When it comes to getting your business in the press, you need to know the dos and don’ts of PR pitches. What is a pitch? A pitch is a brief description of a story designed to attract the attention of a journalist and convey why the story would be of interest to his or her publication and its readers. No, it’s not a press release. This is what goes above a press release in your email body (if you have a press release to share, that is). It’s essentially your short and sweet cover letter, but instead of selling your work experience, you’re selling your cool new product and/or service. It’s not easy to get the attention of a busy reporter. Want to know how to get noticed? Here’s your easy guide to the dos and don’ts of PR pitches:
DO research the journalists and publications you are pitching.
This may seem obvious, but you should only pitch to those journalists and publications that you were able to research and verify that the topic of your story is directly relevant to the news they cover. Just because you have a media list of 100 publications that at some time in their entire existence ran a story related to your news, does not mean it is automatically applicable to them now. You can even prove you’ve done your research by referencing a previously published article and explaining how your concept will appeal to the same audience.
Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not, or pretend to know someone you don’t. Journalists will likely find out, and you will ruin your credibility and any chance of pitching to that person or publication in the future. Along the same vein, don’t lie about a product or service you’re pitching and avoid overhyping and exaggerating the facts (overuse of the terms “revolutionary,” “innovative” and “groundbreaking” come to mind).
DO practice PR 101.
Thoroughly review your pitch to eliminate any spelling or grammar mistakes. Also make sure to appropriately address your email to the correct individual and check the spelling of his or her name. (Mrs. Jaime Johnson will not be happy to receive an email addressed to Mr. Jamie Jonson.)
DON’T simply pitch a press release.
Journalists value stories, and a pitch provides an opportunity to bring to light different aspects of your news if you focus on why it is important to readers. You should also consider presenting multiple story angles — what you find interesting may not be what the journalist finds interesting.
DO keep your pitches short and concise.
A pitch only needs to include an intro (this is where you say who you are and can prove you’ve done your research), the news you’re pitching (you should be able to answer the who, what, when, where and why in just a few sentences) and a thank you. Make sure that you highlight the cool factor — what makes it different, new, a must-have?
DON’T give up, but know when to give in.
If you don’t hear back from a reporter, feel free to follow up, but only if you offer something new – a new angle, a new resource, a new event that makes the story newly relevant. But if you haven’t heard back after three e-mails (spaced out with a week or more in between), it’s time to move on.
You can actually think about public relations pitches in terms of baseball. Sometimes in baseball, you need to change the speed and type of pitch you throw since not every player reacts the same to each one — just like in PR when you need to alter a pitch to make sure it speaks to the journalists’ specific audience and publication. And just like in baseball, after three strikes, you’re out, and it’s time to move on. You can’t win ‘em all!