing, you’re already at risk of losing their attention. Instead, get to the point right away. Lead with the story, why it’s timely and why your CEO or other spokesperson is the best expert to comment on the news.
Ninety-four percent of journalists want to see pitches that are three short paragraphs – max. Most reporters, national ones especially, aren’t taking the time to read through a four to five-paragraph note. Make the format digestible so they can open the email, quickly scan it and see the most important things they need to know. Don’t be afraid to use bullet points to make it even easier to read.
2: Add more relevant background information to your pitch
If you’re not getting media interest with short pitches, you may not be including enough information to give reporters a good reason to cover the topic or include your spokesperson in a story.
Try researching three to five reporters who would be a perfect fit for your story and have also written about the topic in the past. Send them a pitch detailing who your spokesperson is, why they’re an expert on the topic, multiple subjects they can speak to and a teaser on what they would say if interviewed.
3: Always change up the subject line
If you aren’t getting any responses at all, it’s likely reporters aren’t even opening your email! That’s why it’s important to change the subject line often. Make it shorter and less confusing. Don’t bury the lede – get the good stuff up front! Think to yourself: If the reporter only saw the first three or four words of this message, would they know what I’m talking about, and would they open this email?
For good measure, always force yourself to write at least five different subject lines. You probably won’t use all of them, but oftentimes, the fourth or fifth idea will be your favorite. Good things happen when you force yourself to be more creative than the first thing that comes to mind!
4: Make sure your follow-up game is strong
In Muck Rack’s 2022 State of Journalism report, the number one reason (24%) journalists cited for immediately rejecting otherwise relevant pitches was bad timing. The follow-up is almost as important as the initial pitch.
When following up, make sure you are offering new information and not just inundating the reporter’s inbox with generic “following up on the below” emails. Is there a timelier news event to include? A quote from your spokesperson to tease what they may say in an interview? Give them more to work with than just “are you interested?”
Bonus tip: try pitching at a different time of day/week for your follow-up. Most reporters want to be pitched in the early morning on Mondays, according to Muck Rack, but see what happens if you send your follow-up later in the afternoon on a Wednesday.
5: Be a media sponge
It might be hard on some days, but never stop consuming the news. Subscribe to relevant newsletters and spend the first 20 minutes of each day reading them along with the homepages of the dream news outlets you’d love to have clients featured. Set up Google alerts for keywords relevant to the industry and keep tabs on what reporters are talking about. Have an active Twitter account, and follow the reporters and publications you’d like to work with. The more you understand what’s being said in the news, the better chance you have at pitching a topic that’ll resonate.
The most dangerous thing you can do in the PR world is remain stagnant. Switch up your messaging, writing style, subject line, media list, days of the week and times of day to pitch – the list goes on. If you continue to try new things and challenge yourself to think outside of what you normally do, you are sure to take your pitching game to the next level.