5 Tips for Pitching the Media

If you’re pitching a story that you wouldn’t read, don’t bother pitching it. That was the advice from a panel of reporters speaking to an audience of PR practitioners.

The panelists shared their tips for pitching them. Their advice was spot on, and, at times discouraging. Today, there are fewer reporters so it’s more challenging as PR practitioners to get our stories covered. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Here are five tips to help you.  

A panel of reporters share tips on how to successfully pitch them. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

1. Perfect the pitch.Reporters are busy, too. “If I can’t read your pitch and understand it in 60 seconds, I’m deleting it,” said Dena Potter, news editor with The  Associated Press in Richmond, Va.

2. Don’t bury the news. Potter has a related piece of advice. “Don’t bury the news under a bunch of prose just to show me how well you can write.”

3. Know what’s going on. In other words, don’t pitch your feature story in the middle of a hurricane or election night coverage.

4. Use Email. Greg Gilligan, business editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, advocated for a strong subject line that “gets to the point.” He also said to paste the release or pitch in the body of the email. If he’s reading a release on his mobile, it takes too long to download and he’s likely to give up.

5. Identify contacts and spokespersons. Lara Malbon McDuffie, assignment manager of WWBT-NBC12 in Richmond, cautioned having a backup spokesperson if the primary spokesperson is unavailable. She also likes easy-to-find contacts on the website and – even better – after hour phone numbers.

What successes have you had in pitching the media?

PR Still Ranks as Stressful Job

Last year I shared how PR executive came in number two on CareerCast’s most stressful list just behind commercial pilot. I’m not sure what has improved since then, but this year it’s down to number seven on the list.

Glass sculpture

PR practitioners juggle lots of assignments, which leads to stress. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

PR executive was chosen because it is a “highly competitive field.” Of course, there is also the public speaking and interacting with members of the media, some of whom can be quite hostile. And don’t forget the deadlines.

CareerCast also ranked event coordinator as stressful, placing it at number six. The events I have planned have been stressful enough, but I’ve never had to do a major one that garnered national attention. Frankly, I would not want that stress.

Among the worst jobs are broadcaster and newspaper reporter, both of which face the same deadlines as PR staff. And reporters have the constant threat of layoffs as the media environment continues to shift. My colleagues in the profession could have told you this without the survey.

If this news depresses you, you might check out the list of best jobs, which includes software engineer, actuary and human resource manager.

Despite the stress, I’m sticking with the communications field. There is still too much to love about it, including being in the thick of things. What do you love about your job?

How to Make Headlines

Like all PR practitioners, I’m working hard to get press for my organization. Unfortunately, what worked only a few years ago, doesn’t work as well today.

Recently one of my staff attended a meeting in D.C. about what editors/producers and reporters want from non-governmental organizations. Many of their answers probably will ring true for your organization as well.

As an international organization, we’re more likely to get our story out when a disaster strikes. It’s sad, but true. It’s when the media and the public are paying attention.

Taking this a step further, it means finding the trends in news. Afghanistan is hot right now. Does your company have any connection? Do you make a product that is used by the military? Now is the time to push that story.

We all know that there are fewer and fewer reporters. Those that remain are overworked and underpaid. So when you e-mail them, be succinct. For many, the only thing they read is the subject line of the e-mail. To get the e-mail read, you’re going to have to write a short sales pitch in that subject line to catch the reporter’s attention. Then add a few details in the body of the e-mail and your contact information.

A successful media hit may not be the printed newspaper. It may be the mainstream media’s digital side, whether it’s the Web site or their blog. My organization had a hit with the LA Times art blog, and we were delighted. Of course, we’d all still like to see the story in print, but it’s time to shift our focus.

How have you been successful in getting press coverage?