Mastering the Pitch
How to make your pitch matter
Standing out from the crowd
There’s a fundamental disconnect at the heart of every earned media campaign: reporters can turn only a small fraction of the pitches they receive every day into published articles. Most pitches fail. They fall on deaf ears, remain unopened and unread in reporters’ inboxes, and in many cases wind up in the digital dustbin. Navigating this delta—and ensuring that your clients’ stories are among the few that make the leap from pitch to feature—must be a central focus of every earned media strategy. This can prove challenging for even the most seasoned public relations professionals. In a crowded marketplace of ideas, how can you ensure your pitch grabs reporters’ attention and cuts through the noise to advance your clients’ goals?
At Miller Ink, we’re fixated on answering that question. We constantly ask ourselves how we can improve our pitches, tailor our clients’ announcements to major topics in the news cycle, and frame stories in a way that leaves reporters hungry for more information.
Here are some things we consider when pitching reporters.
Finding a Reporter
Deciding where to send your pitch is not as simple as selecting the first reporter you come across. Instead, you must do some research to find the right reporter for your client’s story. It’s like pairing wine with dinner.
Use Google, a given publication’s search function, or databases such as Muck Rack to discover potential reporters. Then, review their recent work to gain an understanding of what they cover and how they cover it.
Identify their publishing frequency. Do they publish multiple small stories per day or a few large articles per week? This will help determine how likely the reporter is to cover your story.
Check if they have written about your client or related entities in the past. Assess the tone of these articles, as well as the way they frame the story at hand.
Effective public relations professionals consider all of these factors to determine whether a given reporter is an appropriate contact for their pitch.
The Strength of Relationships
Connections matter. Pitching a reporter doesn’t have to be transactional. Nor does it have to be a single-round game.
Demonstrated interest and consistent effort go a long way in strengthening your relationship with a reporter. Once you have found a reporter whose beat aligns with your client’s news, you should work to form a strong relationship for future press opportunities. Seek to build trust and communication. You and the reporter do not have to be adversaries; you both have a vested interest in developing compelling stories for wide audiences. The more familiar a journalist is with your client and their history, the easier it will be for them to write future pieces.
A pitch is an opportunity to directly illustrate why a reporter should select your story over the thousands of others that come across their desk.
Good pitches create links: they connect your client’s news item to the reporter’s specific beat and to an ongoing topic in the broader news cycle.
When reaching out to a reporter, mention explicitly how your client’s news complements a story, issue, or idea that they have previously covered. Then, think more globally, and work to create a direct thread from your client’s announcement to a salient conversation in the public discourse. This could be a major story in politics, business, sports, entertainment, fashion, or any other subject area that gets people talking.
After sending a pitch to a reporter, your work is not done. Follow up with the reporter a day or two later. Remember, they receive hundreds of pitches a day. Just because they do not respond right away does not mean they are not interested. Your email may have just gotten buried in their inbox.
Follow up, bring your pitch back to the top of their inbox, and offer your assistance in answering questions or making connections.