Pitching to a journalist

Want to know how to write a great media pitch?

Pitching to a journalist isn't about sending them a media release and hoping for the best. You need to hook them in with an angle that is relevant to their content needs and appeals to their target audience. In this episode, Allira Carroll from Tonic PR and I provide an overview of how a newsroom works, what you should include in your pitch plus give you some tips to getting your email read by journalists.


WHAT SHOULD YOUR EMAIL PITCH INCLUDE?

  • Subject headline: make it catchy/punchy. This is the first thing a journo will see and you want to make them open your email. It's prime real estate though, so don't waste space typing MEDIA RELEASE

  • Personalise: Address the person by their name, not just by 'Hi' and definitely not with 'Hey'

  • Tailored hook: How does your product/venue/item relate to their specific content needs? You need to address this succinctly in the first one-two sentences

  • Assets: Include a link to imagery/video or any supporting information like a media release

  • Spokesperson: Who is available should they want an interview?

  • Contact details: Include all forms of contact should they need any more information or want to sent up an interview/shoot - landline, mobile, email (and make sure you're available and not going into a four hour meeting where you can't respond)

“Never pitch to a journalist without having imagery attached or linked to within the email”

Listen to the full episode for more insight on writing a great media pitch

CONSIDER THIS FOR EVERY PITCH

  • Remember, a journalist often has to pitch to their editor to get a story over the line. And the journo may have a few dozen pitches to choose from, all with great angles. So, don't give them an excuse to delete or dismiss your email. Get the basics right - spelling, grammar, correct name, correct publication

  • If you want to get a story up online or in the television news for later that day, you need to pitch before 8am. That way, the chief-of-staff can consider and allocate a journalist to the story and you are getting in before their daily news conference. If you want your story to be considered for the next day's newspaper, you need to pitch first thing the day before, so they have time do do an interview and shoot

  • Develop a relationship with journalists you'll deal with regularly, in advance of pitching to them. They're more likely to open your email. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to check how they prefer to be pitched to (day of week/time of day etc).

  • Consider your tone of voice. If it's a lifestyle publication you don't need to be too formal but you also don't want to be too familiar. Do not use exclamation marks or hyperbole. Keep it professional

  • Double check your font and font size is uniform throughout the email

  • Don't rewrite the media release in the pitch. The media release is a supporting document, the pitch should be specifically tailored to that journalist

  • Consider the best time of day/week to pitch to each journalist


HOW DO EXCLUSIVES WORK?

An exclusive means you give a publication the opportunity to run a story before anyone else does. It's used if you want to ensure you get a run in your #1 publication and if that publication is unlikely to run it otherwise. Here are some things to consider before you pitch an exclusive:

  • What is their exclusivity period? 24hrs? 4hrs? 1hr?

  • Do they have any sister publications/channels that could also carry the exclusive (e.g a newspaper will have a website plus social media channels)

  • Has your company had any issues with that publication not adhering to exclusivity guidelines previously?

  • You may be able to give one outlet the broadcast exclusive, another the print and another the online. But, if that's your plan be honest with each publication and ensure they agree to it. They'll only do so if each outlet is not a competitor to the other

  • Give a date for when you need a response to your pitch, accepting or declining the opportunity. That way you can offer the exclusive to someone else, if need be


AND HOW ARE EMBARGOES DIFFERENT?

An embargo is when you provide media with a particular date/time from which they can run with the information. The purpose is to give them time to build a story, interview spokespeople or meet the deadline for a weekly newsletter you would be unable to meet otherwise. Keep these elements in minding if you're considering an embargo:

  • Put the words EMBARGO clearly on the media release and in the email pitch (underline/bold/colour)

  • Run the embargo past the select media in advance of sending it to them, ask them to agree to it, then send the pitch. If you don't ask them in advance and just send the information, they haven't necessarily agreed to it but they now have the information and may choose to run it and break the embargo


ALWAYS. FOLLOW UP.

  • People are busy and they can often read something and forget to reply. So don't assume when a journalist doesn't respond, they're not interested

  • Follow up twice max after your initial pitch but make sure you provide additional angles with each follow-up and potentially even change your email subject heading. This could be the difference in getting a story over the line

  • If you're pitching something you want published that day, give the journalist at least two hours before you follow up. If it doesn't need to run for a few days or even that week, give the journalist at least 2 - 3 days before you chase

  • When you follow up, make sure you forward the email as that will keep any attachments on it (replying removes them)

  • Make a note in your task list as to when you need to follow up after your initial pitch. It may be a specific day or time of day relevant to that media outlet or set of media outlets. E.g, all AM radio stations need to be followed up on Tuesday between 11am and 12pm and all lifestyle websites on Wednesday before 10am

Missed the episode on writing a media release? You'll find a summary of the tips and tricks here.

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