Earlier this month, the hosted a speed-pitching program with three Boston-based reporters and bloggers: Alex Weaver, managing editor of BostInno, Tom O’Keefe of Boston Tweet, and Cameron Bruns, founder and editor of Boston Green Blog and Just Us Gals. Here are their top dos and don’ts on pitching stemming from the speed pitching session:
Do your homework and only pitch what’s appropriate
This should be obvious to PR pro’s everywhere, but apparently it’s not because all three panelists discussed this point at length. Before you even think about hitting send on an email, make sure it’s appropriate for what that reporter covers. All three panelists shared stories about how they receive completely irrelevant pitches every day, and how they sometimes blacklist people who don’t make it a priority to send a appropriate pitch. Do your homework, make sure it’s the right pitch for the right reporter and the right media outlet, and then reach out. You’re not doing yourself any favors by mass emailing reporters – you’re only going to damage future potential relationships.
Don’t make the reporter ask for anything
You don’t want to go over-board with the information you share in a pitch, but if there is a major element needed for the story, make sure it’s included. This is particularly true when it comes to a visual story: new office move, store opening, major hire, etc. Be sure to insert the photo into the email and offer to send the reporter a high-res image if they want it. But never make a reporter ask for something that’s necessary to the article.
A good subject line will get you far
If you have a great subject line, the reporter will at least open your email. They might not respond, and the story might not get written based solely on a strong subject line. But, getting their attention is the first step to securing coverage. Make the subject line interesting, and you will open the door to communication.
They don’t want to be stalked, but they sometimes need a reminder
A question that was brought up early on was, “Are email follow-ups are appropriate or annoying after sending the initial pitch email?” The reporters all shared that one follow-up email will always be welcome. While they don’t want to be emailed about the same pitch every day for a week, they all admitted to being human and sometimes forget about an email. One follow-up should be good enough to remind them, and from there if they want to cover the story they will be in touch.
Don’t call unless you know for a fact they liked to be reached on the phone
Some reporters like to be called on the phone, and some publicists prefer to pitch that way. But based on this panel, all three reporters were in agreement that they hate being called. Maybe it’s because email is the preferred method of communication these days, possibly because it’s quick, easy and can be read or responded to while on the go. Maybe it’s because reporters receive dozens of emails everyday, and if they received that many calls they would never have time to get work done. No matter what, this is another point in the “doing your homework” column.
Sometimes it’s about building relationships to get the story
It’s all about who you know. You might have a killer pitch that’s the perfect fit for a reporter, but unfortunately if they don’t know who you are it might not get read. Especially when it comes to local reporters, try to get to know them a little bit before emailing them a story. Attend events they might attend, network within your community to see if someone who knows them already can make an introduction. Once you build a relationship, it’s far more likely they will cover your pitches, or at the very least, respond to them.
Keep those pitches short
We all know that consumer attention spans are getting shorter, and it sounds like the same goes for reporters. According to Alex, the ideal pitch is kept to 300 words or less, so get to the point quickly. Tom and Cameron both shared they read their pitching on their mobile devices 95 percent of the time – so tailor your pitch to make sure it’s easily digestible on a phone.