Successful media pitching can get people talking about your brand and helps you position your company as a market leader. Reporters, editors, bloggers, and even social media influencers can all help take your brand communication to the next level.
But when reporters’ inboxes are flooded with media pitches — up to 100 a day, according to Business Wire — how do you get your pitch noticed? Standing out can seem like an uphill battle for time-poor PR professionals.
These seven media pitching tips will help you resonate with journalists, distribute relevant content to the right people, and convert product stories into newsworthy pitches.
What is a Media Pitch?
Before you resonate with anyone who can accept or decline a media pitch, you must understand what a pitch is and how it’s different from other types of communication.
Media Pitches Are Not Press Releases
Pitches differ from press releases in both format and objective; they’re also used at different touchpoints during PR-reporter engagement.
- Pitches give the outline details of a news story or feature article, and say briefly why it’s interesting to journalist’s audience. They’re usually conversational and customized to individual journalists.
- Press releases provide the whole story and its context. They’re written in a journalistic style — third person — and in-depth enough to allow a reporter to cover the story without asking you for more information.
Press releases usually accompany a big event, like a product launch or a company award. Pitches are better suited to introducing your brand to a reporter, or “hooking” your brand story into a wider news story. We’ll go into that later.
Media Pitches Are Not Sponsored Content
Sponsored content is an article paid for by a brand, but formatted to look like a normal editorial. It’s an increasingly popular way to get a brand message or story across, but it’s best not to confuse sponsored articles with articles based on media pitches.
- Sponsored articles mean brands can control the message and the content of the piece, and make sure that it aligns with brand values. Sponsored content often makes use of product placement.
- Media pitches allow journalists to cover the subject in any way they like. When you pitch a reporter, you’re not entering into an agreement about what the content will say; you’re simply alerting the reporter to the story.
Finally, media pitching is not something that comes naturally to most people. That said, pitching skills — persuasion, creative thinking, storytelling — can be acquired over time. To help put yourself on the right path, start with these 7 tips to writing successful pitches.
7 Tips for a Successful Media Pitch
Successful media pitching requires an understanding of your ideal end reader. The end reader isn’t the reporter who spreads your message, but rather the person who reads or watches their report. Once you understand that end-reader, you can more accurately select which media outlet will help you reach them.
Tip 1: Research your audience
Before pitching a story, spend some time figuring out who your end audience is and what their interests are. Alexa’s Audience Interest tool can help you with this.
Start with a website whose audience you know you’d like to attract. Put that site into the Audience Interest tool. For example, our target end reader might subscribe to Vogue.
The tool breaks down categories of sites that your target audience is interested in, as well as the actual sites they visit in that category. You can dig deeper into each category, pulling out popular keywords and topics for each category.
Use this to build a complete picture of your end reader’s interests, and prioritize your pitches. Once you build a list of the sites where your target reader hangs out, you can start to think about how you can tailor pitches to those publications.
Pro-tip: You can also find out where your competitors are getting media mentions by using Alexa’s Backlink Analysis. If they cover your competitors, they may be interested in your site, too, so add them to your media list.
Tip 2: Be selective about who you send what
Look at the Twitter hashtag #PRfail and you’ll see a lot of journalists complaining about one thing – generic pitches.
Email blasts get little response and can look sloppy. Instead, target a specific writer with the publication who covers the subject area (their “beat” in reporter-speak) that matches up with your brand story. If you’re launching a new robotic process automation product, for example, you’d contact The Wall Street Journal’s tech correspondent, not their News desk.
Don’t blanket-mail all the reporters on a target publication. You can, however, send out the same pitch to a few publications at the same time; not every reporter will respond to your pitch, so it’s smart to maximize your chances of coverage.
Avoid sending pitches to generic email addresses, such as [email protected], as the inboxes are often badly monitored. Find reporters’ professional emails and contact them directly.
Pro-tip: If you’re having trouble building comprehensive media lists, check out these 25 PR tools to help build media mentions
Write Your Media Pitch
Tip 3: Find an angle
In media coverage, all stories are written from a particular perspective, known as the angle. Crafting your pitch around an angle means your target journalist doesn’t have to; this saves them time and makes them more likely to respond positively to your pitch.
Finding angles requires practice, but there are some techniques you can use to craft them faster:
- Newsjacking: Connecting your brand’s pitch to a timely news event can create a strong angle. For example, you might pitch a white paper about voter demographics in the run-up to election time.
- Trending Topics: Hook your pitch into a popular topic, such as a new TV series. Scour social media platforms like Reddit threads or Twitter trending topics and mold your pitch around the conversation.
- Milestone events: Anniversaries, events and awards, or evergreen happenings like Christmas or Black Friday, are also easy ‘hooks’ for pitches.
In general, angles need to be relevant and timely, and interesting for the journalist’s audience.
Related: How to Create More Shareable Content
Tip 4: Structure your media pitch
A pitch email is informal, but should still have a structure. Journalists often have daily deadlines, so structuring the pitch in a way that’s easy for them to absorb will up your chances of earning coverage.
Here’s an example structure that could work for your pitch:
- Start with something personal, perhaps a story of theirs that you read recently. Try to find something related to the subject you’re pitching.
- It helps to explain the “who, what, where, when, why” of your story. This structure might work best for traditional media outlets, as reporters structure their articles in this way.
- Create news value by explaining why the story is interesting to that reporter’s audience.
- Include a call to action: What do you want the journalist to do as a result of your pitch?
Try to pack all this into 150-300 words. Content Connection looked at their most successful pitches of the year, and found they all fell into this range.
Finally, Fractl showed that images and videos are the content formats most often published by journalists, and infographics are the most in-demand type of content from publishers. If you do include visual content in a pitch, make that clear in the email subject line.
Tip 5: Use a strong subject line
The same research by Fractl showed that two-thirds of journalists open a pitch mail (or not) based purely on the subject line, and 60% of writers prefer subject lines that match their beats. The subject line is one of the most important elements of a pitch to get right. Here are three hacks to help you do just that:
- Check out the writer’s previous headlines on published articles. Try to mimic the style in your email subject line. This simple technique makes it easy for them to imagine your pitch as one of their articles.
- Keep it short: BuzzStream found 75% of publishers prefer shorter subject lines, so be creative and snappy. You should aim to explain why the pitch is relevant to the reporter in fewer than ten words.
- Pull out any stats or data from your pitch and use it in the subject line to add authority to the story. Digital Marketer suggests that subject lines with “oddball numbers” have a higher open rate than subject lines with round numbers, or without numbers.
Tip 6: Personalize each pitch
The man or woman receiving your email is, well, a human being. Take the time to customize each email for that person. Mention a story they just published or something they shared on social media recently. Use tools like Anewstip to monitor what journalists are writing and tweeting about, and mention that in your pitches.
Why all of this extra work? According to 2016 data, the open rate for emails that had been personalized for the recipient was 18.8%, as compared to 13.1% without personalization. Personalization is a great way to get your pitch noticed.
Media Pitching Examples
Traditional Media Pitch Example
Let’s say you want to pitch a new food technology startup to TechCrunch reporter John Smith, based on a piece he wrote about a new food catering company called XYZ Foods.
Let’s break the pitch down:
- Refer to the reporter’s previous work to show you know their beat.
- Outline who is doing what, when, and why it’s important., In this case, your startup is launching a new product next week, which will have a unique selling point. Note that Steve O’Hear is Europe-focused, so the pitch taps into that by mentioning Berlin.
- Explain why the story is interesting to that reporter’s audience: 70% of TechCrunch’s audience self-identifies as passionate about tech, so the pitch speaks to that.
- Suggest an angle, so the reporter doesn’t have to think too much.
- Include a call to action, in this case setting up an exclusive interview and access to research.
Blogger Media Pitch Example
Bloggers can be equally good targets for media pitches. A blogger pitch can be less formal than a magazine or newspaper pitch.
In this example, we’re pitching a lifestyle blogger about a report your brand has done on health and wellness. Despite being less formal than the first example, the pitch still has a structure:
- Again, personalize the pitch and show you’re interested in the blogger’s work.
- Highlight that you’re working with an authority, to give your pitch more weight.
- Pull out the juiciest information to whet the blogger’s appetite.
- Don’t forget the call the action, in this case accompanied with a freebie offer to try out a retreat.
Send Your Media Pitch at the Right Time
Tip 7: Take into account lead time
Journalists are deadline-driven, particularly those on weeklies or TV and radio. They have a defined “lead time,” or the time it takes them to write a piece. Once you make contact with a reporter, find out their lead time as soon as possible. This will help you send pitches at the right moment to maximize coverage.
Don’t pitch on the day you need a story published. If you’re worried about important company news leaking ahead of a launch, you can send pitches before launch day and set an embargo on publishing until later.
Follow These 7 Tips and Win At Media Pitching
Every media pitch is the opportunity to present your brand to a new audience and to build relationships with media advocates. If you don’t hear back on a pitch, follow up. If you still don’t get a response, move on to the next media professional on your list.
Taking the time to personalize pitches, write to an angle and research target audiences will improve your chances of getting your brand out there. Focus on pitching media professionals that align with your end-reader, and get the tools you need by signing up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan.