Pitch perfect: Top tips for attention-grabbing pitches
By Olivia Manning, Senior Account Executive.
For us PRs, there is almost no better feeling than seeing that a journalist is interested in an article that you’ve had difficulty placing, or when you realise the rapid response pitch you’ve worked on lands some top-tier coverage!
However, capturing the attention of a journalist is easier said than done – especially when millions of other PR companies are trying to do the exact same thing. In fact, the State of PR 2020 survey found that 63% of PR pros said that finding and interacting with journalists is one of their biggest challenges.
Nonetheless, it is an important skill to master – and one valued by the media. Our recent Global Media Survey, which explored the impact of Covid-19 on the Global PR industry, found that: “One thing that has not changed during the pandemic is the strong desire from journalists to receive high quality and relevant content from the PR community and their clients. Sending generic pitches that lack the necessary homework and research remains a common problem with some journalists suggesting more training for new PRs.”
Struggling to make your pitches stand out from the crowd?
Here are some pointers about what will grab – and keep – journalists’ attention:
1. Do your research
Even if a pitch is laid out beautifully with a clear direction and request, it can all be for nothing if it lands in the wrong inbox. Before you send it out to journalists, it’s important to do your research and see who might be interested in it.
Websites like TechNews are great for finding which publications and journalists are writing on a particular topic, and a quick Google search can normally achieve the same result. If it’s a publication you haven’t tried before, make sure you double check what type of contributions they accept (comments, bylines etc.), and adapt your approach accordingly!
Top tip: Add detailed publication notes to your media list to save time later when pitching
2. Keep it concise
Journalists are often extremely busy and working to tight deadlines. Keeping subject lines succinct is key in grabbing their attention. Check that it can be read in the inbox email screen by keeping it to 12 words or less. A creative pun or rhetoric question will also help increase your chances of getting spotted and will encourage journalists to read your pitch in the first place!
Likewise, when it comes to the pitch body, journalists don’t have time to read paragraphs of text. Setting the scene with a short summary of the content and adding some bullet points which outline the angle of the story is a good approach.
Top tip: Use a stat to draw in the attention of the journalist and back up your argument
3. Make it personal
Journalists won’t favour a ‘copy and paste’ pitch that’s been sent out to 100 inboxes. Curate a personal pitch by linking or referencing a previous article that they’ve written. This shows that you’ve taken your time to research their work, and shows you’re keen to continue the conversation or add a new point of view.
Noticed that they haven’t covered the topic before? Why not politely ask them if it’s something they’d be interested in. By being considerate of their interests and time, you can help build relationships and gain a better idea of what content they are looking for in the future.
Top tip: Embed a link to a relevant article the journalist has written to gently nod to the fact you’ve done your research
4. Pay attention to detail
We’ve all been there…that moment when you send an email and *gasp* you realise it’s been sent to the wrong person, got the wrong subject line, or you’ve forgotten to attach the article. Mistakes happen, it’s part of human nature – but they can be reduced!
Paying attention to detail is important as it shows you’ve taken the time to pitch carefully. It also indicates that the content you are pitching will meet the same standard. Triple check your pitch before sending it, or use web attachments like Grammarly to help give you peace of mind. Some emails even have 30 second unsend buttons – which can prove invaluable for those ‘oh no’ moments.
Top tip: Read your pitch out loud – you’re more likely to pick up on a mistake when you hear it rather than see it
5. Add a human touch
Finding the balance between professional and human can be a tricky skill to master. Adding a joke or nicety about the weekend, can help build rapport with a journalist and make you seem more relatable! If you’ve spoken to a journalist before then gauge the tone of their response and replicate it. And, as you get more familiar with them, it’s only natural that the way you interact becomes more colloquial.
Top tip: Don’t go overboard – journalists probably don’t want a full account of your camping weekend in the Peak District, or so many anecdotes that you miss the point of the pitch
Not every pitch is going to land straight away. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, things take time and you may need to find a fresh angle to grab a journalists’ attention. Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion, or go back to the drawing board if needed. However, hopefully with these handy tips on board, you won’t need to!