Tips for Pitching Reporters by Email

  • Categories:

    Public Relations

  • Date:

    March 03, 2014

Tips for Pitching Reporters by Email



Public Relations

In my younger years (don’t make me tell you how many years have passed since then), I worked as a newspaper reporter. The job gave me a great experience in general and terrific preparation for my transition later to public relations – finding the headline, writing on deadline and juggling multiple calls and tasks.

I remember the glut of unmatched pitches (on topics I didn’t cover), boxes of books (for reviews we didn’t include in our editorial content), and gifts of wine and food samples (Really? We can’t keep anything?). I can only imagine what reporters face today. They must manage incoming data and separate the wheat from the chaff harvested from mail, email, tweets, phone calls and in-person pitches at news outlets that are far less staffed than when I worked for one of them.

Most public relations professionals prefer email as a primary pitching tool, but you have to play by some important ground rules to ensure editors don’t send your pitches straight to their junk folders. I thought this blog by USA Today’s Natalie DiBlasio on Muck Rack shared some helpful tips (and humor) for pitching media by email.

Here are a few additional thoughts:

  • What’s it about? Think as carefully about the subject line as you do the news release. The subject line should compel the recipient to open the email. Can you convey the news hook or timeliness?
  • Avoid spam. Most email servers have filters that will immediately trap or at least label an email as *spam* if it is part of a bulk email distribution and your name has not been noted as a safe sender. You will always be better served to reach out to editors one by one. A group email also immediately tells the reporter that the news is not “exclusive” to them, which in some cases is okay but can often preclude coverage or inhibit the reporter’s interest in doing more than a news brief.
  • Do unto others. Public relations professionals can become frustrated when reporters are slow to respond. The reverse is true as well. Respond quickly to reporter inquiries – even if it’s bad news – because there will come a time when you’ll need their responsiveness, too. And, even if you, your company or your client has nothing to offer, do your best to help the reporter. He or she will appreciate the kindness.
  • Brevity is your friend. We’ve covered it already: reporters are busy. If you can’t sell your idea in a few short sentences or bullets, either keep trying or realize you don’t have a story worth telling.

I’d love to hear your tips or, if you’re a member of the news media, what public relations professionals can do to help you with your story development.