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How to Pitch to Journalists: The First Rule of Media Engagement

By David Beesley

A short guide for PR people who want to have effective Media Engagement

Journalists are the customers of Public Relations Officers (PROs) and we shouldn’t lose sight of that. Like all customers, some of them can be snippy, some can be rude - but the large majority are genuinely lovely people that you should look forward to helping out. If you do a good job, they’ll keep coming back to you for more!

Crafting an effective news story pitch to a journalist is a task that you will hone over years and years (and years!), but to provide a guide we’re happy to share our top tips. A well-defined B2B PR strategy with media relations at its core can significantly enhance your media engagement efforts.

Before we start, be aware that pitching to a journalist requires a combination of research, clarity of message and a solid plan for what happens when your first pitch falls flat - brace yourself, because this will happen.

To help ensure your pitch stands out amongst the crowd of pitches that journalists receive daily, here is some advice

1. Understand Your Story's Newsworthiness

Before you even begin drafting your pitch, ask yourself: Is my story newsworthy? Ensure that your news is timely, relevant, and interesting to the audience of the publication you are targeting. Understanding the target audience is crucial in determining the newsworthiness of a story, as it helps tailor the content to what matters most to the readers. Highlight what makes your story unique and why it should matter to the readers. Stories with a strong emotional hook, significant impact, or a fresh perspective on a trending topic are more likely to catch a journalist’s eye.

2. Research the Right Journalists for Your Target Audience

Sending your pitch to the right journalist is crucial. Tailoring your pitch to a particular journalist by researching their past work and interests can significantly increase your chances of coverage. We can’t stress this enough. Do your research! Research journalists who cover topics related to your story. Look for their recent articles to understand their interests and style. Tools like media databases can help you find relevant contacts, but personalising your outreach is key. Address the journalist by name and reference their past work to show you’ve done your homework. Journalists also move around and write for multiple publications - so it’s worth understanding their beats, plural.

3. Craft an Attention-Grabbing Subject Line

Sounds basic, but this still rings true. Your subject line is your first impression. Make it clear and compelling, ensuring it reflects the essence of your story. Creating engaging posts that capture the journalist's attention is crucial. Keep it concise—under 49 characters is ideal. For example, “Forget Apple Intelligence - this is the AI that will actually change your life” or “Interview: Meet the CEO of the next UK Tech Unicorn.”

4. Write a Compelling Opening line

Begin your email with a personalised greeting and a strong opening sentence that highlights the main point of your story. Social media engagement plays a crucial role in capturing a journalist's interest, as it demonstrates the story's relevance and reach. Get to the point! Capture the journalist’s interest by immediately addressing the who, what, when, where, and why of your story.

5. Be Clear and Concise 

In the body of your email, elaborate on the key details of your story without overwhelming the journalist with too much information. Focus on the most newsworthy aspects and provide a brief background. Use bullet points if necessary to make the information easily digestible. Ensure your pitch answers why this story is important now. If you have more information - attach it. If your pitch is compelling enough they’ll open your attachment. Additionally, tracking engagement metrics can help refine your pitch to better suit your target audience.

6. Offer Value and Unique Angles in Your Press Release

Consider offering multiple angles for the journalist to cover the story, increasing the likelihood of it fitting into their editorial style. Understanding different social media platforms and tailoring engagement strategies to fit each platform's unique metrics, trends, and culture can significantly enhance your pitch.

Provide exclusive data, expert quotes, or unique insights that add value and make the journalist’s job easier. If applicable, include multimedia elements such as images, videos, or infographics to enhance your pitch.

7. End with a Strong Call to Action

Conclude your email with a clear call to action. Invite the journalist to interview your spokesperson, attend an event, or request further information. Make it easy for them to respond by providing your contact details and availability.

Additionally, mention that you are available for quick responses through the phone, text messages or social media. This demonstrates that you will be able to respond quickly if they're on a deadline.

8. Follow Up Professionally

If you don’t hear back, you need to have a plan to follow up after a few days. Be polite and concise, reiterating your story’s value and expressing your willingness to provide additional information. Don’t hide behind email. Use the phone and call journalists. A ‘No’ is better than silence. Avoid being overly persistent however, no-one likes a stalker. If there’s no response after a few follow-ups, move on. It is crucial to respond in a timely manner to maintain professionalism and show respect for the journalist's time.

Honing your skills to effectively pitch to journalists for better media coverage

Effectively pitching to a journalist requires thoughtful preparation and clear communication.

By ensuring your story is newsworthy, targeting the right journalists, crafting compelling subject lines and openings, and providing valuable information, you increase your chances of securing media coverage. Remember to follow up professionally and be respectful of the journalist’s time and interests.

By mastering these techniques, you can enhance your effective media engagement and ensure your stories reach the right audience through the right channels. Additionally, maintaining a strong social media presence is crucial to support your media engagement efforts and build relationships with your audience.

Tags: News, PR, Digital PR, ITPR