5 Dos and Don’ts in Media Pitching

tyler tullis
Christine Varela Partner
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Last week, I attended the 2019 Portland PRSA Communicator’s Conference. The focus of the one-day conference was Communicating through Chaos, with several sessions detailing case studies and best practices for communicators. It’s an annual event that features local and national experts who share their first-hand experiences and help build knowledge and competencies in our field.

One of my favorite sessions from the conference was the lunch keynote, Communication Opportunities in a Changing Economic Landscape, where editor, Suzanne Stevens, and reporters, Elizabeth Hayes and Pete Danko, from the Portland Business Journal gave pointed tips to PR professionals about how to better land coverage. Below are some of the insights we see impacting an effective media relations effort.

There are some very specific elements to a good pitch as well as some painfully obvious features of a bad one. Let’s start with the good ones.

1. This seems obvious, but have a good lead. Hook the reporter to want to open and read your pitch. Putting “Press Release” into your subject line is almost a certain sign of email death. The panel said write a pitch like we write a story. Draw us in right away. Hook us with a story so we forget we are being pitched.

2. Do the ground work for us. This may seem a bit counter intuitive as we PR professionals have been very careful not to make journalists feel like we are telling them how to do their job, however, these three panelists were emphatic, they like it when the ground work has been done for them. They can reach out and suss out their angle on the story you set up, but having multiple sources and visuals at the ready means they don’t have to waste precious time trying to coordinate elements that are essential to any piece they write.

3. If you don’t read our paper, don’t pitch us. It is painfully apparent when a PR person pitches a reporter or an editor and they have no idea what topics they cover. They said, we can tell within the first few lines whether someone knows our paper. If not, we just hit delete.

4. Know what is really newsworthy. Issues that are broader than your company. A national story that you can offer up a source to provide a local perspective on. Send them a story they’ve written and offer a new or different take on the topic.

5. Organizations that can offer transparency and access to leadership. If you pitch a business story, you should be able to share information about your business. Be open about your revenue and growth trend lines. And your leadership should be available to talk in depth about your company and your industry. They need details and information to tell a good story.

And now for the PR pitch hall of shame. Here were some clear “don’ts” we concurred with:

1. Don’t pitch me a product or a service that is just “new to you.” Meaning if you starting offering something new but it’s already on the market through other companies, that’s not news.

2. If your advertisements contain substantially similar language to your media pitch, don’t bother sending it.

3. Don’t pitch me stories I’ve already written before. Again, this goes back to doing your homework. Know what I have written about recently and make sure I haven’t covered your angle.

4. On the flip side, don’t pitch me something I never write about. Know what I write about and pitch stories within my wheelhouse.

5. Finally, never, ever, send the same pitch to multiple reporters at the same publication. It’s confusing and irritating and will just ensure we all think it’s meant for someone else, not us.

Photo courtesy of the Portland Communicators Conference

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