The concept of public relations can be a bit confusing for those who are not in the communications field, but trust us, it is vital for shaping an overall brand message. Publicists bear the huge responsibility of having to control any and all media coverage surrounding a specific client. Often times this is done proactively through “pitching,” or crafting a story idea and reaching out to the right media outlet so that they will cover the particular topic.
Earned media, or editorial placements that were not paid for, carry a lot more weight with the general public than paid advertisements do, as consumers know that advertisements are controlled messages.
Creating great PR pitches take practice, creativity, and attention to detail. A few of the things to keep in mind when writing a pitch are:
Start with an Enticing Subject Line
Journalists and producers receive an absurd number of pitch emails every day (seriously, some get hundreds). It is a publicist’s job to make sure that their story idea, or “pitch,” stands out from the slew of other emails the press is receiving. In order to do that, you need to make sure your email is being opened and not immediately tossed in the “trash.” What is the first thing someone looks at before opening an email? You guessed it: the subject line.
The subject line needs to be enticing, relevant and something that will make a journalist want to open the email. Something like “story idea” or “pitch” will likely get sent to the trash folder very quickly. Use surprising numbers, mention local names, and include the name of the person you are pitching in the subject line; people are naturally drawn to something that says their own name. If you include their name, the journalist will also know that your pitch is not being blasted to a list of thousands of people at once.
Think of things that are timely and that may be top of mind for a journalist. One recent example would be when our team was announcing a music headliner for the Grand Rapids Pride Festival. The headliner, David Hernandez, was a former American Idol finalist. A couple years ago, when the show was off the air, this is not something we would normally include in the subject line, but given that the show has returned to the air, and is creating a lot of buzz in the media, we went with the subject line: “_____, Former American Idol Finalist Announced as Headliner of GR Pride Festival”.
And it worked. We received two pieces of earned media from our individual pitching of this announcement.
It is also important to remember to keep the subject line fairly short. Depending on how someone’s email is set up, a subject line may be cut off after the first 6-10 words, so don’t try to write a novel in the subject line, because it will be a waste.
Tailor the Pitch
Tailoring a pitch to be specific to who you are reaching out to is extremely, extremely important and takes extra time and research. Before you pitch anyone on a story idea, you need to be sure that the topic is something that is relevant to their “beat”. Take time to read over a journalist’s recent articles and check to see what types of segments a producer has booked in the past. (Example: don’t pitch a cooking demo segment to a TV show that has never once had a chef in their studio.)
Make sure to include the person’s name in the opening of the email, the closing, and in the subject line. Mention their recent work and tie in something that is relevant for them. Finally, remember that these folks are extremely busy. Get to the point, quickly.
A (fake) example of a good tailored pitch might be something like:
“Good morning, Suzie:
Hope you had a great weekend! Your recent piece on the alligator infestation in the Grand River was extremely interesting – loved the photos you chose for the article!
Relevant pitch here.
Thank you for your consideration, Suzie! Have a great day. Talk soon!
Final Pro Tip: Build Relationships
The most important part of pitching is building relationships with the press. An enticing subject line will hopefully get someone to click “open,” but another way to get someone to open an email is to see that it was sent from a trusted source that they have worked with in the past. Taking the extra time to attend press events and network with members of the media will also help with your name recognition.
Media pitching is not just blasting a press release to a BCC’ed list of 60 press members. It takes time, attention to detail, patience, and humility. If you are starting to realize just how much goes into public relations, and you want to tear your hair out, you can ask us questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or by filling out the form below. We would be happy to help!
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