If you have got an idea which you think is perfect for a particular publication or programme, then it’s better to offer an exclusive than send a press release. Here’s how to pitch a story to a journalist.
But, with journalists receiving 100s a day, how do you make yours stand out?
1. Do the ground work
Make sure that you are targeting the idea at the right publication or programme and you know where within it your article or item might work best.
So, if the publication always has a profile piece, an interview for that page with a key member of staff who has had particularly interesting or relevant experience to relate might work, or it always has a page giving advice and tips, think of what useful knowledge you may be able to share.
And contact the editor or features editor to see if they are open to ideas, and how best to deliver those – do they prefer to talk them through, do they want them emailed, do they need a quick paragraph or a synopsis, when is the best day to send ideas.
2. Make it snappy
Journalists are generally pretty busy, so the best PR pros keep their approaches make short and succinct – it can help to think in advance of what the headline might be. Whether you’re phoning or emailing, make sure you summarise your idea in one sentence or short paragraph with the headline – the most important or interesting point – up there at the start.
3. Keep it smart
Remember that journalists nowadays often check emails on their phones, and may well be deleting everything but the most important. So your subject line and first sentence have to be really compelling to make the grade. And be realistic – a subject line like ‘story idea’ probably wouldn’t even excite you.
4. Flatter ‘em
Make it clear that you read the publication/listen to the programme and mention something you’ve particularly enjoyed that they have written, or had a particular relevance for your organisation.
5. Tailor it
Make sure that you know why the story is right for the publication you’re approaching – and that you make that clear. So your first sentence should give brief details of the story and why you believe it would work in the profile slot, or the hints and tips, or the topical issues slot
6. Prove yourself
You need to make it clear why you’re qualified to write about whatever it is you’re suggesting and/or why your organisation has the right expertise or experience. So you need a brief line about background and credentials.
So, in summary:
- make sure you time your pitch to when the journalist will have time to consider it
- make sure that it will work in the publication you’re approaching
- give it a gripping headline and a first sentence to spark the journalist’s interest
- include the reasons why it’s you and not your rivals who should be the subject/author of the story
Journalists: how do you like to receive a pitch? Is there anything I’ve missed?