Presenting a story idea to bloggers and journalists is one of the most common tasks that communication professionals undertake. Of course, this means that the recipients of your pitch are wading through a mountain of other people’s pitches. Practice these four habits and you’ll increase your chances for success.
1. Do Your Research
Before writing a pitch, research the most suitable media for your story. One important factor for determining this is the audience. For example, daily newspapers usually have a larger and more general readership than trade journals and consumer magazines. You can look at media websites to determine the type of audience each attracts.
Another element is media lead times (the amount of time they take to convert your pitch and materials into a story), so you’ll know when to expect the story and can plan accordingly. Here’s a web page detailing lead times for different traditional media.
The web page doesn’t include bloggers, but like magazines, they have specialized readerships. Lead times can vary greatly depending on what you’re pitching, the blogger’s schedule and, if the blog isn’t affiliated with a publication, what else is going on in the blogger’s life. I’ve seen one blogger take five months to post a product review while another posted an announcement for a special event in four days.
Your research should also include what reporter, editor, producer who should be contacted and that contact’s preferred way of receiving pitches. In addition, review three or four previous stories from each publication, station or blog, preferably ones that your targeted contact created.
2. Tailor Your Pitch
Many communication professionals make the mistake of sending the same pitch to everyone on their media list. But someone at a trade magazine will be interested in a story idea with a technical or industrial angle while an editor at a consumer magazine will want to know about effects on the public or population subgroups. Tailor your pitch to different journalists, producers or bloggers. Your research on the audiences and previous stories will give you an idea of an angle that will appeal.
Another good technique is tying a pitch to stories that blogs or media have already published or posted by offering a different angle or follow-up story.
You also need to respect your contacts’ pitching preferences. Many media websites list different email addresses or social media for different purposes, so pay attention to which one they want to be used for correspondence and/or pitching.
3. Write a Compelling Lead
Capture the recipient’s attention right away with one of the following tactics:
- Single out the most newsworthy aspect of the subject for the first sentence.
- Pose a provocative question.
- Offer an experience, e.g., a road test for reporters or readers.
- Begin with a startling statistic
- Use a brief anecdote or example
- Announce something that’s the first of its kind or groundbreaking in some other way
- Match the tone and style of the targeted publication or blog, even to the point of mimicking the types of openings or headlines that they use.
4. Be Brief
Because they’re busy and because your pitch is just one of the many thousands that they’ve received for the week, recipients do not want to devote much time to reading it. Therefore, brevity is a key element of an effective pitch. If it’s an email, keep it to three to four paragraphs. If you’re sending the pitch as a hard copy, it should be about one printed page.
One good tactic for brief copy is creating bullet or numbered lists so that readers can quickly scan through points of information. The text of #3 is a good example. Another good tactic for keeping your text succinct is trimming words and sentences that are unnecessary or redundant (repeat the same idea).
Example of unnecessary words:
“Due to the fact that” can be shortened to“because.”
Example of redundant sentences:
“Widgets International serves multiple industries. The company manufactures widgets for the medical, energy, water treatment and microelectronic markets.” The two sentences are basically saying the same thing. You can either merge the two into one or just choose the best sentence for your pitch.
Please note: Even when you’ve done everything right, bloggers or journalists may either decide against your story idea or use a different angle than the one you pitch. But, as I mentioned, practicing the four habits mentioned above will increase your successes. Since bloggers are the newest pitching target and many communication professionals are still trying to figure out how to go about pitching to them, here’s more advice from actual bloggers.