PR tips, PR templates, pitching to journalists

How to pitch to journalists

Once you’ve written a press release that you’re confident is newsworthy and interesting (see our guide to writing a great press release for inspiration and also download our press release template) it’s time to send it out and land that all-important coverage. 

The first thing to note here is that even if you have the most exciting news to share, it isn’t guaranteed to get picked up. Journalists are busy people, and chances are that they’ve always got an extensive to-do list from the editor, along with an ever-growing inbox of people looking to get their stories covered. This is why it’s key that you make yours stand out and give yourself a fighting chance. 

HAVE A CLEAR IDEA OF WHAT YOU’RE PITCHING

First thing’s first, we can’t express how important it is to keep your pitch clear, concise and to the point. Journalists don’t have time to read heavily detailed emails; they just need to know the basics of what you’re trying to pitch to them. 

Similar to the way that you write a press release, aim to deliver with our favourite technique: Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? These six words are crucial when it comes to pitching. 

If it’s your brand or business you’re already a step ahead as you’ll know the subject matter inside out. If you’re pitching on behalf of someone else, make sure you’ve done your research and you’re ready to answer any question, especially over the phone. 

CREATE A TARGET LIST 

PRs have always had a bad reputation for sending ‘blanket’ emails and this is something that you really have to avoid. Think about your story; who is it of interest to and where do you want to see your story? Of course, sometimes it can be picked up by another journalist or publication – especially if you send it to a freelancer who writes for multiple titles – but make sure that you start with an initial target media list. 

Start with the media type and title first, and then do some research to find the right journalist to contact. If you’re talking about a new skincare brand, there’s no point in sending it to the business editor… take the time to find out who you should be speaking to. 

If you have the budget, there are some great programs out there like Gorkana and Vuelio, which do all of the hard work for you. If you can’t afford a media database just yet, it’s simple: go onto the website of the media title you’re targeting, look for articles about similar subjects and see who’s written them. Also Google articles about the same kinds of products and services and click on the ‘news’ tab, and that will hopefully show you some more results too. Don’t forget the power of Twitter and LinkedIn; they’re also great for finding journalists. 

CREATE A SPREADSHEET

When you’re sending out a press release to a high volume of people it can become easy to get muddled up, and the last thing you want to do is email or call the same person more than once! 

The best way to keep organised is to create a spreadsheet of all the people you need to contact; include their name and organisation too and highlight the colour as needed once you’ve spoken to them. Some of our team use a ‘traffic light’ system, which saves a lot of time and effort, and also makes it easier if someone else is brought in to help you as they’ll know who you’ve spoken to and what’s been said. 

HAVE A STRONG SUBJECT LINE

We’ve laboured the point a few times, but your press release will be one of a couple of hundred received that day, so make sure that yours stands out with an attention-grabbing headline. 

Don’t write it in capital letters – no one responds well to being shouted at via email – but re-read your release and either use your headline or create a condensed version of what makes your story great. 

STRUCTURE YOUR EMAIL WELL

Journalists don’t have time to read through a lengthy email so make sure that your email is structured in the right way. A few key pointers: 

> Always personalise the email, eg. “Hi Tara”

> Keep the pleasantries to a minimum; whilst it’s lovely to check how their day is going, they’ll often just want you to get to the point 

> Don’t re-write the release in your email; just re-visit what’s interesting and newsworthy in a few concise sentences

> If you have quotes or endorsements from interesting and newsworthy people, especially celebrities or influencers, briefly mention them in the main email 

> Attach the press release along with an image that’s around 1MB (make it hi res enough for them to use it in print, but not too big that it will clog inboxes) 

> Sign it off with your name and contact details, in case they have any more questions 

SEND EMAILS TO BOTH REPORTERS AND NEWS DESKS

Here’s a handy little tip for you: once you’ve managed to whittle down just who to send your email to, be sure to check whether the company – if it’s a publication – has a generic news desk or reporters’ email. 

Having worked for some of the region’s biggest newspapers, Becky from TeamEV says that time is spent looking through the news desk and reporter email for stories so it’s a good way of doubling your chances. Gaining coverage isn’t always the easiest task, so you want to take every possible approach you can to try and get your story seen, told and heard by the right people.

PICK UP THE PHONE

While it might be tempting to type out an email because you feel like you’re going to save yourself time, when it comes to talking to journalists, phone calls can more often than not be your best friend. 

Admittedly, some people suffer with ‘phone phobia’ and therefore find it very difficult to want to pick up the phone but be calm and remember you’re just calling to ask a question. A few days after you’ve sent your release, give them a call to check they’ve received it and see if it was of any interest. Best case scenario, you’re going to be told yes, your story is going to be covered and if it isn’t, then move onto the next call and make a note of each answer. 

You’ll often find that journalists ask for you to send over any details you have on the story, so this is a chance to resend your release and have a second stab at grabbing their attention. Again, make sure you keep the email short and sweet, and build it off the six W’s! 

TO RECAP

Once you have a press release that you’re happy and confident with: 

> Make sure that you know the subject inside out, ready for enquiries

> Create a target media list, either using an online database or taking time to look through websites and social media 

> Spend time writing an attention-grabbing subject line

> Keep your email clear and concise, and attach the release as a Word document and 1MB image as a jpeg (or similar image file)

> Chase your original email, with a phone call and/or follow-up email but don’t hound journalists

> Create a spreadsheet to track who you’ve spoken to and what’s been said

If you don’t achieve coverage, don’t be disheartened – sometimes the timing is wrong or the story just needs a new angle. This is something that we can help with, so get in touch if you’re keen to find out how we can land that all-important coverage for you. 

Tara Tomes