How To Improve The Focus of Your Media Pitch
By Tim Johnson
Pitching story ideas to media and influencers is one of those areas where if you ask 10 people about best practices, you’ll get 10 answers.
I developed my core pitch style based on an expert in a very different industry – recruiting. I’ve forgotten the book, but in a chapter on cover letters, the author stated the ideal cover letter should be organized as follows:
First sentence: Highlight one key achievement, including a stat, if possible.
Second sentence: Tell the recipient what you want him/her to do – take a call, accept an interview, etc.
Third and fourth sentences: Briefly provide additional background personalized to the recipient’s specific interest or real/perceived needs.
Fifth sentence: Thank the recipient in advance for any help he/she provides.
The emphasis was on brief, impactful, personalized. These qualities are exactly what an email, tweet or message should be when contacting media. I adapted the approach above and still use it in many cases. Here is one example of a pitch drafted for a former client (anonymized):
First sentence: Did you know the average person will spend 43 days of their life on hold?
Second sentence: I’d like to arrange a time for you to speak with __________, whose new service, __________, makes “on hold” go away for good.
Third and fourth sentences: Here’s how it works: create a __________ account and select the utility, government agency or other organization you need to call and provide days/times you’re available. __________ contacts the entity and instructs them to call you. It’s as easy as that. __________ takes the concept you discussed in your recent article on __________ and does it one better.
Fifth sentence: Please let me know when you’d have a few minutes to speak with __________. Thanks in advance,
Of course, there are many variations to this, but the core concept remains valid. Here are a few examples that have proven effective within the UPRAISE team:
- The “Your Recent Article on …” Pitch – Like all of us, media like to know that people actually read and respond to the articles they write. Drafting a headline and opening sentence that references a recent article they’ve written both lets them know we’ve read their articles and personalizes the pitch.
- The “Stats Overload” Pitch – This is especially effective when pitching results of a survey. Begin the pitch with the most impressive, frightening, outrageous stat to get the editor’s attention, then add 3-5 additional stats in the body of the pitch.
- The “Personal Experience” Pitch – It’s great when you’ve had a personal experience (like being on hold for 45 minutes) that lends itself to client work. Injecting that experience into a pitch can demonstrate authenticity and interest in the solution.
There is much more to effective media outreach than the pitch itself, subject lines, day of the week and time, level and intensity of follow up are just three additional variables. Stay tuned to hear more about UPRAISE’s approach to these and other aspects of media outreach.
Related Post: How To Pitch Tech Reporters