So, you’ve done your reading on PR, laid the groundwork and feel ready to get your business out there. Congratulations, it’s now time to get started with media pitching!
Sending your first pitch can be daunting (or any pitch, really… I’m three years in and still get nervous!). For this reason, preparation is key. In this blog, I’ll run you through the process of media pitching via email, taking it step by step, so you know what to do and what to expect.
Grab a coffee and get your notepad: let’s get pitching!
1 - Identify your story
The very first step of media pitching is to identify the story you want to share. This is also known as your 'hook' or your 'angle'. It’s imperative that this is newsworthy and timely.
You can ensure your story is newsworthy by considering some of the following points...
Will anyone else (i.e. not me/my friends and family) care about this?
Does this matter now?
What sorts of stories interest me? Would I be interested in this if I saw it in a magazine?
If you’re in doubt about any of these, it’s best to wait until you've got a story that you’re certain will pique the interest of others. The last thing you want to do is annoy journalists by spamming them with non-stories.
It’s important to make sure that the story you want to share supports your overall PR and business objectives. If it doesn’t, scrap it. We don’t want to use time and energy on any PR activity that doesn’t support our overall goals.
2 - Identify your key publications and journalists
This is where your previous work on building a media list comes into play (check out my previous post on that if you haven’t already.) Now you know your story and you’ve made sure it aligns with your objectives, use your media list to identify the publications and writers that will care about it most. This is all based on what their audience is looking for. Once you’ve pinpointed your targets for this particular story, rank them in order of priority/suitability.
You want to avoid sending your pitches to generic, newsdesk email accounts if possible. By identifying and contacting specific writers, and tailoring your pitch to them, you're increasing your chances of getting noticed. Don’t forget about local news here too. A feature in Stylist might be the dream, but appearing in your local paper could yield more results.
3 - Develop your summary
Journalists are busy people, so it’s advisable to condense your pitch into a one-sentence summary to give them a quick overview upfront. To do this, think about what the title or subtitle might be of the article sharing your news, or how you would summarise your story if you were sharing it online. Use accessible and clear language - unnecessary jargon and waffle is a real turn off!
4 - Craft your subject line
Think of your subject line as your headline, your first impression that will set the tone for the remainder of your pitch. In the same way that a boring newspaper headline repels readers, vague or disinteresting subject lines are a sure-fire way to get your pitch sent to ‘Trash’.
The aim of a subject line is to pique interest and signal what’s to come. It’s best to mark all pitches in the subject line so that the journalist knows what they’re opening. Keep it short and get directly to the point. Don’t get hung up on trying to deliver punny wordplay: we’re trying to communicate value here, rather than humour. It’s much better to keep your subject line clear and concise, and leave the creativity to the journalists.
Similarly, avoid using salesy words like ‘must have’, ‘guaranteed’ or ‘unique’. Not only are these phrases overused, they can also set off spam filters that get your pitch deleted before the journalists even have a chance to read it.
5 - Craft your email pitch
Now for the headline act! An email pitch should be no more than a few paragraphs in length. Don’t worry about going overboard with opening pleasantries: journalists are busy (did I mention that already?) and won’t think you’re being rude for skipping to the crux of the matter.
Open your pitch with a ‘topline’ summarising your story (this is the one-liner we worked on in step 3) before expanding on it in paragraphs two-three. Make sure you address why their audience would care about your story, and why it would therefore work well in their publication. Refer to a recent piece written by that journalist if relevant, particularly if the topic is time sensitive.
Make sure to include any accompanying imagery, as well as your contact information. If you’re willing to send them a sample of your product, an invitation to your event or something else pertaining to your story, make this clear too.
Now, all that’s left to do is send. If you’re sending your pitch to multiple publications (I would advise leaving a few days between each pitch if so) make sure you tailor it to each individual journalist and publication. A cookie-cutter approach to pitching isn’t effective, so be sure to personalise each pitch with the relevant names and information.
QUICK TIP: journalists have been known to take to Twitter with PR mishaps they’ve been on the receiving end of (just search for #PRFail, it doesn’t make for pretty reading). Many of these mishaps are simple but unforgivable mistakes such as getting the journalist’s name wrong or referring to the wrong publication. Don’t let this be you! Check, check and check your pitch again before sending.
6 - Following up
So, you’ve sent your pitch and haven’t heard anything back. It’s now a few days later. Is it okay to follow up?
This is a point of contention in the PR world. Nobody can seem to agree on the perfect practice for following up, and the reason for that is simple: every journalist is different and prefers different things.
For this reason, it’s best to keep it simple when it comes to following up. My general rule of thumb is to follow up via email 4-7 days after sending your initial pitch, with an offer of providing more information if needed.
If you still hear nothing, a further email or even a phone call in a few more days time is totally acceptable. Some journalists will simply not be interested and will tell you so, but others may have genuinely missed your email, so don’t be afraid to follow up once or twice if you hear nothing back.
🖤 Don’t take it personally
A PR prerequisite is having thick skin. You could send a perfect pitch with an incredible story and still get nothing back. This is not necessarily a reflection on you or your PR skills: it’s simply indicative of the stretched media landscape we operate in.
If you do hear back but it’s a ‘no’ on this occasion, don’t be disheartened, and feel free to ask why if the journalist hasn’t already explained. Feedback isn't guaranteed, but any feedback you do receive will help you to shape future pitches you send their way, to help make sure it’s a better fit for their publication and its audience.
🖤 A note on timing
It’s important to be aware of the basics of timing when it comes to media pitching. I’ve gone into some detail in an Instagram post about deadlines and lead times, so check here if you missed it.
In short, you should avoid busy days and times for the publications you are targeting to decrease the likelihood of your pitch getting lost in the ether. This will vary based on the outlet and its format, so some research here can be really handy. Generally, I tend to send my email pitches between 10-11am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, to avoid the Monday/morning rushes and Friday/afternoon slumps.
🖤 Good luck!
This might all seem slightly overwhelming, but I have every faith that you can do it! Unless your story is time sensitive, take your time with the process and even try to enjoy it: your enthusiasm will likely come across in your pitch!
Remember that securing coverage doesn’t happen overnight: it takes time, perseverance and resilience, so expectation management is very important to avoid being too disheartened by rejection or not hearing back.
As ever, you can reach me over on Instagram if you have any questions. I can’t wait to see all the incredible coverage you land for your business!