Pitch a story to media

Public Relations

Pitch a story to media

Create the right pitch to get your story published.

Start this project Takes up to 20 minutes
Intermediate
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Scared to make a start? Don’t be

Worried about sending your email or making a follow-up call to someone about your story because you might be rejected? Don’t be. People appreciate being asked and more often than not, will know it’s hard for you on the other end to make a pitch. The worst that can happen is you’ll get a ‘no thanks’. So what? You tried. If you’re polite and friendly and you were genuine in your intent, then you’ll often be remembered. And that’s a great start!

 

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“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

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Introduction

One size does not fit all when it comes to pitching your story to the media. You need to ensure you do your homework and consider the needs and wants of the journalist at the other end. A bad or ill considered pitch, no matter how great your story is, can easily fall flat.

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“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.”

Entrepreneur

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The pitch

A good pitch means you’ve done your homework. You’ve shown the person on the receiving end that you care about them and their interests; that you’ve not been lazy and just sent a blanket message out to a bunch of media in the vain hope someone will pick up your story and run with it.

Here’s some key tips to getting your pitch right:

  • As we’ve said, one size does not fit all, so choose your targets. And choose them well - make sure the target will actually fit.

  • Find the specific person you need to send your story to if you can, rather than having to use a ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ approach.

  • Think about what your story might look like in the hands of the person you’ve chosen to send it to. From their point of view, prepare your pitch.

  • Read the person’s prior articles. Thoroughly. Read them with an eye for their interests, their themes, and the way your story would help extend their subject matter further. When you make your pitch, let the person know how and where your story might fit and why the audience would be interested.

  • Keep thinking through the reporter’s eyes—ask yourself how will this story be of interest to the reader? How will it meet the criteria the publication and the writer’s section and assignments must meet?

  • Pitch the story—not your institution. You, your needs and your wants, on their own are not an interesting topic. But as part of a broader story or as an example within a wider, enticing topic; now that’s where you can shine.

  • Keep your pitch short and to the point. If you’ve targeted your story well, then it will mostly sell itself. Don’t burden the person on the receiving end with puff and hype about how great your story is, just give them some simple messages that will resonate with them and make them want to follow up.

  • Make your pitch by email first. Let it sit with them for at least a day. If the story is a good one, the person may well get back to you quickly, particularly news desks. If you don’t hear back, perhaps the next step is a call.

  • When you call, refer to the earlier message. Regardless of whether the person has seen it or not, ask them if they would like you to re-forward it as a courtesy to allow the person to scan the high points of your message.

Pitch a story to the media Interest to readers 2176x1181px

Keep your prospective readers in mind when creating your pitch ideas. 

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What’s your approach?

Think about the best way to approach different journalists. Many prefer an email so they can read through your information without pressure.

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Know your story well and double-check your facts

Get all your information right before pitch it. A journalist won't be impressed if you give them the wrong facts or figures, or if you are unsure of the information around your story.

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Don’t have work left to be done

Newsrooms are notoriously short staffed. Often journalists are stretched thin with multiple portfolios and never enough time to cover them all. So tailor-make your story as far as possible. Get quotes, background information, photos and spokespeople ready and waiting. This can work wonders in particular for smaller media outlets which have much more limited resources than the bigger publishing houses. Often it’s the community rag that will publish your story verbatim with little changes - providing what you’ve given them is good!

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Keep it brief and keep listening

If you get someone on the phone, always ask if they have time to talk. If they do, make sure you have your messages ready so you don’t waste their time. No one has time for exhaustive detail. Just summarise the main points. If they're interested, they’ll ask for more information. Know when to stop, listen to the reaction on the other end. Watch that the impact of your idea doesn’t get lost in a sea of small talk.

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Exclusive means exclusive

If you offer your story as an exclusive to a particular media outlet, stick to it. You will quickly lose friends if they see another media outlet has also run with the story. And think carefully about whether this is the right tactic for you - it can limit your exposure, so make it worth your while by ensuring good coverage with the outlet you have gone with.

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Deal with rejection

If a journalist isn’t interested, thank them for their time and move on. And don't ever take it personally - deadlines, big breaking news stories or just not quite fitting with the day's agenda are all factors that may mean your story isn't given the priority you think it deserves.

Pitch a story to the media Deal with rejection 2176x1050px

Don't take rejection personally.

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Don’t give up!

Don’t give up. Review your approach, your pitch, your audience and your channels. Try different angles, get advice and feedback from people. There’s lots of great advice online from people who are experts in newsrooms, as bloggers, as publishers. Browse through their advice and check it against what you’re doing. It may be that the story is great, but the timing isn’t quite right. Don’t let it get you down. Try again. The next story you send out might be a hit!

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Building relationships

A big part of public relations success is building relationships. There is a lot of value in putting in the time and effort to talk to journalists face-to-face if you can. This can be hard to do when you’re dealing with media offshore, however, if you plan ahead you could look to build some media management and relationship building into your trips away.

To do this, you need to be prepared and take small steps. Start with some research into what media outlets will match your target audience, and what you can offer them. Have some good stories to pitch or something of value to offer.

Keep in mind that building solid relationships will take time and effort, but could reap big rewards if you do it right. It has to be a two-way street - before you dive in, make sure you understand and respect the other person’s drivers and values - no one likes to feel they’re being used or that the relationship is one-sided.

Also be aware that people are busy - don’t waste time and think that just by buying someone a drink and not adding value to their time, that they’ll be grateful and want to help publish your stories and news. Treat it as a partnership and it could reap great rewards - for both of you.

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Summary

  • Make sure you’ve got the right match of media outlet to your story
  • Pitch the story, not your organisation
  • Keep your pitch short and to the point
  • Email first, call second
  • Double check your facts
  • Don’t leave any work left to be done on your story - newsrooms are busy
  • Build relationships
  • Deal with rejection, and don’t give up!

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