Updated: Mar 22, 2021
A good pitch is straightforward, brief and show value to readers.
You have a great story, or maybe just a story, and need media coverage. Maybe you've written a press release and now you're reaching out to your media contacts directly. In public and media relations, we call this a pitch. But how does one write a great pitch? It's easier said than done but there are a few guidelines that can help boost your success rate.
1. LESS IS LESS AND THAT'S BETTER
Wordiness will be the death of your pitch email. Reporters and news desks receive hundreds of emails daily and don't have time to read anything more than the who, what, where, when and why (WWWWW) of what you're emailing about. If it's an event you're inviting media to attend, consider outlining the pitch as a media advisory. Use bullet points to list the WWWWW and if you're inviting broadcast media, make sure you call out available visuals because that's a major part of what they'll need to craft a story. A good rule of thumb is to have a pitch be no longer than 100 words which actually isn't a lot.
2. FIND THE HEART OF THE STORY
They key to a successful pitch is weeding out the heart of the story and using that to attract attention. For some pitches, that's easy and clear cut but for others it can be trickier to find the gist that'll get you media placements. For example, if a hospital is performing a living donor liver transplant but the donor decided to anonymously donate to a complete the stranger and runs ultra marathons, the best subject line and angle for the pitch is something like "Ultra marathoner donates portion of his liver to stranger" instead of "Hospital performs living donor liver transplant." The first is compelling with a strong human element but the second seems clinical and more run-of-the-mill so it's less likely to get any love from reporters.
3. DON'T BURY THE LEAD
Once you've figure out what your angle is, it's important not to bury it. Make it the headline or subject line of your email, and then restate it very early on in the body of your email. Use the WWWWW to guide how you write the pitch to quickly get to the point in a compelling way. In public relations, concise = compelling. Obviously writing well and bringing the story to life enough to make a pitch appealing is necessary. However, concise writing alone usually stands a better chance of yielding a response from media than a long winded, literary masterpiece.
4. WRITE A GOOD (AND SHORT) SUBJECT LINE
The field is pretty split on the best tactic for writing an effective subject line. Some people say to be clever and pithy while others say literal is more effective. At the end of the day it's your judgement call to make. However, shorter is always a good rule to follow. This is especially true because there's a limited number of characters that'll appear in a subject line. If your subject line is long and you don't get the gist across in the first half, reporters won't know what you're pitching them so they're more likely to click 'delete' without even opening the email.
5. DON'T SEND ATTACHMENTS
We've talked about the importance of making your pitch direct and easy to read. Reporters don't have time. to open a document so find a way to include pertinent information by using links or simply copy/pasting in the email. If you're sending a pitch based on a release you've already written, just end your email by saying you've pasted a release with more information below and then do that. And don't be afraid to link to the same release if you have a link on a newsroom or website. Give them multiple chances to see the content when and how it's most convenient for them.
Reporters are masters of the English language and a minor mistake could be enough to give them ammunition to snub your pitch all the way to their trash folder. Read through your pitch aloud to make sure every sentence makes sense, that there are no spelling, grammatical or punctuation errors – and that includes the subject line. If you're copying and pasting from a Word document or from another email you already. sent, make sure you didn't cut anything off.
If you've gotten to the bottom of this and would like help writing and pitching, let's chat more about my services!