Five tips on writing a news pitch that works
I read a shocking article today about how one reporter ignores 95% of the media pitches she gets in her email box. What shocked me though wasn’t how high the number was – but how badly PR practitioners are still pitching reporters and the ridiculous mistakes they are making as “professionals” in our industry. These bad pitches aren’t helping anyone, and in fact, they are making our jobs even harder.
Writing an effective news release or news pitch can be done with the help of the following five rules, many of which I learned from Ann Wylie, a genius when it comes to effective writing and storytelling.
Do your research first. The days of sending a press release to a generic media list of hundreds of reporters and hoping for success are over. Targeted pitches are much more effective and in the end, will get you better results for your clients. Identify which publications will reach your target audience and then find out which reporter at that publication covers your targeted beat. Once you know this person, do some research on their social media and look at past articles they’ve written to ensure you send them a pitch that best meets their needs.
Keep it short and simple. According to Ann Wylie, your total pitch should be no longer than 200 words. That’s it. Remember, these people are being inundated with emails and phone calls all day, so make it super simple for them to read and understand your pitch as quickly as possible. This also includes using easy words and no jargon, keeping the sentences short, and not using unnecessary modifiers.
Use your headline or subject line to catch their attention quickly. I’ve already said that you have just seconds to grab a reporters attention, and much of that time will be spent reading your headline or subject line. In fact, this is probably the most important part of your entire message. Use the first 20-25 words of your message to excite them about what you have to say. And don’t use this important space to brag about your company or clutter things up with background information.
When you write a news release or a news pitch, remember that your company or product isn’t the most important thing to the reporter. How the public will benefit or be affected by your product or company is of much greater interest. So, instead of writing that XYZ company has created a new widget, write about how this new widget will help moms better schedule their kid’s activities, or how it will help in the fight against cancer. That is of much more importance to a reporter, and is much more likely to result in a story.
Be a reliable resource for the media, even when you don’t have something to pitch. I learned this important point from Peter Shankman, who created “Help a Reporter Out” to help reporters connect with potential sources. By helping reporters when he wasn’t looking for story placements, he was able to build relationships and trust for those times when he did have a good story to tell. You can do the same by sharing information with reporters that might help them with stories they are working on, even if they have no benefit to you or your business.
Take your time when writing your next news release or media pitch and make sure you follow these five simple rules. It could be make the difference between being read and being ignored.