In my career before public relations, I had the privilege of working for a variety of news stations across Washington state. One of my many duties, which I both looked forward to and dreaded at the same time, was sorting through literally thousands of press releases that sat in our Story Tips inbox.
The relevant ones were set aside for further consideration during the following morning’s production meeting. The rare novelty email was passed around the newsroom for everyone to giggle at (like one about wine-flavored adult toys). By and large, however, the majority of them were deleted.
Typo in your subject line? Deleted. Irrelevant subject matter to our outlet? Deleted. Sentences that are difficult to follow or overly complicated? Deleted. Didn’t give me something to care about in the first few lines? Deleted. Deleted. Deleted.
Writing the perfect media pitch that finds the exact right outlet at the exact right moment is a moonshot for even experienced publicists, but there are always things you can do to make sure your launch goes as smoothly as possible.
Let’s start with the basics.
What Is A Media Pitch?
A media pitch is a short, personalized message to entice a journalist or editor at a newspaper, magazine, blog or radio or television station. They are generally sent by e-mail but can also be sent through social media or in person over the phone.
Their purpose is to introduce your target audience to your brand, product or service with a short teaser and an offer to connect with them to pass on more information, send samples or schedule an interview. The pitch should be semi-formal but polite and interesting, with the ultimate goal of convincing your subject to jump on board and help spread the word.
What Does A Media Pitch Look Like?
Especially if this is your first time writing a media pitch, it can be helpful to have a previous example to work from. Here is an easy-to-follow template that gives you the basic structure.
I thought your readers would like to know about (your product/service) since they are fans of (related topic or product).
(Your product/service) is a helpful product/service that does/offers X, Y and Z. I’m happy to offer you a (sample or an interview) with (your product/service)’s creator.
I have followed you on (social media channel), so we can connect there as well. You can also reach me during business hours by calling (123) 456-7890.
Thank you for your time!
You can also include a link to a relevant website or customize each media pitch with specific knowledge of the journalists work that shows you did your research.
Who Should Your Media Pitch Go To?
The number one cardinal sin of media pitching is to contact outlets indiscriminately. In fact, there are a number of blogs that make a point of collecting the worst of the worst media pitches as a permanent museum of what not to do. Fortunately, there are steps to follow and resources to use that can help you craft an ideal net to cast.
Start building your media list by writing down your dream publications. Go to each media outlet’s website and research who the best contact is. Some sites actually list all the reporters on their staff, but for others, you may need to read through the content sections to determine the best fit. As you research, save appropriate contacts you find (along with contact information and any notes) in an Excel spreadsheet.
Once you’ve researched your initial list of dream media outlets, start thinking about similar outlets that might also be a good fit for your media pitch. For example, if you come up with a magazine like Harper’s Bazaar, you might want to consider including Vogue, too. You can also Google types of publications for ideas, like “men’s websites” or “parenting magazines.”
If you have the budget to avoid doing all the heavy lifting yourself, a subscription to a multi-media service like Cision can take you a long way. This database includes thousands (if not millions) of individuals who work for media outlets around the world. You can narrow your search by location, outlet type, subjects covered and even preferred method of contact.
It might seem like casting a wider net will result in a higher return, but in truth, an outlet that repeatedly sends irrelevant content is more likely to be permanently blocked or black-listed.
How To Write A Strong Media Pitch
A great media pitch starts with a strong subject line. It’s your chance to make a first impression that not only captures the reader’s attention but entices them to open your message to learn more. Write one that’s short, sweet and catchy. Avoid using gimmicky tricks like typing in all caps or using phrases like “Free samples!” which, if they make it through the spam filter, will almost certainly earn you a one-way trip to the trash file.
A good way to catch a reporter’s attention is to promise something new and exciting. The media is looking for new trends and stories their readers will be interested in, so go ahead and share your news in the subject line. A good example is, “New sandwich shop does the impossible.” If you lead with a promise, however, make sure to deliver, rather than leave the reporter hanging.
To pique their interest further, you can also offer exclusive information. If you do this, be sure you are only offering it to one media outlet at a time. If you have valuable stats and a publication you really want coverage in, approach them first and include “Exclusive Info” in your subject line. You can also encourage them to move quickly by explaining that the information will be distributed widely after a certain amount of time.
Once your reader clicks to open your media pitch, it’s up to the body of your post to do the rest. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Include a hook right away. Tell them why you or your idea is a good fit for their readers, viewers or listeners.
- Keep it short. No one likes reading pages and pages of text, so just include the pertinent details. Make sure you include everything they ask for too, though.
- Add a link. If they want to know more, make sure they can find additional details about your company quickly and easily.
- Provide your contact info. Make it easy for the journalist to get in touch with you. Give them a phone number in addition to your email address.
- Write please and thank you. Sometimes it’s hard for your friendliness to come across in an email, so show them you’re appreciative of their time by including “please” and “thank you.”
- Proofread, proofread, proofread. Read over your pitch a couple of times to make sure your pitch doesn’t have any mistakes, then send it off to the journalist!
Common Mistakes When Writing A Media Pitch
Not checking the audience. Like I covered above, there is nothing more painful for a reporter than to read a media pitchthat has nothing to do with their outlet or their area of coverage. Worse, it can make you look unprofessional and ruin future opportunities that actually fit with their audience.
The pitch is all about you. Do you provide any benefits for the reporter and their audience, or is the pitch all about your business? Offer an incentive that provides value to the journalist and their audience. The best way to do this is by giving them a story idea their readers would appreciate.
There’s no compelling angle. The pitch should encourage a specific idea that the reporter can expand on. The hook and reason why the reporter should take interest in your brand should all lead to a story they can use.
There are too many angles. Just as bad as not including any specific angle, is including more than one. Multiple story ideas distract the reporter from your intended message and is an easy mistake to avoid. Read through your media pitch one last time and make sure there is only one angle incorporated into the message.
How To Fix A Failed Media Pitch
If you’ve sent a media pitch that failed, it’s not the end of the world! There are still several things you can do to move forward and try again to earn some media coverage. One of the first things to consider is that maybe your story isn’t newsworthy after all. Newsworthy stories contain four important elements:
- They’re timely.
- They’re impactful.
- They’re local.
- They’re interesting.
If your narrative doesn’t fit all of these bases, it’s time to consider a different approach. Building a reputation with the media can help increase your name recognition in their inbox.
Imagine your story was a product being peddled by an anonymous salesman who knocked on your door. Would you be likely to purchase it? What if it was being recommended to you by a friend instead?
Make yourself a familiar face in their mind by retweeting, liking, forwarding and sharing content with journalists on social media, as well as interacting with the content they generate and share. When it comes time to pitch them, you’re less likely to end up in their trash folder.
Let Three Girls Media Take Care Of Your Media Pitch
Want to leave your media pitching to the experts? Three Girls Media has your back! Our expert team has spent years building relationships and learning the tools of the trade to make sure your media pitch lands in the right inboxes. Contact us for a free consultation and to learn more about what we can do for your business!