For better or for worse, pitching is an important part of marketing. It can be one of the best ways to get exposure for your brand or product, and it can be valuable from an SEO perspective if you’re looking to get coverage and an all-important link. Unfortunately, there is a 6:1 ratio of PR professionals to every journalist, meaning you there is a lot of competition. To cut through the noise, you’ll need a strong pitch. We’re here to help. Here are 5 tips (with examples) on how to write a pitch email to a journalist.:
- Think Like a Journalist
- Show How You’re Providing Value
- Remember, They’re Human
- Get to the Point
- Be Clear and Concise
Think Like a Journalist
The first thing I have in mind when sitting down to write a pitch email to a journalist is the goals of the journalist. What are they trying to accomplish? What are they looking for? How is their work being measured?
I am a former journalist who wrote for the website of a local TV station. I use that experience to help me answer those questions. If you’re pitching a local reporter, chances are that they are looking for accurate information that relates to their primary audience (the readers in their area). It’s likely that their judging success on page views and social media shares. With that in mind, craft a pitch that appeals to some or all of those objectives.
At Overheard on Conference calls, we published a study on the cities and states with the largest increase in pay over the last ten years. When pitching this to reporters, I crafted pitches that highlighted the data most relevant to the area the journalist works. See the below pitch:
I targeted South Dakota because it was one of the states with the largest percent increase in pay. In the pitch, I highlighted a number of relevant stats to this reporter on her state and her area. She ended up pitching this idea to her editors.
Show How You’re Providing Value
PR professionals don’t always have the best reputation. They’re often thought to be “spin doctors” or only out to help their clients in a one-sided relationship with media. However, a good PR professional knows that the best relationships are a two-way street. You’re there to provide a good story and provide value to the journalist. In turn, they provide you with exposure, an article, or even a backlink.
It’s important in your pitch email to show how you are providing value. Often this comes from a combination of things, such as the previous example of highlighting relevant stats. Other ways are to offer up an expert for a quote or to let the reporter know that you’d be happy to send over additional information as needed. Show that you’re there to help and it will go a long way.
Remember, They’re Human
One of the biggest mistakes I saw as a journalist and that I still see now when I edit outreach messages or receive guest blogging pitches is the lack of humanity. Too many people write their email in robotic, jargon-filled ways that make both the sender seem non-human and leave the recipient feeling a bit cold and distant.
Remember: these are real people you’re pitching. They have good days and bad days just like the rest of us. Writing your email in a conversational but professional manner helps give humanity to both sides. When reviewing a pitch email to a journalist, I always keep in mind, “would I say this to a person if they were here?” If the answer is no, edit it.
I find that showing a little humanity and a little personality is especially important in future conversations, not just in the first pitch. If a reporter emails you back with questions or wanting additional information, stay professional but feel free to be a little more conversational. Here’s an example from a recent conversation after an initial pitch.
This is her response after my first email pitch:
Here’s how I responded:
I was a bit more casual and wasn’t afraid to show a little personality. We had a few more email exchanges and she ended up running a short story in her broadcast. And now if I need to reach out to her again for something else, she’ll remember me and be more likely to respond in the future.
Get to the Point
Too often pitches take too long to get to the point. So many outreach specialists and PR folk feel like they need to write paragraphs of intro material or history before getting to the pitch. My advice? Get right to it. At most write a sentence of intro before telling them why you’re reaching out. Check out the examples above — no ‘fluff’ at all. I immediately told them why I was reaching out and what I was sending.
This provides multiple benefits. One of them is that it saves time for the journalist. Their inboxes are flooded every day with pitches and press releases and it can be time consuming to try and go through them all, especially if they are long winded. A pitch that gets right to the point is more likely to be read and considered.
Another benefit is that it greatly reduces the ambiguity of what is being pitched. If you spend multiple paragraphs fluffing up a pitch email, it’s much more likely the message will be lost.
Which leads to the final tip…
Be Clear and Concise
Clear communication is in many ways a culmination of all of the other tips. Combine it with conciseness and you’ll have a much stronger pitch email to a journalist. There are a few main points to consider to make a pitch clear and concise.
The first is to keep your objective in mind. Why are you emailing them and what are you pitching? In the previous examples, I was clear from the start. I was reaching out to share with them a study on pay increases in cities and states. Right in the opening line I clearly stated my why and my what.
Next, read your pitch out loud. How does it sound? Does it sound wordy or does it seem to meander? Reading a message out loud is a good way to check for typos as well as to check for clarity and conciseness. If you feel like you’ve said too much after reading it aloud, you’ve probably written too much for someone reading it.
Finally, try to examine your pitch from the perspective of someone else. You could even show your pitch to someone else if that would help. Keep in mind that the journalist will be seeing this for the first time. If your pitch doesn’t make sense or goes on for too long, it’s probably the last time they’ll read it before they send it to the recycling bin.
The media can be a powerful ally if you’re trying to get coverage or publicity for your company, event, or product. However, you won’t be the only one trying to get their attention. Creating and sending strong pitch emails is one of the most important steps to take if you’re looking to get news coverage from a journalist. Use these tried-and-true tips and examples to help craft better pitches.