Being able to successfully pitch a story to the media is one of the most important tools to have in your PR toolbox. Public relations campaigns take time, energy and effort. It’s an adrenaline rush when a journalist responds to your pitch and wants to cover your story. But how do you make that happen? Follow these steps and you’ll be crafting the perfect pitch in no time.
Step One: How To Find Media To Pitch
It’ll take a lot of research. Start by going through media contacts you already have a relationship with – these will be low-hanging fruit. Keep in mind, just because you’ve worked with them in the past doesn’t automatically make them a good fit for what you’re pitching.
If you have access to lists of media contacts, skim through them to see if any jump out as a good fit based on their publications or bios. Then move on to step 2 and dig a little deeper.
Beyond that, roll up your sleeves and jump in. Search for publications that could be a fit for your pitch – think broadly, like general travel magazines and think more narrow, like niche blogs. Then, try to find the best contact person – it could be the food and beverage contributor, news writer, or travel editor depending on the angle of your story.
PRO TIP: Find a way to keep track of your contacts and the interactions you have with them. This could be a spreadsheet, or via an online tool like a CRM (customer relationship management). We currently use MuckRack.
Step Two: Know Who You’re Pitching
Once you have the contact, learn more about this person, their publication, their beat, and their interests. Read their bio to see if there are connections you can make, such as the same hometown, college, or favorite sports team. Look over attendance lists or spreadsheets from previous trade shows, conferences, and media events, to see if your paths may have crossed before. You’ll want to reference any prior connection in your pitch. If not, read through their social media posts and recent articles to find a connection point to reference.
Step Three: Write A Killer Opening
Some of your recipients don’t know who you are. You’re lucky if they even open your email, let alone read the first sentence. In the hopes that they do, make sure it’s a good one. Leave the long intro out of it, and jump right to the captivating point. Some pitches may work better with a short, interesting narrative first, while others use an attention-grabbing statistic. And remember to have a subject line that also plays into the hook, while being clear about the topic.
Step Four: Personalize
Once you have their attention, include a sentence or two to explain why you’re emailing them out of the blue, how you know them, or how you think you can help them. Review articles they’ve written to see if they’ve covered something similar to what you’re pitching. You’d be surprised what ties you can make!
PRO TIP: I once referenced a contributor’s article about places to celebrate the change in NYC’s boozy brunch law and compared it to great alcoholic stops that also happen to be haunted. That personalized pitch started a conversation which eventually led to a 4-day FAM tour, multiple social media posts, and article in Sherman’s Travels.
Step Five: Keep It Short
You know the deal – leave them wanting more. Make sure to tell them enough to pique their interest but leave out the long-winded details. The media is not interested in reading a novel of an email, so stop while you’re ahead. A good practice is to go through and add links for additional information, revise and edit down a couple of times until the email is very short. On MuckRack, some journalists give specific information about how long or short they want pitches to be.
Step Six: Call-To-Action
Make it clear what you want them to do. Do you want them to include information about your destination in their next article? Or attend a media FAM you’re planning? Either way, make your expectations clear and tell them what to do next.
Step Seven: Follow Up
Each situation is different so handle it carefully. Some writers will thank you for the information and say they will reach out in the future if they find an article that fits. You are now on their radar so graciously take that answer and leave it be. Follow up in a couple of months to continue to stoke the relationship without being too aggressive.
Other pitches will probably go unanswered. Don’t take it personally. Keep these contacts on your list for when you have another pitch that aligns with their beat and try again.
PRO TIP: When it comes to juggling multiple drafts of a pitch (personalized for each publication or person) and many media contacts, you need to stay organized. The last thing you want to do is embarrassingly reference a different publication, article, or even someone else’s name in your pitch. (That’s is a sure shot it won’t get picked up.)