How to pitch journalists: A complete guide

Despite market fluctuations and a COVID-19 pandemic, you’ve arrived at the point where your startup is ready to launch. Now you need to let the business world know loud and clear — it’s go time.

But in order to make an impact, you need to convince media outlets that you have something worthwhile to say to their audiences. How do you make your pitch stand out from the daily barrage of pitches journalists receive? The following tips will help ensure that journalists read and respond favorably to your pitch.

The delivery

The unfortunate truth of pitching to journalists is that many are never even read because something is amiss in the delivery. The following do’s and don’ts will keep your pitch from falling into that category.

Don’t send it to the wrong reporter

Sending a pitch about a company in the finance space to a reporter who doesn’t cover finance is almost a guaranteed deletion. Don’t waste a journalist’s time with material that’s irrelevant to their beat. Make sure the right content gets to the right journalist.

Don’t make it generic

Sending a pitch that is clearly mass-produced is also off-putting to journalists. Personalize your pitch by using their individual email address and preferred name, rather than sending out a blast to a giant list with blind carbon copies.

You want the journalist receiving your pitch to give it their personal attention. Extend the same courtesy to them.

Do some research

When you pitch journalists, you’re asking them to do a deeper dive into your company. You would never pitch a client without doing some research into their challenges, wants, and needs. Don’t pitch journalists without researching their beat, the publication they work for, and what they want from a prospective story.

Some cursory investigation can help you avoid style and content mistakes. Sending a pitch to the wrong email address (some journalists have email addresses specifically for pitches) or sending it to two journalists who work at the same publication are mistakes you can easily avoid with a little homework.

Reading a journalist’s social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn) can quickly give you an idea of what type of content will make the cut and what won’t — or if they’re even open to receiving pitches at that time.

The pitch itself

You’ve compiled your list of journalists who write about your business’s sweet spot, and you’re ready to craft your email pitch and send it off. But what goes into a pitch that’s worth reading?

Many marketers write pitches from the perspective of what the journalist can do for the business. By reversing this thinking, you’ll create a much better pitch. Ensure your pitch hits the following marks. This will help journalists give their readers the content they’re looking for, which will, in turn, help your business.

Relevance

PR doesn’t only mean “public relations” or “press release.” It should also stand for “pitch relevance.” Make sure you specifically target your pitch to the journalist’s beat, right down to the subject line.

It’s important to remember that business writers and companies need each other to survive. Businesses need coverage, and writers need content, so in the best of both worlds, they help each other.

Facts

In a pitch, it’s essential to hold the hyperbole. This might seem obvious, yet journalists — who are expert fact checkers — all too often get pitches loaded with superlatives and buzzwords. Most of them delete those after just a cursory review.

Stick to the facts of what your business does and the problems that it solves for your customers. Words like “revolutionary,” “disruptive,” and “game-changing” are trite, puffed-up, and overused. Avoid this kind of language.

Simplicity

Simplicity is like salt — you should use just enough but not too much. Too often pitches are laden with complexity. Don’t make a reporter slog through a 500-word email when they really only have time for 200–250 words.

Simple should never mean “boring.” Keep your pitch short, but make sure you craft it carefully. A well-crafted pitch should explain your business succinctly to a knowledgeable journalist who is familiar with your market but hasn’t been on your technical team for the past six months.

Timeliness

Remember those old-timey movies where the reporter ran around with the PRESS tag in his hat? What was he looking for? The scoop!

Include some breaking news about a new product, an upcoming breakthrough that addresses a critical business need, or a differentiator that will set you apart from your competition. These are things that can pique a journalist’s interest and make for a great story for the reporter — and great media coverage for you.

Or follow up on a “best of” or a “women in business” article that the journalist writes every year, and mention that in your pitch or in a follow-up email. This shows a journalist that you not only know their material but read it regularly — and you didn’t just Google their name.

Pay attention to these key factors, and you’ll produce successful pitches that get your startup’s name out there.

AUTHOR
A journalist and digital consultant, John Boitnott has worked for TV, newspapers, radio, and Internet companies for 25 years. He’s written for Inc.com, Fast Company, NBC, Entrepreneur, USA Today, and Business Insider, among others.

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