How to pitch press releases to journalists

Joanna Wild
By Joanna WildPR and Social Media Executive
5 minutes to read
PR

With media coverage now more coveted than ever due to the part it plays in most digital marketing strategies, journalists receive (literally) hundreds of pitches from PR people every day.

So, in a highly competitive landscape where it’s getting even harder to cut through the noise, how do you make sure your story not only stands out, but also gets seen?

Include hi-res images and videos

Instead of asking your contacts to get in touch if they need high-resolution images or videos to accompany an article, anticipate their needs. Improve your chances of pick-up and include everything your contact might need to feature your article. This covers hi-res images, the content of the story (more on that later), references and contact information. It’s much better to be over prepared!

By making the journalist’s job easier, not only is your story more likely to be featured, but you’ll also begin to build a relationship as they’ll remember your efficiency and consideration. Journalists are much more likely to want to work with someone they had a positive experience with as opposed to someone they had to chase.

Think carefully about your email subject line

Your email subject line is your very first opportunity to pitch so don’t waste it. Generic lines like ‘PRESS RELEASE’ use up valuable space in the subject bar which otherwise could be used to dive in and lead straight away with your pitch.

Similarly, opening with ‘BREAKING NEWS’ when it isn’t breaking news at all is a sure fire way to get blacklisted by journalists. The media classes breaking news as a major event. So unless your client or the CEO of your company has just become Prime Minister of the UK or something akin to that, leave ‘breaking news’ out of your subject line.

Remember that the email could be picked up on a mobile phone, so even less of the subject line will show. When drafting your email subject, consider the length and keep it short and snappy. The information you want to communicate should grab your contact’s attention, key stats or points relevant to your target’s interests or sector are a great place to start.

Be timely with your approach

Pitching a story to a journalist at the right time will seriously boost your chances of inclusion. And we don’t just mean aligning your news to a national day or trending topic. You need to think as granularly as the day and time you pitch.

Editor meetings usually happen mid-week and tend to be in the afternoon, so organising your media sell-in for earlier in the week will improve your chances of pick-up. If you have a breaking story for inclusion the next day, then ensure you pitch before 1pm on the day before to allow your contact enough time to comfortably include your piece.

If you’re approaching the media to offer a comment or opinion on a topic that’s currently hitting the headlines, you should share the finished comment before lunchtime that day. The earlier the better ideally, but definitely before 12noon.

Tailor your pitch to the journalist you’re contacting

Does the journalist you’re contacting prefer email or phone contact? What are their specific interests and what topics do they regularly cover? Is your pitch even relevant to them? Do you know them well enough to reach out via social media?

These are all questions you should be asking yourself before you approach any media contact with a story. Spend some time researching every contact on your media list so you can tailor your pitch to their preferences. The extra time spent preparing will make you stand out against all the generic, blanket calls and emails journalists receive every day.   

Make sure you proofread and sense check

A pretty obvious point, but one that a lot of PR professionals tend to forget: a quick read over your press release and pitch email will save you from making any embarrassing or potentially damaging typos.

Make sure your contact’s name is spelt correctly and that all the information you’ve included is correct. If there are any stats or data, check these are correct and provide references where possible.

Remember that journalists are humans just like you

Journalists are often working under pressure and towards deadlines, so they need messaging that gets straight to the point.

Your first few sentences of the release should outline what you’re pitching and why, highlighting the key point or angle you want to make. Making these statements in the first two or three sentences ensures reporters aren’t wasting time by reading through an entire email.

Remember to be confident too. If you don’t sound like you have faith in your story, then a journalist certainly won’t believe in it. A little bit of confidence – but definitely not arrogance – can go a long way.

Ultimately, remember we’re all human. If the journalist isn’t interested for one reason or another, move on and approach another publication. There is no shame in asking for feedback as to why your article hasn’t gained interest. Perhaps it’s down to the timing, or the angle isn’t quite right. Either way, feedback will be useful to note for future outreaches and can only be beneficial to you in the long term.

Do your research

Familiarise yourself with your contacts and target media by researching who you need to approach. Once you know who is best to contact, research the journalist and publication and tailor your release to them.

Have they got a regular feature within the publication that your release would be suitable for? What are their most covered topics and how does this link to your article?  What have they covered recently? The more research, the better.  

Bear in mind the amount of pitches journalists have to sift through each day. The research you do will help you stand out and give you the direction you need to make your pitch relevant to the journalist. Research will make both your job and theirs so much easier.

Think carefully about your angle or news hook

Your angle will make or break your pitch. Make it clear what the news hook is and why it’s relevant to the journalist and their audience too.

As mentioned, journalists are restricted on the amount of time they have to read every pitch that arrives in their inbox. Therefore, you should open your pitch with the most important information first, whether it’s by email or by phone, ensuring you get straight to the point.

Draft your pitch before selling-in. This gives you the time to plan and practise the approach you’ll take, and tailor the information to suit the publication and its audience.

Be authentic

Use pitching as the basis for building strong, lasting relationships with journalists. You can achieve this by offering them something that genuinely adds value and isn’t just a hard sell because you need the coverage.  

Authenticity will only help you out in the long term. Building relationships will make for a good rapport and journalists will come to know that your press releases are reliable and relevant.

So, there we have it, a handful of hints and tips to bear in mind when you’re next approaching journalists with your press release.

Do you have any helpful tips to share? Let us know in the comments!

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Articles by Joanna Wild