The ability to pitch a story is a necessary skill in a PR pro’s toolbox. A pitch can be made through email, on Twitter, over the phone or even face-to-face. Regardless of the medium, each pitch must appeal to its recipient in a professional and personal way.
As a member of the Greg Ahlijian account team, I was tasked with pitching his story and his book, “The Large Rock and the Little Yew,” to media outlets. Contacting journalists with a compelling story sounds easy enough, but any pitch can go wrong if executed incorrectly.
Fortunately, Kathryn Kuttis provided me – and all of Allen Hall PR – with a media relations survival guide. Kuttis was vice president at Edelman New York and her insights are useful to both emerging and senior PR professionals. She stressed three objectives to include in every pitch.
1. Be newsworthy
The first step to pitching media is to understand that a good story does not guarantee media coverage. Instead, a focus on the current events throughout the world – and how your story fits into them – will help you create an effective pitch. Identifying when and why your story should be told shows that you not only have a grasp on your story but also understand how it relates to current trends. Nobody wants to run a story about baseball when the Super Bowl is next weekend. Remember, it is also your contacts’ jobs to persuade their bosses that your story matters.
2. Be concise
Know your story and tell it as quickly and accurately as possible. Journalists are up against deadlines, so respect their time. If your pitch is clear and concise, a journalist is more likely to read it. It’s overwhelming to open an email that rivals the length of this blog post. Instead, boil your pitch down to the basics and give your contacts the chance to ask for more information.
3. Be Knowledgable
The third and most important step to building relationships with media is to be knowledgeable. It is imperative to show that you understand the type of work your contacts and their publications produce. Show that you have done your research by highlighting articles recently produced by your contacts and explain how your story is relevant to their work. Don’t be scared to go the extra mile by providing information about stories that your reporters may have missed or would find interesting. Doing this makes you a useful source of information in their own network, fostering a relationship that is beneficial to both parties.
Bradley Sheets is a senior at the University of Oregon majoring in public relations with a minor in business. He enjoys working with people and making things happen. His hobbies include golfing – even though it rains constantly in Eugene – and trying new foods whenever he can.