When pitching to journalists, companies quite often will just email an introduction to their business and expect the journalist will do something with that.
There is a knack to pitching and the good news is that YOU can absolutely learn how to write a killer email pitch that not only gets opened by an influential editor but also gets a “hell YES!”
As a PR trainer and freelance journalist myself, I’ve seen it all. That’s why pitching is such a big part of my 1:1 PR sessions and ongoing training. Instead of just emailing journalists and expecting them to do all the hard work for you, I’m revealing all the secrets to landing media coverage.
And it starts with your email ‘pitch’.
First, introduce your idea
The first paragraph is crucial to get right. You need to get your idea and why YOU are the right person to deliver it across in 1-2 sentences.
Unless you are famous or known to the journalist, you won’t need to share your name immediately. Start by introducing your idea (we’ll talk about this in a moment) and, maybe, your job title.
If I was to pitch myself to write an article for a magazine, I could open my email with something like this…
I wondered if you would be interested in an article on ‘how to scale your business using free PR’ by the author of bestselling PR book Get a YES! from the press.
This is an initial pitch email to introduce you and your idea. At this stage, there is absolutely no need to divulge too much personal information or your entire life story.
Unless it is relevant to your pitch, try to refrain from sharing your back story that could rival the length of War and Peace. If you are pitching a real life story of which you have experienced then, of course, your thoughts are relevant.
After introducing your idea, the second paragraph of your email is where you can reveal more information the journalist may need to make a decision about publishing your idea.
I usually open with something along the lines of…
To give you a little background,
To give you some more info,
By starting the sentence “to give you a little background”, I’m showing the recipient what to expect next. They can then read the info if they need to.
Get to the point
Whilst there is no set rule on what will make the media say YES, (every media organisation will be looking for something different), there is one key thing we can do when we’re pitching to journalists.
Nail your idea.
Plain and simple. Send a good idea. And have an actual point of reaching out to them. Not just a hello.
Share a story idea not a topic
There is a big difference between a story and a topic.
An actual idea would be the title of the article you want to write. Saying you want to write on a topic is too broad and doesn’t give the journalist enough to go on.
Here’s an example of the difference between a topic and a story.
Topic: Business growth
Story idea: How to use LinkedIn to gain inbound leads and never cold call again
Pitching business growth is such a broad topic with thousands of elements. The magazine wouldn’t know what you specialised in or what exactly you could write about. YOU have to do the work and give them an idea to say yes or no to. Don’t make them do all the work.
Make it easy to say yes or no
You need your pitch to give the recipient everything they need to make their decision. Everything. If needs be, make a checklist or create a pitch template to work from ensuring you include all the key elements needed to wow every time.
Be clear what you want them to do next
Many editors and journalists receive pitches that are just an introduction to a business or a product. Yawn. That doesn’t tell them what they want them to do with your email.
If you emailed a magazine, they could be thinking…
Do you want their product in a gift round-up feature?
Were you wanting to be interviewed for the weekly ‘spotlight’ feature?
Or were they intending to write a how-to article for them?
Close your email by showing the journalist what you want them to do next and why you are contacting them.
When I’m pitching to journalists to write a magazine article for them, I will close my pitch with something like…
“I would love to write this article for [magazine name]”
Then they know exactly why I am contacting them and can make a decision whether it’s the right fit for them.
Do your homework
Before reaching out to anyone, make sure you have researched your media outlets first. There is no point pitching a how-to article idea to magazines that never publish that type of article. Or pitching an interview idea to a podcast when they never have guests on the show.
No spammy attachments
When pitching to journalists, you may think it’s relevant to send a bunch of images with your email. More often than not, emails with large attachments can go straight into the SPAM folder so the journalist will never see it. And if it does land in their inbox, seeing large attachments could put them off opening it.
If images or additional information are relevant to the reason you’re emailing the journalist then adding a link to an online gallery can work really well.
Killer email subject line
Any good email needs a great subject line. It’s all very well creating a beautiful pitch but unless the subject line rocks, your pitch may not be seen.
I like to be really transparent and show that my email is a pitch and what it’s about, right from the get-go.
Here are a few examples of subject lines that have resulted in media coverage for my clients…
- Article idea: 10 brand reputation hacks for [magazine audience]
- Pitch: Does Vitamin C really protect you against coronavirus?
- Article idea: Ways to make money while baby sleeps
- Story idea: What it feels like to [real-life story idea]
This allows busy editors to come back to the email when they’re ready to look at their pitches for that day. Plus it’s clearly labelled and not clickbait-y so the recipient knows exactly what it is.
We’ve all been there. An email gets sent with the wrong name or you forgot to change something after you copied and pasted it from the last one. While a template is helpful, be sure to tweak it each time for that particular media outlet.
And whatever you do, remember to proofread your email before you hit the send button.
Find the decision-maker
When you spend time putting yourself out there and contacting the media, you’ll need to make sure your efforts are noticed by the right people. That begins with sending your story idea to the right person.
Try to avoid generic email addresses like news@ or features@ as you don’t know who is looking at those inboxes or how often it’s being checked.
Get your pitch directly in front of the decision-maker and send it to an actual person.
Many media organisations will have a staff list on their website. If they don’t, you can have the name of an editor or journalist within seconds using LinkedIn or Twitter. Just search for their job title and media name, for instance, ‘Business Editor [newspaper name]’.
Pitching to journalists
Landing (and leveraging) media coverage can be a game changer for your business. My clients secure media placements from as soon as after our first call together. If you want to start seeing yourself in the media just click below to see how we can work together.