8 top tips for pitching to the media – by a digital PR pro

Pitching to the media is an essential part of digital PR, but if you’ve never done it before, it can be daunting.

Pitching can be in the form of an email, phone call or a direct message via social media to a journalist in the hope that they’ll cover your story, resulting in news coverage for your client. 

However, many journalists can receive anywhere between 100 and 1000 emails a day, making it harder than ever to persuade them to open the email, even before hoping for a response! 

So, how can you entice a journalist to open your email pitch that’s competing with hundreds of others in their inbox? Better than that, how do you obtain a response?

Whether you’re new to the world of digital PR or you’re feeling the pressure to secure more links for your clients, check out our sound advice to help boost your chances of success when pitching to journalists: 

1. Research is key

Always thoroughly research the journalists you want to target before adding them to your media list. No matter how good your pitch is, if it’s not a subject area the journalist covers, then it’s pointless pitching it to them.

It’s highly unlikely they’ll cover your story, but it could potentially damage any existing relationships you’ve built or prevent one starting altogether. Journalists will appreciate that you’ve taken the time to look at the topics they write about, boosting your chances of a response. 

Use media databases, like Response Source, Cision or Roxhill, to search topics related to your story and find out who covers them, what title they write for, what industry they write about and how they like to be pitched. You’ll not only find out where they work, but you’ll see previous articles, as well as their X (formerly Twitter), feeds (if they have one), so you can see what they’re interested in receiving. 

Their feeds will also show if they’ve moved on, got a new title, a promotion or moved to a different desk. Not all media databases are up-to-date, so using both methods ensures that you’re on the ball with who works where. 

2. Build relationships with journalists

Having the journalist come to you directly when they need content for an article is the ultimate digital PR goal. This is achieved through building good working relationships with journalists by regularly providing them with relevant stories, being accessible and helping them out with any media requests. If you make yourself a great point of contact, then they’re more likely to come to you for more. 

When it comes to pitching, if a journalist sees your name in their inbox – and they have a relationship with you – they’re more likely to take an interest because they know who you are. 

If you’re looking to sustain these relationships, it’s important you don’t just contact them when you need coverage. Share their stories,  engage with them on social media, or simply thank them for covering your client and see if they need any help with other articles. You could even meet them for a coffee to chat about the types of stories they work on. 

Making yourself helpful is key when building these relationships. Make sure you and your expert are available – especially if you’ve pitched to them. There’s nothing worse for a  journalist to have to chase you for more information or miss their own deadlines because you couldn’t get the information to them in time.

3. Make your subject line stand out

The subject line is key when it comes to pitching. If you’re responding to a request, make sure you include exactly what they’re looking for so it can be noticed easily in their inbox. Journalists sometimes only have time to read the subject line. If they don’t think it’s for them, and the subject line gives them little indication about the story, they’re likely to ignore or even delete your email. 

Testing various subject lines can work with bigger campaigns, alongside a tailored approach to suit a journalist’s style of writing. While this might take more time, a well thought out subject line could be the clincher that gets you the coverage for your clients, compared to a one size fits all approach to your pitching. 

Remember: While you do need to make your subject lines stand out, avoid misleading your recipients. Using false information or a clickbait tactic runs the risk of receiving negative responses from journalists and forming a poor reputation for both yourself and your client – preventing you from securing coverage from that publication in the future. If the story is interesting and engaging enough, you shouldn’t have to mislead people for success.

4. Tailor your pitch

Remember to keep your email  interesting but concise – journalists don’t have a lot of time so don’t waste it with a longer-than-necessary pitch. Explain what you’ve got, and why you think they and their audience would be interested. 

Bullet point key details instead of writing them out saves a lot of time, as does embedding your press release within the body of the email. Attachments can cause havoc with spam filters, so if you’re sending more than one file, consider a file transfer link such as DropBox or WeTransfer

Consider tailoring your email pitch to suit each journalist you’re targeting. Whilst it takes more time than a blanket email campaign, it shows that you’ve taken the time to research their work and what they’re interested in, which could give you a better chance of securing coverage. 

Top tip: Include everything they need to cover the story in the first email so they don’t need to chase you for anything. When journalists have tight deadlines they don’t have time to follow up with you for any missing information. 

5. Be quirky

Whether you’re responding to a media opportunity or reacting to a newsworthy topic, try and create content that stands out from the crowd.

If you’re providing expert commentary, do your research to find something that might offer the journalist something a little different to the standard response they’re likely to receive from other sources.

Don’t be afraid to ask your expert for any interesting information or opinions that you might not have thought of yourself, which could make your pitch stand out to a journalist.

6. Follow up – but don’t be a pest

Journalists are busy people, therefore PR pitches won’t be a priority to them which can mean that your email is ignored.

If you’ve not heard back within three days to a week, follow up with a quick email to find out if there’s anything else they need. This will push you back to the top of their inbox. If you don’t hear back after the second time, move on. A third follow up could be enough to evoke a negative response and even sever any chances of a good relationship with the journalist. 

Remember: Even if you don’t get a response, it doesn’t mean that the journalist isn’t interested in your story, it’s likely that they just don’t have time to respond. Sometimes, journalists will use content without notifying you, so there’s every chance you’ll still obtain coverage at a later date.

7. Get that link

So you obtained an amazing piece of coverage for your client, but the publication didn’t include a link? It could be worth dropping the journalist a quick email to see whether a link could be included in the copy, after all if you don’t ask you don’t get.

Make sure to provide them with a link within the content you’re sending across. A homepage link is great, but could a product or specific landing page provide greater value? By providing a specific page, you’ve got a better chance of getting the link you want.

8. Say thank you

If you’ve just secured a piece of coverage for your client, it’s always nice to drop a thank you note to the journalist who published it. This can be as simple as a quick email towards the end of the day, or a post on X that shares their work, which can help solidify a future relationship. 

A thank you email could also be a great opportunity to ask for a link inclusion too as mentioned above, providing a friendly tone to break the ice before asking for the addition of a link to your clients site.

Alice Lang
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