Knowing how to pitch your story idea to journalists can make the difference between their pursuing it and using you as a source in their stories, and their rejecting or even ignoring your pitch. What follows are 11 tips for developing pitches that journalists will seriously consider.
But first, here's a little background information about a journalist's work environment today, and why effective pitching is so important.
With deep cutbacks at most media outlets, journalists are being asked to do more with less and to cover multiple beats. The pressure to produce and to meet deadlines can be intense. Journalists are bombarded with pitches every day, all day long. The pitches arrive via phone, fax, email, and even social media sites. Because of the high volume of pitches they receive, journalists cannot consider them all and get their work done, too.
So, here are 11 tips that'll ensure that your pitch cuts through the clutter and gets attention from the journalists you're targeting.
1. Email your pitch
Many journalists prefer to receive pitches via email because a story idea can be more completely developed in a written message and because they can read and reread it at their leisure. Also, if they are not interested in your story idea now but think they may want to pursue it in the future, they can save your message and easily access it later.
In general, pitching journalists via the telephone is a waste of time because many of them let their incoming calls go to voicemail, and many never even listen to their messages. And those who do tend to return calls only from people with whom they have established relationships, unless a message from a stranger really jumps out at them.
If you submit your pitch via fax, you have no guarantee that the journalists you want to reach will ever receive your fax, much less read it. Finally, most journalists prefer not to be pitched via social media.
2. Don't send attachments
If you send attachments with your email, your message will likely never reach a journalist's inbox.
3. Grab attention with your subject line
Journalists, in general, will not open and read emails with subject lines that are generic or unclear about the topic of the pitch, or those that demonstrate the sender's cluelessness about which audience the journalists write for. Give journalists a reason to read the body of your message!
4. Perfect your pitch
Your message should be well organized and free of grammar and spelling errors. Problems with your writing are apt to detract from your message.
5. Get to the point
Put the most salient parts of your pitch in the very first sentence of your message. Many journalists will not take time to scroll through your email to figure out exactly what your story idea is.
Also, keep your pitch short—no longer than three brief paragraphs—and use bullet points when possible to clearly convey details. Remember, many journalists read their emails with a finger on the delete button.
6. Put your pitch in context
Your story idea needs to be about more than just your business. For example, tie your pitch to the news of the day, a current trend, a recent report, or an interesting new statistic.
7. Make it relevant
Be clear about why your story idea would be of interest to a journalist's readers. For example, why will those readers care about your idea? How will it help them? How can they use it?
8. Make it easy to pursue your story
As already noted, many journalists are under pressure to turn out stories and meet deadlines. So, including time-saving links in the body of your email may encourage a journalist to pursue your pitch rather than one that did not include links. For example, you could provide a link to your website, a video, a photo, a fact sheet, a whitepaper, a recent study, and so on.
9. Be discriminating
Don't blast your email out to every journalist in your database. Figure out who is most likely to be interested in your pitch. If you are not sure what topic certain journalists write about, google their names and read about the publications they work for.
Also, if any journalists recently wrote about the subject of your pitch, don't contact them unless you can offer new information or a different angle on the topic.
10. Get personal, but not too personal
Don't send the same exact pitch to every journalist you target. Personalize your pitches by greeting each journalist by name at the start of your message, commenting on something the journalist wrote about recently, or explaining why you think your idea would be perfect for a journalist's regular feature, for example.
However, avoid acting chummy with a journalist you don't know. That will be a turn off. Keep things professional.
11. Don't be a pest
Many journalists don't mind if you send a follow-up email or two after you've pitched them. But if they don't respond, assume that the journalists are not interested in your idea and don't continue contacting them. If you do, you'll risk being perceived as a pest, which will likely eliminate the possibility that the journalists would seriously consider any future pitches from you.
(Image courtesy of Bigstock, Young Man Shocked.)