Four Keys to Writing a Successful Pitch
Back in 2017, I wrote a blog post on the four steps to executing a perfect pitch. One of the key takeaways from that post was the idea that successful pitching requires much more than just being a good storyteller. Instead, I argued that the majority of work behind a successful pitch occurs long before you actually begin writing it – hence, why I didn’t even discuss the notion of writing until step 4: Carefully tailor your pitch.
However, after a recent presentation from my colleague, Pete Larmey, who leads REQ’s editorial services team, I realized I *may* have slightly underestimated the significance of step 4. The way a pitch is written can, after all, have a significant influence on whether or not a reporter or editor becomes interested in a story. In his presentation, aptly titled “Writing an Effective Pitch,” Pete explored the key elements of and best practices for writing a successful pitch. I immediately thought of my blog post, which focused on all of the back-end research behind a good pitch, and then quickly realized that often it is the writing — not researching — that people struggle with the most in the pitching process.
While I stand behind the importance of steps 1-3, perhaps step 4 should actually be steps 4A – 4D. Luckily for me, Pete seems to also like the number four, so I’m going to loosely plagiarize his presentation and use it for this blog post.
Step 1 (or 4A): Set up the story and why it’s important
Give some background about the situation – if a reporter has to speculate what your pitch is about, or why it’s relevant, you’ve already lost. Set up the story and tell them why they should care, but keep it short and get to the news hook as quickly as possible.
Step 2 (4B): Establish the news hook
The news hook is your smoking gun; it’s the compelling part of the pitch. When writing the news hook, you need to ask yourself these questions:
- What’s so unique about this story?
- What do you want the reporter to cover?
- What’s in it for them?x
Remember – writers aren’t covering a story just because it’s interesting to them. It HAS to be interesting to their audience. Keep these questions in mind, because the reporter will be doing the same thing when reading your pitch.
Step 3 (4C): Offer an expert source and explain why the reporter needs to hear from them
You could have a compelling, well-written pitch on the most relevant news ever, but none of that matters if you can’t deliver a quality source. Don’t just expect your source’s title to be enough – explain what makes them truly an expert in this field, or what unique perspective they can bring. The source doesn’t just have to be a client; it’s also great to have a partner, customer or analyst.
Step 4 (4D): Thank you and call to action
Be friendly and courteous. You just put a lot of hard work into to writing this pitch – adding the two words “Thank” and “you” at the end isn’t going to kill you. Basic manners go a long way. Finally, be sure to always add a call to action. What is the point of creating a great pitch and flaunting the unmatched expertise of your source, if you don’t ask for the interview? Hint: There isn’t one.
Incidentally, another colleague of mine once suggested giving reporters a few suggested windows of time when your client is available. Why? Because reporters are BUSY people. Instead of having them deal with a slew of emails back and forth, preemptively offer some times so that, if interested, they can just check their calendar and shoot you a time back. You’d be surprised how often this trick works.
Crafting a compelling pitch doesn’t have to be the headache many of us have experienced. As long as you do your research, and follow these steps to turn that information into a well-written pitch, success will follow.