Four Steps to the Perfect Pitch
Working in public relations can mean a lot of things these days. Advancements in technology, the ever-growing presence of social media, and the need for content and search engine optimization have added another dimension to the scope of work that falls under PR.
That being said, pitching and media relations overall have remained a constant presence amidst all of these changes. If you’re a PR professional, chances are you have experience pitching a variety of different media types, and probably even have your own method for engaging with the media. But even the best story won’t land unless you put in the work to research your targeted media and tailor your pitch to best suit the publication and contact you are pitching. Successful pitching does not begin with being a good “storyteller” –it begins with research. Long before you pick up the phone or draft that email, you need to do four things.
1. Understand your client’s story
Understanding the story you are pitching is critical. Memorizing information only serves to provide a one-dimensional perspective on the story, whereas putting in the time to really understand the significance of the story and seeing how it fits into the bigger picture of your client’s overall messaging can help you develop a pitch that accurately conveys all of your client’s messages. This approach also allows you to discuss the topic at ease with reporters and answer any of their questions (which you should always anticipate) while showing how the story ties into the beats they’re covering.
2. Research the angle
Now that you’re familiar with the ins and outs of the story, you can use this knowledge to research unique angles. Unless it is ground-breaking news, chances are the basis of your client’s story has already been covered. Your goal is to research how the media is covering the topic and formulate a unique perspective or insight (“the hook”) your client can provide to the existing storyline. Use this information to find the unanswered questions or missing perspectives in the existing news, which will ultimately help you determine which publications to target (AKA: step 3)!
3. Find and pitch the right contacts
After you’ve found the right publications to pitch, it’s time for (you guessed it) more research. If it’s big news, chances are several reporters will be covering it from different angles, generally based on the beats or topics they’ve been assigned. Sift through the coverage to find the reporter that is writing about the topic in a way that best fits your angle. Maybe one reporter’s piece makes them seem like a good fit, but perhaps since it’s major news they’re covering a topic that they normally wouldn’t. Find the contact that consistently covers news that is relevant to your client.
4. Carefully tailor your pitch
After you’ve found the media contact(s) to pitch, it’s time to tailor your pitch to fit your contacts’ interests. You’re much more likely to generate interest when you show reporters that you’ve truly chosen to pitch them this story based on what they’ve been writing. For example, a simple “I saw your recent article on X and know you cover Y, so I thought Z would be of interest for you” can be highly effective. Showing reporters that you’ve done your homework and are pitching them based on their writing and interests can go a long way.
Finally landed that article? Don’t stop there – nurture your relationship with the reporter!
After you’ve successfully executed steps 1-4 and land that article you’ve been vying for, don’t go dark! Nurture and maintain those reporter relationships. Start by being respectful and honoring deadlines (whether it’s making sure your client is on time for the interview, or getting them the bylined article before it’s due). Next, connect and engage with them on social media – show that you are paying attention to what they’re writing, regardless of whether or not it’s something you pitched.
If you couldn’t already tell, majority of the work in pitching is done before you send out that initial e-mail. It may seem time-consuming, but it’s a process that almost always pays off, and as an added bonus: once you’ve established a relationship with these reporters, steps 1-4 will be much easier!