How to pitch journalists – and get them to say yes!
We know, we know. Getting journalists to care can be difficult. We’ve been living the B2B PR agency life for a while now, and it’s still an ongoing challenge.
In over a decade of experience, we’ve found that getting journalists interested is all about the story. And if that sounds obvious in theory, the reality of doing so is a bit more complicated. Here’s what you should do.
1. Define the story:
Is your story (1) news (2) opinion or (3) a request for an interview?
If its opinion, consider:
The expertise and credibility your spokesperson
What opinion can they offer that is different/unique/insightful
If it’s an interview or event:
Why should the journalist attend?
What compelling reason is there for them to take time out of their day to attend this?
If it’s news:
Apply news values:
Audience impact and relevance.
Who cares about your company’s empathy training courses? Which readers or viewers will be most interested in what you have to say? Figure it out before pitching. Most importantly: why should they be interested right now?
Is this relevant and relatable to the journalist and their target audience or can you make it more suitable? If not, why are you pitching it?
What is your viewpoint and is it newsworthy?
Who’s your spokesperson, and why have you selected them (any special qualifications or expertise?) Why would the journalist want to quote them or run their piece – and why should the audience take them seriously?
Make sure the news is relevant:
Does it follow a current trend?
What is the impact?
Why will the publication’s readers care?
Read the publication:
Check that the story hasn’t been covered before by the title you’re approaching OR if it has been covered before, that you are adding something new to it.
Do your research around the topic. Research forward features for the magazine, see if you can provide something for them – it makes life easier for them.
Pitch the right section of the right publication. Make sure that your approach is tailored to both!
Research the journalist:
Check their social media accounts. Often they’ll tweet their specific interests – sometimes even tagging them with #journorequest.
This way you can then target the journalists with a story you know they will care about.
3. Crafting the pitch:
Introduce your topic:
Lead with an engaging subject line. If they don’t open it, you’ve already lost.
Avoiding clichés and terms such as ‘reaching out’. Journalists hate them.
Give them a flavour of what the story is about and, if possible, send them video links, press releases and other engaging collateral.
Indicate whether it is an exclusive or not (more chance of a yes if it’s an exclusive).
The main body of your pitch:
Make something complicated sound simple, concise and informative– this is particularly important when pitching scientific articles, as our blog on Engineering PR
Make sure they have all the information they need (i.e. is it an interview or article or give them a choice).
Leave them wanting to find out more.
Final additions to the pitch:
Include pictures if it’s news and leave your phone number
Indicate when you can do it (give them a deadline for assurance).
End on a strong CTA – “do you want an interview with?”
4. Follow up/Relationship:
Focus on the longer-term
Position your client as a useful source of topic info even if there’s no prospect of immediate coverage. This has two immediate benefits:
A – it’ll make it more likely they’ll come to your client for info on that topic in future
B – if you then do pitch a story, they’ll probably react better to it.
It’s much easier for a journalist to say yes if they know you.
Before attending exhibitions, research the editor of a key magazine and introduce yourself at the show – expressing an interest in their publication.
If you have a new client, write to key publications and introduce yourself, let them know they’ll be hearing more from you soon with the latest stories from clients.
Don’t send stuff to journalists if they’re not interested in that topic. Your robot toilet client might be interesting to someone who’s into consumer electronics or white goods, but it’s not going to be interesting to Investment Week.
Be willing to meet last minute requests when others have fallen through.
Follow up on questions quickly.
If a lot of the above sounds like common sense…well, it is. But common sense is less common than you might think in the PR community. Ultimately, you want to treat a journalist like you’d treat a prospective date, or investor, or any other person you want to impress: respectfully, and with the assumption that they’re an intelligent person whose time matters to you. If you have an interesting enough story, they’ll treat you well in return.