How to make your PR pitch stand out to journalists | Media First

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How to make your PR pitch stand out to journalists

“Hello, I hope you are well?”

It’s an opening sentence of an email that’s guaranteed to make a journalist's toes curl. 

Although your intentions are undoubtedly as genuine as Priti Patel’s, being unable to spot the difference between a statement (“I hope”) and a question (“Are you well?”) won’t get things off to a good start when it comes to getting your pitch noticed.  

Journalists can be a surly lot.  Too eager to dismiss and slightly too cynical when it comes to PR pitches. 

A lot of emails arrive in the morning inbox: from that world-changing statistic that adds a new dimension to our lives, to an invite to cover a regional beatboxing championship (huge thanks to the person who sent that last week). There’s a lot of clutter and it’s hard for a PR to get the message through.  

And perhaps unfairly, journalists find it a little too easy to dismiss the PR pitch. They hunt for the sales aspect, flee pushiness, yet they expect you to have the entire story watertight and ready to go in an instant.

But journalists need you as much as you need them. As we tell delegates on our media training courses, help to feed the famished news agenda, insert a little context, tell the world something unusual, offer fresh voices.  

'To get your pitch noticed, help to feed the famished news agenda, insert a little context, tell the world something unusual, offer fresh voices' via @mediafirstltd http://bit.ly/2mmMo6e

Because journalism is so pressured now, with the deadline all but dead, it’s no great surprise to see a press release appear, barely subbed, in some local newspapers. So write your press release well – you may not even need much of a follow-up with the newsdesk other than a touch of fact checking.

But reporters still love that personal connection.  Although ‘off the record’ should be avoided, introduce yourself, offer all you can instead of making a reporter work for it.  

And follow a few of these basic rules:

 

*Please be brief - hiding your message in the third paragraph is a sure-fire way to make sure you get nowhere and the journalist misses out on something that could make the news.

 

*Look at what is going on in the news. Are you a homelessness charity and a government report’s just about to be published on the subject? Think of something that your organisation could add to the story - you’ll be surprised how successful you could be.

 

*Time your release. Choosing a quiet Sunday in August will get you noticed. Issuing a press release embargoed for Budget Day will not.  

 

*Make sure your press release is relevant – a regional beatbox competition is not going to ring the bell of a global design magazine.

 

*Beware the perils of puff. Journalists can tell a mile off someone who knows what will make the final cut and a flight of fancy that is the product of a bit too much coffee and a few too many brainstorming meetings.

 

*Have a case study. Please. Without a human example to back up your case, your message is as hollow as “strong and stable’.  Dozens of potentially brilliant stories have bitten the dust on the first phone call because there’s no case study.

'Dozens of potentially brilliant stories have bitten the dust because there’s no case study' via @mediafirstltd http://bit.ly/2mmMo6e

 

*Make sure your human examples are genuine. Please don’t promise a journalist an interview with, let’s say, a bullying victim, only for the reporter to turn up and be given the local union rep.

 

*The same goes for experts. If you’re a hospital or a university please, please have the author of the study available to talk, today, here. Don’t send out a paper claiming to have a cure for cancer just as your medical director boards a plane bound for Australia. This happens more often than you think.

 

*Be accurate. Please don’t send out figures you cannot explain to a journalist afterwards. There have been occasions when a newsroom has been ready to roll with a story only to find there’s an anomaly with the statistics and the whole thing collapses.

 

*Please avoid gimmicks, unless you want to be the inspiration for the next series of W1A.  That includes: fancy dress, stunts, irrelevant celebrities.  Far too often the phrase “it’s just puff’ is uttered in a morning meeting and your beloved campaign dumped in a trice.

 

*When you’ve got them on-board and they’ve taken up your case study, please leave them to get on with it. Chasing them every hour to make sure they have the right line is off-putting. Similarly, making a journalist chase you for all the info is exhausting.  They don’t have the resources.

'Chasing journalists every hour to make sure they have the right line is off-putting' via @mediafirstltd http://bit.ly/2mmMo6e

 

*If you have been a reporter in a past career then well done; your pay-packet is likely to be a little heavier than during your former life.  But please don’t let it blunt your acumen. Remember what got those journalistic juices flowing.  If you have never been a reporter, talk to someone who has.  

 

And above all, beware the misplaced question mark. Hope that’s understood?

 

 

Emma Nelson is one of the current working journalists who delivers our bespoke media training courses.

 

 

Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

Click here to find out more about our journalist-led media training courses.

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