How to Write an Effective Media Pitch
Pitching compelling story lines and outlining information in a concise, easy-to-understand way is the base of any public relations strategy. Unfortunately, there is no right or wrong when it comes to pitching. There isn’t a generic template for you to copy, paste, and send out as a mass email to hundreds of media contacts. It just doesn’t work like that. To see the response you want, you need to customize each media pitch by organization, background, offering, seasonality, medium, and, most importantly, target audience. Sounds easy, right?
If you’re sitting there staring at a blank page wondering where to start, you may want to consider the following steps on how to write a media pitch in order to become a PR professional.
Pull an Audience-Focused Media List
Whether you’re targeting online news publications, “top-tier” outlets, bloggers, freelance writers or influencers, it’s crucial that you first determine who you want to reach before you try to figure out how to reach them. Pitching an editor from The Los Angeles Times is significantly different than pitching a blogger, such as The Skinny Confidential. Not only do these outlets typically cover different topics, but they also reach different audiences and it would be a waste of time to send the same pitch to two different media outlets.
Once you have outlined your digital public relations strategy and determined your target audience, you’ll know which outlet is the most suitable for your email pitch. The next step is building an audience-focused media list. If you’ve ever pulled a manual media list before, you know how difficult it can be to find an editor’s contact information.
Exhaust your resources! While it pays off to pull manual media lists, it also can be very time-consuming. There are also several tools that you can use to pull an efficient media list. Cision, for example, is a public relations tool, that will help you pull a media list and connect with editors, contributors, and digital influencers. It may take you a few attempts to master this process, but once you do, it will be worth it.
However, if you choose to pull a manual media list, it is essential that you not only find the editor’s name and email, but also that you research to find what topics they typically cover and which conversations they are involved in. This will give you a sense of their writing style and voice within the online publication to help you customize your pitch and narrow in on your angle. In other words, the more you know about this writer, the more beneficial it is for both of you.
Craft an Intriguing Subject Line
Now that you have built your media list, you can begin writing your email pitch. Subject lines are the first thing your media contact sees, and it may even be the only thing they see. It determines whether your contact will even choose to open your pitch before tossing it in the trash.
You need to create a subject line that will not only catch your reader’s eye, but entice them to find out more. Some may think that shorter subject lines perform better than long subject lines, and although this may be more appealing to some readers, we have found that more detailed, “to-the-point,” subject lines have a higher open rate. Rather than cutting out a juicy, intriguing subject, strategically formulate your wording - making it clear and concise, and avoid appearing as a spam email.
Know Your Angle—Help Them Help You
Keep in mind that your media contact most likely receives hundreds of pitches every single day. Don’t do yourself a disservice by not taking the time to optimize your pitch angle. The main objective when writing a pitch is creating a mutually beneficial partnership between you and your media contact. It’s critical that you provide your contact with all the information and resources they need to be successful. In other words, how can you help them.
Researching your media contact prior to reaching out will only make your pitch stronger and you’ll be more likely to secure media coverage. We refer to this as “doing all the heavy lifting,” so your writer doesn’t have to. You need to understand how your writer thinks, how strong their voice is, how much engagement their articles receive and most importantly, what topics they cover.
You could write the perfect pitch, with key messaging and all the necessary information, but if it doesn’t align with what the reporter covers, it won’t provide any value to them. Put yourself in an editor’s position. What would you be looking for and what information would you need to effectively cover a story.
Start by outlining the facts—what information does your media contact need to publish a successful piece of media coverage? What is the objective of your media outreach? In other words, what do you want your media contact to feature? Is there an incentive to covering this story? What is the timeline of the pitch? Does the writer have a deadline? What are the next steps?
Offer Next Steps
If your media contact gets to the end of your email and doesn’t know what the next steps are, you most likely won’t receive a response. To avoid any missed opportunities, you need to include a call to action at the end of your email. You have already done the “heavy lifting,” all you need to do is tell your contact what they need to do to get started. It can be as simple as including your primary contact information for them to reach out if they’re interested or requesting their shipping information.
Leverage Your Relationships
In any digital marketing space, it’s important to leverage the relationships you have built to optimize your efforts. For any public relations agency, building strong relationships with editors, contributors, freelancers and digital influencers across an array of media outlets is critical to your success.
Organizing media contacts by field (i.e. health, beauty, business, technology) makes it easy for you to “look into your bag of tricks” and contact the writers you have previously worked with when the timing is right. Leveraging these relationships will almost guarantee that your pitch will get picked up.
Follow-Up Is Key
Often, unfamiliar emails end up in spam or easily go unnoticed. It’s important that you follow-up on your initial email. Not only will this bring your email to the top of their inbox and offer a friendly reminder, but it is also less likely to get ignored. As a best practice, you should wait at least one week until you send out a follow-up email.
Another best practice and something to keep in mind, is that you should never follow up multiple times. If they aren’t responding after several emails, it’s not because they didn’t see it, it’s because they are ignoring you and the last thing you want to do is annoy the person you are contacting.
If you’re still struggling, it may be beneficial to look over a few different pitch examples to get the wheels turning. Included below are two different media pitch examples and one follow-up email. One pitch example is more industry focused and the other is specific to a social media influencer.
PR Pitch Example
I hope this finds you well! As an influential writer who covers new products and tech, I thought I’d reach out thinking you would also be the perfect fit to write about [Client/Topic]! We enable developers to create any software, simply through their browser, and collaborate in real time with their peers. Think ‘full-stack’ Github meets Slack - all through your browser as a service.
Why We Exist? Businesses across all industries sink a lot of soft costs on workflow efficiency and onboarding team members. This is the most expensive and critical problem for technology-based companies, which continues to remain unresolved. Our system was designed to eliminate these issues once and for all!
I’ve listed a few of our core features:
- Onboard new team members in minutes, not weeks.
- Increase development velocity
- Be a central hubfor learning, resources and internal/external community
- Standardize the development environment across the team globally
Example Customer Case:
ABC company struggles with common onboarding issues. They are hiring 15 new developers each month to their existing team of 300. The average new hire is fully trained and on-boarded within 30 days.
Customer’s Old Process
- Week 1: Install and configure development environment
- Week 2: Learn new development environment
- Week 3: Understand team processes, such as commits, sprint cadence, etc.
- Week 4: Begin to contribute development quality code
- Week 5 (Day ~30): Begin to contribute production quality code
New Process with [Client]
- Week 1: Join team at [website]. Upon logging in, access to fully integrated development environment, all training docs, the code-base, communication, and code deploy processes.
- Week 2: Begin to contribute development and production quality code.
The result: [Client] eliminated 3 weeks of onboarding at ABC, hundreds of hours of new hires time saved, hundreds of hours existing employee/trainer time saved and hundreds of thousands of dollars in sunk payroll costs. These numbers don’t even take into account the current team members that have to bend over backward and disrupt their workflow to get these new team members up to speed…. You must ask yourself, is this process really scalable?
[Client] is free to get started on. In less than 5 minutes, new employees can design, collaborate and contribute code.
If this is something that you feel your readers would be interested in please feel free to reach me at [email] or at [phone number] for further details. We’d love to answer any specific questions you might have or help you get up and running on the software so you can see for yourself how effective it can really be!
Social Media Influencer Pitch Example
[Client] values health-living just as much as you do, and we believe that the key to staying healthy and fit, is fueling your body with nutritious ingredients and staying as active as possible! Our [product] and [product] are just two of the highly nutritious products we offer to keep our customers happy & healthy.
We are inspired by your Instagram account [Instagram handle] and would love to partner with you on one or two sponsored Instagram posts!
“Organic,” “gluten-free” and “non-GMO” are buzzwords we hear daily, however finding a food brand you trust can truly be a challenge! As an influencer, who often posts about your healthy lifestyle, I’d love to introduce you to [client], a company whose promise is to provide high-quality, minimally-processed products from the mill to your table.
To see (and taste) for yourself, we’d love to send you a few free goodies of your choice to include on social!
Just let me know what speaks to your taste buds and where to send it off to!
We'd love to hear if this is something you are interested in sharing with your followers. Let me know your thoughts and I would be happy to pass along more info! You can reach me at [email].
Influencer Follow-Up Email Example
Happy Monday! I hope you enjoyed your weekend.
I just wanted to follow up with you regarding my last email and see if you are interested in partnering together on an upcoming social media post.
We would love to get some of our goodies in your kitchen for you to try! All you need to do is let me know which products you are interested in receiving, along with your current home address and phone number.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
The objective of conducting media outreach is to secure media coverage and generate engagement. Although there are several different factors to consider when pitching, it all boils down to your audience and the approach you take. In other words, who you reach and if it sparks the interest of your reader.
Unfortunately, with public relations, there is never any guarantee that your pitch will get picked up or that you will secure media coverage. It’s important to be persistent. If you don’t hear back from anyone after you reached out to 20 media contacts, reach out to 100; change your pitch angle; reevaluate your audience; target a different media outlet. Trial and error will become your best friend, but if you start by following these simple steps, you’re one step closer to connecting with a media contact and securing coverage.