A Comprehensive Guide on Pitching Journalists: How to Pitch Me?
Updated: Feb 24
The historical aspect of a press release dates back to 1906. Ivy Lee, whose agency was working for a Pennsylvania Railroad, reported a rail accident by covering the whole story, writing up a release, and proactively distributing it to journalists. Edward Bernays, known as the “Father of Public Relations,” adapted Ivy’s concept, refined it, and made it commonplace in many industries.
A press release is the most basic and essential public relations tool. Done well, and it will help increase the visibility of your brand and inform your prospects and customers. It can even change your target audience’s perception of your product, services, practice, and policies.
To get your press release to reach your audience, however, you need to build and manage relationships with journalists.
Journalists are in the business of selling stories to their readers. They are looking for newsworthy content that can stimulate, educate, entertain and interest their readers. As a business owner, your role is to educate journalists about your business, product, or service so that they are interested in featuring it in a story.
Here are some helpful tips and guides from journalists on how to manage successful relationships with the media.
Do Your Research First
Want your material featured on a particular site? Get to know the reporters and editors who cover the topic you are pitching.
For instance, if you are pitching a story on technological development, you should be contacting the reporter covering technologies, not financial business news. Alternatively, you may also want to contact the industry reporter by pitching the story from an industry angle. It is possible to present different angles of the same story to reporters of different sections of the same publication or a different publication.
Quick Tip: The news moves fast, and journalists need to move faster. Get a feel for a journalist’s particular beat and what they like to cover before reaching out to them.
Quick Tip II: “I don't wish to be pitched by anyone for anything ever.” -this was a one-liner answer I received from one of the journalists when I was researching for this blog post. Evidently, some journalists simply do not want to be pitched to. While not the most pleasant experience, it does happen. Respectfully make a note of it and move on.
Take all the efforts it needs and provide all the basic information
Just as your business puts names on paychecks, make sure the journalist knows who you want them to write about. If a journalist has to do extra research before they can even get to the writing of the story, your chances are very close to zero that they’ll agree to take it on. It might sound as obvious, but things do happen 🙄.
Quick Tip: Think before you hit send
Keep it Fresh
Too many news stories are reiterations of an existing one. If you plan on pitching something to a journalist, make sure it’s A) Newsworthy and B) Fresh. Moreover, all pitches should have a hard “news angle.”
Here are a few recommended news angles from Haje Jan Kamps at Techcrunch:
A new product launch: New = It hasn’t happened yet, or happened in the last couple of days
A fundraising round that hasn’t been announced yet. If it has been covered elsewhere already, or if you already announced it on your blog / on Twitter or LinkedIn, it probably isn’t for me.
Something monumental in a company’s history that might prove to make or break the company.
In addition to being fresh news, the story also needs to have some value for the journalist. Most professional journalists already have an established audience and aren’t looking to pad their portfolio with fluff pieces.
“My main gripe with PRs is the lack of any added value options for the journalist.
The lazy journalist will be happy with regurgitating the PR, but from my point of view, having had most of my career on the other side of the fence, that is a big turn-off.” —Mike Wackett, editorial consultant for The Loadstar.
Reach out to ONE journalist per pub. While it might seem like a good idea to hedge your bets and reach out to multiple journalists at the same publication with the same story, it’s more likely to get your story shot down than it is to get it published.
Quick Tip: “Don’t pitch more than one writer at the same time. We talk to each other, and it’s frustrating to get excited about a story, only to hear that another writer is also already talking to you / your team,” advises Haje Jan Kamps from TechCrunch
Quick Tip II.: “Send press releases to the News or Online editor. Just reach out to one journalist at each publication. Make sure you know the best the journalist covers.” Becky Boyd, MediaFirst.
Make sure you have at least one media contact available for any questions and have the authority to speak on behalf of your company. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to meet a deadline, and no one picks up the phone.
The best day to pitch
“In my experience, the best day to pitch a PR is Monday morning - given that the news desk doesn't have anything in the can from the previous day,” suggests Mike Wackett, editorial consultant for The Loadstar.
Journalists are Busy People
No. None of the journalists are sitting there twiddling their thumbs and waiting for you and your story. Journalists have their assigned stories to cover and a number of deadlines that they have to meet at any given time. Any journalist worth their salt gets a number of pitches daily. Sometimes, a journalist is simply booked and can’t cover a story, even if it meets their preferred criteria.
“I may decline to cover stories that seem to be a perfect fit with all of the above; sometimes I am working on bigger projects or my docket may be full with existing stories I am working on.” - Haje Jan Kamps of TechCrunch.
That being said, it is okay to follow up with a journalist to make sure they didn’t miss your message. Just be sure to do it without pestering them.
“Feel free to follow up after a few days if I miss your message, but after two emails without a response, assume it’s a no. If you’re pitching me an exclusive, I will do my best to give you an answer ASAP so you can pitch elsewhere if I pass,” - Amanda Silberling of TechCrunch.
“I've also said to agencies that it is sometimes worth sending a PR twice as it may have been missed - or more likely not made the cut on a busy news day and ended up in the bin! And it is always worth a follow-up email or call to see if the PR was newsworthy - but not in the morning when the publishing pressure is on!” Mike Wackett of The Loadstar
Use the Appropriate Channels
Like most people, journalists have many forms of social media. However, just because it’s public doesn’t mean it’s the appropriate place to try and pitch them. In almost all cases, work email is the best. When in doubt, check the publication’s website for contact details.
If you get a response, don’t assume it means the journalist will publish the story. Sometimes, other, more interesting, or time-sensitive stories and priorities come into play. As a rule of thumb, do not take anything for granted until the article is live.
Quick Tip: Timing is everything. The more time you can give to a journalist, the more likely they will be able to cover your story, assuming they’re willing to in the first place.
At the end of the day, journalists must write stories that interest their audience, not to cover your story or company. If you want to pitch to a journalist, ensure you have something newsworthy and interesting for their audiences.
For more pitch tips and Tech Crunch Journalists recommendations, check out:
Haje Jan Kamps [LINK].
Christine Hall [LINK]
Want to submit your pitch deck for peer review? Check out Haje Jan Kamps’ Pitch Deck Teardowns