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A pitch is only as good as the attention it can capture to read it. PR pros work tirelessly jumping through hoops every day to capture the attention of journalists. On our podcast Coffee with a Journalist, we sit down with journalists every week to talk about their story-crafting process from how to grab journalists’ attention to how the story comes to life. Check out what three fantastic guests said gets a pitch noticed:
What Grabs Journalists Attention
There are a lot of tactics to grab a journalist’s attention ranging from subject lines to timeliness to having an established relationship. Digiday Senior Reporter Max Willens said:
“To sum it up, like if it comes from someone that I know, then I’ll give it a fair look. If it’s from someone I don’t know, it just has to reflect that they have taken a bit of a look at what I do and that they think it’s worth my time. That’s really all they need to get me to open it.”
NBC News Reporter Dave Ingram provides insight into what journalists are really looking for and that’s original stories. Here’s what he had to say about this, “I think, as journalists, we’re all increasingly looking for the original stories based on original reporting. Which, that’s the harder story to do for sure, but I think that’s where the past of journalism and the future of journalism is.”
He’s not the only journalist who believes this either. Many journalists have shared their dismay for the same old pitch and their preference for exclusive, original content.
The unfortunate truth is that journalists know there’s always an agenda when it comes to pitching. Most often it’s not the person who is pitching but coming from a client or a company executive. Max Willens shed light on this subject during his episode:
“I think I’ll read anything that seems to indicate that they know what I write about. There are lots of pitches that I get and this is even from people that like know me fairly well, that I think maybe they understand that they just have to tell their client that they tried, that they put something in front of me.”
For Alex Wilhelm, former Editor in Chief of Crunchbase News, it’s about relying on inbox settings to get his eyes on a pitch. He said, “I have priority inbox turned on, in Gmail, I have a work account that runs on Google apps, everyone does in Silicon Valley and I have my inbox set to only show me emails that Gmail deems important, and I never read anything else.”
According to Max Willens, there are also ways not to grab attention of journalists like him. He goes on to say:
“I have notifications set up so that if people, things come in like there are certain people that if I got something from them it will appear kind of more visibly on my radar screen. But generally speaking, I mean that’s a fair point too actually, which is that like if I get a pitch, especially if it’s sent at like a weird time like if you send it outside of normal business hours, excuse me, it’s likely that I’m not going to see it.”
He also went on to talk more about the infamous “just checking in” email and why it’s bad for business:
“And people checking in just, “Hey just checking in. If you want to write about doctor blank.” I’m just like, “No, what is…” And it’s not even worth the time and energy for me to write them back and be like, “You are wasting both of our times. Please stop doing this. But I do get a lot of that.”
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