Pitching journalists isn’t easy, and many publicists or PR professionals misstep when trying to get the attention of notable reporters. As with many public relations objectives, pitching journalists gets easier with practice. However, if you can shorten the learning curve when it comes to getting journalists to take an interest in your story, you’ll be able to save a great deal of time and frustration while achieving your PR goals.
Luckily, we’re very familiar with people’s most common mistakes when pitching journalists. Avoiding these common pitfalls will save you countless hours of outreach and help sustain and improve your relationships with journalists. We’ve spoken with journalists and PR experts about the most common and egregious mistakes they see in pitches so that you can avoid them.
If you’ve made some of these errors in the past, don’t despair. Effective pitching is a skill you need to develop and hone continually. As you gain more experience in PR, you’ll be able to perfect your ability to build rapport with journalists and get your pitches seen and accepted.
1. Don’t Pester Them
One of the most important things to consider when pitching journalists is how busy they are and how many pitches they receive daily. To pitch journalists effectively, you must understand their day-to-day reality. Journalists are constantly bombarded by emails, intros, and pitches daily, and, as a result, most of them don’t take well to being pestered.
The reason you should think twice before sending premature follow-ups is that it runs the risk of ruining your relationship with that journalist. In particular, you want to avoid sending same-day follow-ups. Of course, you can consider following up several days or a week after your initial pitch, but following up too quickly is more likely to annoy the journalists than provoke a response.
Pitching journalists on multiple platforms simultaneously, such as email, DM, and phone, all at once is also something you should avoid doing. Instead, as PR professional Michelle Garrett puts it, pick a platform and stick to it. She also adds that most journalists prefer email when receiving pitches, which you should keep in mind.
Don’t pester them. It’s OK to follow-up – maybe a few days to a week after the initial pitch. But DO NOT send a pitch, then send a follow-up within the same day. And don’t pitch via email, DM, and phone all at once. Pick one (email is preferred by most journalists). #PRtips
— Michelle Garrett (she/her) (@PRisUs) September 17, 2021
2. Create Meaningful Relationships
Perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of pitching journalists is the steps you should take before you do it. Too many publicists, PR professionals, and founders take a spray-and-pray approach to garner earned media attention. A better strategy is to put your empathy skills to work to figure out how to provide value to that journalist before pitching.
One idea might be to follow the journalist on social media to figure out what they are working on currently. Some journalists even make public asks regarding pieces they are writing. Then, you might connect that journalist to valuable people or resources related to what they are writing or even tailor your pitch to match up with their current goals.
As PR professional Ben Tobias emphasizes, you should take the time to build these important relationships and do extensive research before sending your pitch. If you’d like more information on how to build relationships with journalists, check out our Relationship Building 101 series!
Create meaningful relationships…before you pitch.
— Ben Tobias (@GPDBenTobias) September 14, 2021
Another approach to building relationships with journalists is to attend in-person events that allow you to connect with them offline. Getting to know journalists face-to-face is an excellent opportunity to learn about their goals and find ways to be helpful. Moreover, any journalist that has a personal connection to you will be far more likely to respond to a pitch in the future.
3. Don’t Take Nos Personally
Getting rejected is simply part of the process of pitching your story. It’s crucial that you understand this reality and don’t get demoralized when your pitch gets rejected or ignored.
Instead, try to learn from your mistakes and optimize the conversation rates of your pitches. When your pitch is rejected, remain objective and treat it like a learning experience. As PR professional Susan Mainzer puts it, don’t take anything personally or let the nos or non-responses get you down.
don’t take anything personally and let the NOs or the non-responses get you down!
— SusanMainzer (@SusanvonSeggern) September 14, 2021
It’s helpful to keep in mind that when journalists reject or ignore your pitch, it probably isn’t personal. More likely, it’s just due to the fact that they receive such a large volume of pitches and emails each day. If a journalist responds to your pitch and rejects it, be cordial and respectful so that that rejection doesn’t compromise your relationship with the journalist.
4. Speak and Write Clearly
One of the simplest ways to make your pitch stand out is to speak clearly and concisely. Journalists are almost always pressed for time, so it’s crucial that you communicate your pitch quickly and unambiguously.
You should also put a lot of thought into what sort of subject line you include in your pitch. The subject should be aligned with the journalist’s beat and current interests. As PR expert Rachel Hunt explains, cut out the marketing fluff and convey the information that matters to them in as few words as possible.
Speak and write clearly – cut the marketing fluff and overused phrases and convey information that matters to them in as few words as possible.
— Rachel Hunt (@trailhikergirl) September 14, 2021
Also, consider how the information in your pitch is formatted. Many journalists appreciate short lists, and headers that organize your pitch and make it more readable.
Some PR experts recommend leaving out email attachments since they will make it more likely that your pitch will hit spam filters.
5. Be Compassionate
It’s hard to deny that pitching journalists can be very frustrating. Catering to journalists’ individual preferences is a lot of work, and many PR professionals suffer from burnout.
It can be easy for publicists or PR workers to feel jaded or even resentful towards journalists at times. That’s why it’s so important to be compassionate towards journalists and not succumb to bitterness or cynicism.
Establishing personal relationships or friendships with journalists can be a great way to stay in touch with the human behind the role.
As Carrie Eddins reminds us, journalists are often under enormous pressure from editors and superiors at the end of the day. So it’s important to be mindful and empathetic of the struggles of the journalists you pitch to.
Be compassionate- they are often under incredible pressure and although we might believe our story and our pitch is the most important thing in their lives it is not 🙈🙈 so a little compassion goes a long way especially right now ❤️🥰 pic.twitter.com/9leeVAMnAs
— Carrie Eddins (She /her) (@blondepreneur) September 17, 2021
To sum up, the best way to get better at pitching journalists is to get started and practice. That said, these five tips we’ve learned by pitching journalists might just save you a considerable amount of trial and error. This is because they come from highly-qualified PR thought leaders with significant experience pitching journalists and advising others on how to do the same.
Want more tips like this? Check out our PR Tips blog series which dives into all things pitching, building relationships, and more.
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