Top Tips for Pitching to journalists

Like your favourite meal, there are certain key ingredients that go into a cracking PR pitch. But all too often – and I’m aware I’m not talking to everyone here – some of those ingredients are sadly lacking.

Imagine leaving the batter out of toad in the hole or forgetting to add your spices in Indian cuisine – things just don’t add up and the results are likely to be rather disappointing.At No Brainer we’re all trained journalists and we’ve all spent time on busy newsdesks, so we’re perfectly placed to tell you that the same applies to a PR pitch; without the right blend of timing, quality, patience and understanding, you won’t get very far. And for the journalist on the other end of the phone, it certainly won’t be very enticing!

So with that in mind……

Do your research before you pitch

Before you call, make sure you know WHO you’re calling. It sounds simple and obvious doesn’t it? But you’d be amazed how many calls a newsdesk gets from a PR person or a press officer who thinks it sounds intelligent to ask for a person they’ve found on media database like Gorkana or Response Source.

When a newsroom is on the larger side, however, it can be tough to know exactly who to call. So the bare minimum is to understand what the publication, channel or station is and what they’re all about, as well as the type of stories they usually use. Don’t throw your rubbish out far and wide and hope it sticks somewhere. In this day and age – with so many resources available – there is no excuse.

Believe in your story

Think about the best salespeople you’ve ever come across. I’m sure they have plenty in common but one think is a passion and a belief in what they’re selling that comes across in the way they deliver the pitch.

There is a balance, because a busy journalist doesn’t have ten minutes to talk about the weather or what they did at the weekend, but be positive. If you don’t believe the story or the proposition is any good, why should they?

Don’t sugar coat it

With positivity comes a tendency to sugar coat or spin what you’re trying to push. Ask any journalist and they’ll tell you that they get calls daily that begin with those words, “I’ve got an amazing story for you…” and ends with something very underwhelming. Don’t do it. Journalists are smart and they will spot it a mile off.

If what you’re offering is quality, well thought out and delivered and targeted at the right people, you’ll give yourself the best chance of success. My first editor told me that a good story tells itself.

Don’t over-promise on or exaggerate a story

This is the result of ignoring the previous point. Honesty is always the best policy! There’s nothing more likely to get a journalist’s back up than being duped by a story that promised the earth and under-delivered.

It happened to me once or twice and for me, that was the end of my relationship with that PR person. You might think you’ve scored a big hit but all your good work will be undone if that journalist or publication never wants to speak to you again!

So there you have it. Smart pitching which shows that you understand who you’re talking to, with a story that you know will resonate with their audience, and an honest approach, can culminate in a real recipe for success.

Picture of Gary Jenkins

Gary Jenkins

I’ve been a journalist and PR leader, working with high growth start-ups to complex multi-million-pound businesses for more than 20 years. My heart lies in landing brilliant international and national coverage for clients and helping take strategy through to delivery and seeing the results!

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