The ability to create a compelling pitch is a core PR skill that every small business should learn. If you’re looking for editorial coverage for your start-up, your pitch must stand out from the crowd and draw the reader’s eyes to seek further information…

If not your pitch will get lost among hundreds of other ideas sent every day to journalists. Should you pitch over the phone? Invite a journalist to lunch? Drop a friendly email? These are all common questions we can help you with. Here are the best tips to making your pitch perfect.

Is your news really news?

You might think your news is the hottest thing since sliced bread, but can you really imagine reading it in your local newspaper? Before you start to write your pitch, go grab yourself the beverage of your choice and a copy of the target publication you want to see your news in and spend the next few hours reading the stories and familiarising yourself with the style of content. Don’t forget to make notes along the way.

The more you understand the publication’s audience, the more your pitch can be personalised to make a greater impact.

Keep it short

As we mentioned above, the majority of journalists receive hundreds of emails and phone calls every single day. If your pitch beats around the bush, then do not expect anyone to read it. You should be able to narrow it down to one sentence. Even better would be to keep your pitch to the 140-character Twitter limit – it’s a great way to practice being concise.

Keep the buzzwords to a minimum: Nobody cares about how your business is “forward thinking”. Try to imagine how you would share an interesting news article you’ve just read with friends down in the pub.

Stay around

It might sound obvious, but one of the biggest problems we encounter is the lack of contact information. If your news is time sensitive, the journalist might prefer to get in touch quickly. The best way to do this is by phone, so include your phone number; even better, leave your mobile number.

If you’ve just sent your first pitch, then stick around to answer calls or emails from interested journalists. Trust us: Now is definitely not the time to leave the office or head home.

Pitching over the phone

Speaking to journalists on the phone is part of the job that even the most experienced PR professionals dislike. The fast-paced environment of a news desk combined with round-the-clock publishing and dealing with grumpy editors means the person on the other end of the phone will more than likely be not too pleased to receive your call. However, it’s not always that way.

If your news is time sensitive, picking up the phone and speaking directly to the journalist will give you peace of mind. If you send your piece via email, it might become buried in chaos of other emails.

The best way to start your phone pitch is to introduce who you are and get straight to the point.

For example: “Hi, Tony. My name is John Smith. Do you have a spare minute? Would you be interested in my business fund-raiser? X celebrity is cutting the ribbon.”

Pitching by email

If your phone voice is not up to scratch, the good news is that most journalists prefer receiving pitches through email and, increasingly, via social media. A quick search of their name on Twitter or Muck Rack can sometimes draw clues to journalists’ preferred method of contact.

The big mistake that most people make when emailing out their pitch is sending the identical copy to hundreds of people with no personalisation. This is a big red flag for most journalists. We all like to be addressed by name. As such, if you want to increase your chances of your email being read, you must tailor each pitch to the journalist by using their name. You don’t need to be creepy and acknowledge what they ate for lunch.

If you’ve also created a press release to accompany the pitch, including this in the initial email can save time for the journalist, We recommend uploading this to a newswire or a simple file sharing site such as Dropbox where it’s accessible at the click of a button. Sometimes, overzealous spam filters can block your email altogether if you’ve just pasted in your 1,000-word press release into the body of the email.

Knockbacks

Journalists only tend to respond if they are planning to cover your news. If they don’t return your calls or respond to emails, it’s not always bad, as newsworthy items will be missed due to various factors from email filters to busy schedules. If you’re feeling brave and believe a genuine mistake has been made, then there is no harm in checking for feedback, which could be invaluable for your next attempt.

Exclusive Pitch

Pitching your news to individual publications with the offer of an exclusive story is a growing PR trend that can work extremely well for start-ups. An exclusive means two things: The target publication will be the first to cover the news, and this story will drive the publication additional traffic. Working with one key publication is a great way to build a relationship with a journalist that can pay off time and time again.

First Impressions

We are often told that first impressions make all the difference, and they definitely do when it comes to emails. The subject line of your pitch will be the first thing a journalist will see. The trick to having your email opened is to hook a journalist in with a catchy headline that is interesting, short and, most importantly, personal.

Source: www.virgin.com (By Max Forrest)