In the first instalment of our ‘PR 101’ series, Joe Jordan, Senior Account Executive at Spreckley, shares his thoughts on crafting and delivering the perfect pitch
When it comes to successful pitching, there are simple ground rules that are pretty self-explanatory. You’re not going to win any brownie points by calling a journalist the wrong name, and you should expect an angry response and a one-way ticket to the blocked list for any pitch that begins ‘Hi *|FNAME|*’.
But once you have the basics nailed, how can you develop a unique and personal style of pitching that engages journalists, builds relationships and secures great coverage? Below are a few tips that will take your pitching to the next level.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Reaching out to the right people is just as important as perfecting the pitch itself, so make sure you take time to build a solid media list and work out which journalists might be interested in your story. Conducting thorough research will save you the embarrassment of pitching a release to a journalist that is entirely outside their scope, protecting that relationship from permanent damage.
If you get your hands on an approved release before the go live date, embargoed pitching is an effective way of securing coverage straight out of the gate. Journalists appreciate a short window for drafting and editing before the news breaks, so pre-pitching a relevant story makes their lives easier and increases the chances they’ll be receptive.
It’s also shrewd to keep a real-time tracker of who you’ve reached out to and whether they’ve responded, as this allows team members to take over pitching duties if needed without duplicating recipients.
Get to the point
There is nothing more likely to provoke a journalist’s ire on a Monday morning than reading a pitch that starts ‘I hope you’re well and having a wonderful day’. Journalists (like most people) rarely have anything wonderful happen to them before 8 o’clock on Monday, so you can be sure your email is heading straight to their junk folder if they kick off their week by reading those dreaded words.
The pitch, and the release itself, should also be free of jargon and self-promotional language. Avoid phrases like ‘award-winning’ and ‘industry-leading’, and instead keep things simple by writing in a brand-neutral way.
A subject line can tell a thousand words
Journalists are more time-poor than ever, so providing a snapshot of what you’re offering in the subject line incrementally increases the chances of your email getting opened. Focus on telling the whole story in as few words as possible, so the recipient knows exactly what to expect when they read your pitch.
If you’re familiar with a publication’s editorial protocols, you can even tailor the subject line to match the style of its headlines.
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone
Phone pitching is often a daunting prospect but can yield excellent results when approached in the right way. Making a good first impression is likely to influence the outcome of the call, so begin by asking the journalist if they have a couple of minutes spare to hear about a story and offer to call back later or send an email if they’re snowed under.
If the journalist does have time to chat, succinctly explain the crux of the story and why it’s relevant to the topics they write about. Spark interest and invite them to hear more; you could help them land their next big story.
It’s important to remember there’s another human being on the other end of the phone – don’t be too friendly or overfamiliar, but also avoid treating the conversation as purely transactional and try to build up a rapport over the course of the call.
Form lasting relationships
Don’t forget, every time you send a pitch you are influencing the long-term relationship between your agency and the recipient. Double and triple check that the news is of genuine relevance to what the journalist writes about and construct your email in a clear and easily digestible way. Conscientious PRs build the strongest relationships, so think like a journalist and try to make their lives as simple as possible.