What is a pitch? In the PR world, it is the tool—usually an email—we use to reach out and attempt to grab a reporter’s attention. Sounds simple, right? Deceptively so. No matter the product, service, or brand you are attempting to pitch, it’s understandable that from your point of view it is the most exciting, earth-shattering development since sliced bread. And that might be the case, but on its own, even that won’t be enough to grab a reporter’s attention.
As in most things in life, to truly craft an effective pitch it’s necessary to see the world from someone else’s perspective. So let’s step into a reporter’s shoes for a moment. If you’re a reporter, in all likelihood you have a specific beat—that is, the topic you cover—as well as an editor who sets your priorities. It’s 10 a.m. on a Tuesday, and you’ve just gotten your assignment. You sit down at your desk, check your email, and your inbox is chock full to the brim with PR pitches. Which source do you reach out to for an interview? Simple: the source that makes your job (completing your article by the assigned deadline) as easy as possible.
If the pitch a reporter opens is entirely focused on a particular company, product, or service—in other words, “salesy”—they’ll likely stop right there. This clearly isn’t the source they’re looking for. They’re looking for someone with insight into the topic they’re writing about, with an interesting point of view and a headline-grabbing narrative that’s going to make their article as easy as possible to write, and informative to read.
This crucial insight, that pitches must above all else be useful to reporters, should inform every step of the pitch-crafting process. If you’re trying to help a reporter tell a story, your pitches should ideally “piggyback” on an existing narrative in the news, because someone is likely writing about it. Turmoil in the Middle East? Markets choppy after a new Fed announcement? Are tech stocks booming or slumping? Whatever it is, jump aboard the news cycle bandwagon and ride it as far as it will take you.
Of course, not all news cycles will be relevant to your company, brand, product, or service, but that’s the fun of PR—getting creative and finding that angle that you cancomment on. Your pitch will ideally position your spokesperson as not just an expert in her field, but as someone with strong opinions about the news of the day, who can provide meaty quotes for an article. Clearly, the same pitch is not going to work for every story, industry, or news cycle; the talking points you offer up will need to be specific, timely, unique, and actionable.
If a reporter replies to your pitch, great job! Now the real work begins: building a relationship. It’s quite likely that even if a reporter is interested in speaking to your spokesperson, they may not wind up quoting them in an article they’re working on. Instead, they may simply be interested in an introductory call to get to know her better. Don’t get discouraged! PR is a long, additive process, and once your spokesperson displays her unique point of view, knowledgeability, and insight to the reporter, they’re that much more likely to reach out for comments next time a relevant story rolls around.