Three Questions to Ask Before Pitching a Reporter

Stop right there. Before you even think about clicking send, ask yourself these three questions about your pitch.

#1 Would I click on this story?

The subject line of your email pitch can really make or break the entire story idea. Get inspiration by looking at the titles of previous stories or blog posts from the media outlet (and especially the reporter) you’re pitching. Looking at the list of the most emailed or most read stories on the publication’s website can spark good ideas too.

#2 Would their readers care about this story?

When creating your pitch, ask yourself if this is the type of story the media outlet’s readers would care about. If it’s even remotely a stretch, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and think of a different angle to take. In addition to thinking about the readers, make sure you’re thorough in your research so that you’re not pitching a type of story the writer would never cover. For example, you’d never want to pitch an entrepreneur profile story to someone who only writes advice-based columns for entrepreneurs.

#3 Would I read this pitch?

Time for a reality check. If you’re bored reading your own pitch, then the reporter will definitely be bored. Make it relevant to them, interesting and engaging from subject line to the final sentence. Consider using examples to illustrate what the company, service or product does to breathe more life into the pitch and make it sound less like a press release. Above all, make it as short as possible. No one has time to read a one page email pitch.

What’s the one question you always ask yourself before sending an email pitch? Is there one thing your most successful pitches have all had in common?

Think you have what it takes to be a Dittoe PR intern?

It’s that time of year again! We’ll be interviewing for our 2013 Spring internship positions in mid-October. If you’d like to be considered, read the description below and send your resume, cover letter and writing samples to christy [at] dittoepr.com.

Public Relations Internship Job Description:

Requirements/Skills: Public relations interns will be actively enrolled in, or a recent graduate of, a university journalism, public relations, marketing, advertising or other related program. Current students will preferably have at least sophomore standing. The individual must demonstrate the ability to undertake basic public relations writing assignments and possess an understanding of basic media relations skills, an ability to interact professionally with clients, and good judgment. A working knowledge of computers, as well as word processing and database management software is necessary. The public relations intern will be mentored by the intern director and will work closely with the firm’s account executives. The intern director will help the intern prioritize tasks and focus on multiple projects and deadlines simultaneously. Interns will work between 15-30 hours a week. Summer interns will work 40 hours per week. Prior relevant experience is preferred.

Responsibilities: We are looking for a paid intern to work with us on a wide variety of client projects, including but not limited to:

  • Drafting basic public relations materials including news releases, fact sheets, client meeting summaries, status reports, social media posts and other materials as directed
  • Carrying out special and media event planning activities and arrangements as outlined by the intern director
  • Attending and participating in client meetings, media training sessions, presentations and brainstorming sessions as directed
  • Assisting with the development and updating of media lists and other databases. Other tasks include database creation, data entry and update additions and corrections
  • Assisting with administrative duties including sorting, collating, stuffing envelopes, mailings and other administrative functions as assigned
  • Supporting the firm’s efforts by drafting news releases and performing research activities
  • Assisting firm staff with other client, business development and firm management projects as needed

Note: This is a paid internship, and we are seeking applicants that can work 15-30 hours a week.

6 Reasons Your Pitch Isn’t Working

It’s no secret that journalists don’t love the stereotypical PR pro (hence Twitter handles like this), but the reality is public relations helps keep the news flowing. This is only the case, however, if you’re doing it right. Nobody appreciates a stale email, inappropriately addressed email, mass email … the list goes on. News and magazine staffs are declining year after year, which means a decrease in available journalists to share your pitch with and an increase in how annoying a pitch can be. Don’t ruin a relationship with a reporter before it starts because it will only make your job harder.

More often than not, 75 percent of the time they aren’t responding because of deadlines, not enough time or they just aren’t interested, but what about the other 25 percent? It’s your pitch, folks.

  1. There is a person at the other end. One of the biggest things journalists tend to notice is a personalized pitch vs. e-blast. They appreciate knowing you researched their beats and stories, read them and found a way to present your idea based on those findings. They have names, too, so be sure it’s the right name in your intro. Personalize every time!
  2. Wrong, try again. With shrinking newsrooms, it’s not always easy to figure out exactly who is covering what beats. But pitching the wrong person is a PR pro’s worst enemy. If you’re not sure, call the news desk and ask. They’ll appreciate the research more than the apology when you realize you pitched a food drive story to a tech reporter.
  3. “So what?” Pitching a story that has very little (or none at all) newsworthiness will get it sent to the trash. If your pitch has them saying “so what?” then forget it. Just forget it.
  4. Local, local, local! Even if a broad-angle story has relevance in a small market, they aren’t going to jump on the bandwagon unless there is a (very) strong local tie. This can also go both ways – a very local angle won’t make it on national media outlets without a bazaar element to the story or something to bulk it up.
  5. Third time isn’t always a charm. PR is about building relationships. If one story pitch doesn’t work, it’s good to go back with more compelling news or a new angle. However, if you’re second (third, fourth, fifth …) pitch is just as lame as the first, good luck getting a response … ever. Don’t constantly share irrelevant or uninteresting story ideas, because writers will start to write you off completely.
  6. Timing. If you’re working with a national client, chances are you’re pitching to people in different time zones. This rule is simple, don’t pitch a writer on the west coast at 5 a.m. his/her time and expect an answer. By the time they check email, your pitch will be long gone and buried in the depths of their inbox. Plan it out accordingly and know where each writer is based before you pitch.

PR pros can’t fear rejection. It’s just part of the business. But, why make it easy for a reporter to say no? Take your time with each pitch, because one bad pitch could haunt you for much longer than it would take to do it right the first time.

Have other PR pitching do’s or don’ts? Share with us on Facebook.