By William Furney, PR & content strategist, Reachology
Want to pitch your company’s story to a journalist in 2023 but haven’t a clue how to go about it? Need to quickly learn so you can get great coverage in the media, raise your brand’s image and get valuable earned backlinks to your site?
Our experts here at Reachology — a leading digital PR agency in the UK — know exactly how to pitch to busy journalists. Here, we’re going to give you the lowdown so you can do it yourself, and get media attention and people reading all about you.
Journalists are busier than ever before while at the same time they have fewer resources and have to write more stories — all due to slashed budgets, laid-off colleagues and printed media transitioning to digital.
It means there are more opportunities for companies to get coverage than ever before, as you’re providing journalists with what they need. So It’s all the more important that your pitch is perfect.
How to pitch a journalist in 2023
- Do Your Homework
- Keep Your Pitch Brief
- Make Sure Your Story Is Unique
- Offer Value to the Journalist
- Follow Up
- Pitching Examples
1. Do your homework
Getting the coverage in the media you want starts with selecting those that are most beneficial to you – and relevant. You may want your story covered in the top national papers, but while that might be great, don’t overlook smaller, niche and trade publications that can be equally advantageous, if not more so.
Start off by googling a list of publications to target. You’ll want as many as possible, to broaden your reach. Not every journalist will say yes and accept your pitch — many will decline or even not respond — so you’ll need at least seven dozen news, niche and other sites, and up to a 100 or more if possible.
Get the relevant journalists’ contact details. They may be listed on the sites, or you might have to go hunting. Twitter is a good place to start, as many journalists have their email listed in their bio. Tools like Hunter can give you what you’re looking for, as can LinkedIn. If you’re using digital PR services, they’ll have their own database of journalists to contact.
Getting the exact contact details is vital – using a general email like “info@”, “contact@” and similar most likely won’t get you anywhere, as the journalist you want probably won’t see it and your pitch will end up in the bin. Sometimes, though, there’s no option but to use “editor@”, “press@” and so on, and you just have to hope for the best that it gets through to the right person.
2. Keep your pitch brief
We mentioned that today’s breed of journalist is busy – super-inundated with stories-in-progress and deadline pressures that leave them frazzled. You may have an excellent story, but few, if any, reporters will want to spend ages reading your pitch. They’ll zone out after a paragraph or two and head to the next of many emailed pitches that day – that’s a guarantee.
- So don’t drone on endlessly about your story – a brief line or two about what you’re offering is all that’s required. Don’t include any background or other details that are unnecessary at this point and might risk the journo hitting the delete key in a flash. If you’ve written a press release, you can include it below your pitch, in the body of the email. Releases that are attached to emails may not be opened, because of media organisations’ policies on viruses, malware and other electronic bugs that can reside in such files.
- Another option is to publish a press release on your website’s blog and link it in the email. If you work with one of the many digital PR agencies, they may be able to place the release in an online newsroom branded for your company and provide you with a link you can use in your emails to journalists.
- And don’t forget about the subject line in your email – it’s important that it catches the recipient’s attention. Don’t try to be clever and say something that’s not true, or is over the top. Instead, be honest, so the journalist knows exactly what the email is about – something like “Story: Survey Reveals X”.
- Address the journalist by their name, as in the above example, so that your pitch is personalised; sending mass emails with no recipients’ names is cold and the journalist may be less likely to care.
- It may seem obvious, but proofread your emails before sending. Many people write and hit send before giving their emails a second look, often ending up with typos that let them down with a bang. You’re pitching someone working in the writing business, so get your writing right – ask a friend or colleague to check your text if you’re unsure.
3. Make sure your story is unique
You may think your story is brilliant, but how good is it really? How unique? If there’s something else out there on the same topic – google the title and see – chances are journalists are not going to give it a second thought. It’s simply not news and you’re wasting your and everyone else’s time.
Even if the topic has been covered, are you offering a fresh take, a unique and new angle that makes your story stand out and adds to the debate? Fundamentally, how newsworthy is your piece? Include the uniqueness of your story in your pitch by highlighting the key points. This will help to grab journalists’ attention, because they’re always on the hunt for something new and interesting.
4. Offer value to the journalist
Pitches that provide something of value to a journalist are more likely to succeed than those that don’t. Fact. Because we all want something for nothing, and that’s exactly what’s happening here.
Say you hire a digital PR company to run a survey on a topic of relevance to your industry. You get really interesting results that you, or your digital PR service, write up into a compelling press release that’s newsworthy. Straight away you have something tangible to offer journalists – you’ve saved them lots of time and money in generating a news story that’s valuable to them and that they can definitely use.
Go one better and also offer the journalist an exclusive – only they have access to the material and you won’t give it to any other media. News media especially love a good scoop.
5. Follow up
Sent a load of pitches but haven’t heard anything back? Some journalists might not be interested while others may not have yet seen it – your pitch could be buried in their overflowing inbox of pitches or it could be in their spam folder, which often happens.
Give it a couple of days and then follow up with a cordial email asking the journalist if they got your pitch and if they’re interested – chances are they are and they’re glad you got in touch. If still nothing after an initial follow-up, send another, a few days later, and then leave it at that. No one wants to be hounded, and you’ll have to forget about that particular outlet for now.
6. Pitching examples
These are some recent pitches to journalists by Nick Sadler, the PR Strategy Director at Reachology. They’ll give you an idea about how to start writing your own pitches.
Pitches with a press release:
How long does it all take?
From coming up with a great story idea, to media and journalist research and pitching, it can take a while before you start seeing some coverage. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, and you need to be patient and give it some time – the results will be well worth it.
You’ll need to pencil in at least a month for all the initial work. And then bear in mind that the journalists you pitch to may have to then pitch it to their editors. Plus, with publishing schedules, if they do accept your story, you may have to wait a few days or up to a week or more before it appears on their website – we are primarily focused on digital media, not traditional, printed newspapers and magazines.
Can I pitch by phone?
The office telephone is now largely a relic of the past; and mobile phones are personal. Most journalists prefer to receive pitches by email, so they can quickly glance at them and decide in an instant (instead of listening to someone drone on and on). They view phone calls as intrusive and disruptive, and may not even answer. So email is the best, and fastest, way.
Is there a best day or time to send a pitch?
Generally, avoid Fridays and Mondays – and weekends – when sending pitches to journalists as part of your digital PR campaigns. Mondays are too hectic, and journalists are under pressure to get through a backlog of emails and write stories; Fridays are for winding down; and weekends – you might get your head snapped off, for disturbing dozing journalists checking in on their phones, as we found out. So stick to Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and from around 8am up to midday is best, before editorial meetings. The afternoon slump many of us experience is not conducive to reading pitches.
Will I have to pay journalists to publish my story?
Journalism is all about integrity and honesty. It’s a breach of reporters’ ethical codes to accept money for stories. If you come across one who asks, avoid them like the plague. If they refer you to their business department and they have a fee, that’s a different story. But then you’d be paying for sponsored content or similar, and that’s not what you want. This is earned media; there’s no moolah involved.
What if my story doesn’t have a backlink?
Not all digital media will include links back to website owners that provide stories, even if survey data you’ve pitched is sitting there in a blog post. Some will. If your pieces don’t have backlinks, don’t panic – politely ask the journalist if they wouldn’t mind linking, while thanking them for the story, and if they won’t, it’s not the end of the world. Mentions of a company and its brands can be just as important, in Google’s view.
I don’t know how to write a press release – what do I do?
Writing is a skill, and press release writing must be done in such a way as the story is credible. The fundamentals are objectivity while mentioning the brand, and the style is news – it is, after all, press content. If you don’t know how to go about it, hand the task over to the pros at a digital PR agency; some of their staff will be former journalists.
I really don’t have the time to do any of this – but want to
So you want to run a digital PR campaign and land loads of press coverage, but your time in running your company is at a premium, and you have none to spare. Have a look at some digital PR services and see what they can do for you. You can get a free initial consultation right here at Reachology.
Get started now with your journalist pitch
Remember the golden rules of pitching journalists and you’ll be off to a great start:
- Do Your Homework – find the right, relevant media and the journalists to pitch to.
- Keep Your Pitch Brief – clear and concise is the way to go, not rambling on for ages and only turning the journalist off.
- Make Sure Your Story Is Unique – it must be something new, or a new take on an existing story. Otherwise, there’s no point.
- Offer Value to the Journalist – give them a reason to publish your story, whether it’s using the data you’ve collected in a survey or something else unique, like an exclusive.
- Follow Up – don’t sit back and relax once your pitches are sent out – there’s more work to do, to ensure journalists saw your mail. So follow up, once or twice.
- Pitching Examples – Look at our examples of successful pitches and follow the same kind of format for publishing success.
Pitching a journalist in 2023 is not the daunting task you might think it is. Done right, with the fundamentals – as above – in place, you’ll get your pitch accepted and your company’s story covered. That will set you above the competition and greatly enhance your reputation, and you may get a prized backlink as a bonus. Good luck!