How To Create Media Pitches That Work

May 16, 2023

Tips from The A-Team

Fewer reporters, with greater demands on their time. Fewer outlets and more competition for coverage. Face it, it’s a shrinking strike zone for media pitches.

That’s why it’s crucial to make those media pitches as good as possible: well-composed, on target and impossible to ignore. We asked our public relations experts for their advice on how to create pitches that journalists can’t resist:

Know the news and stick to it

“So what?” is the most devastating response to a pitch. “A former colleague who had worked as a newspaper journalist would always ask me, ‘so what does this mean for my neighbor Sally?’ when reviewing my pitches,” says Account Director Megan Moriarty. “A basic pitch to a reporter tells them what the news is, and I always try to add perspective about why it matters for their readers. Answering the ‘so what?’ question in a pitch provides clarity about the potential impact and demonstrates why the reporter should cover the story.”

Remember that the release must work for the outlet, not just the client. “The first question I aim to answer when drafting a pitch is, ‘How does this news provide value to the media outlet?’,” says Account Manager Maddie Noteboom. “If you can make that connection, the rest of the pitch will fall into place. By concisely stating the value to journalists, you can make the transaction feel more mutually beneficial rather than a one-way activity.”

Clients love to talk about themselves in press releases. The problem is journalists don’t care about the company, just the news. “Limit the puffery and keep the company in the background. Always keep the audience in mind,” says Jim Sweeney, senior account and content director.

One way to do that is to make the value of the pitch explicit. “Instead of just pitching a thought leader and their generic bio, explain why this person is the best suited to discuss the topic, especially if you are pitching a vendor!” says Senior Account Director Katlyn Nesvold.

Newsjacking, or tying a pitch to something else happening in the world, is another proven tactic, says Senior Account Director Janet Mordecai: “Pulling from the day’s headlines and directly correlating that to the company or the spokesperson’s experience speaking to that exact issue often works.”

Include data

Reporters love data. It lets them know there is some substance behind the pitch, advises Senior Content Director Morgan Lewis. “Pitches that contained fresh, original and relevant data always got my attention when I was a reporter and editor,” he says. “Case study outcomes, survey data, or clinical trial results that were pertinent to my publication would receive more consideration because the information could be used in so many different ways: a short brief, a stat to include in a related article, or in some cases, a byline about the data itself.”

If a client doesn’t have data, sometimes they can create their own. “Consider conducting an online survey using Pollfish or Harris Poll to generate data that’s supportive or even counter to your pitch. People’s points of view on the story enrich the pitch,” says Mardi Larson, media relations and account director.

Present the news concisely. “Reporters and other influencers consume content differently than in the past. Use bullet points and economy of words to convey your pitch. The pitch still needs to be substantive, but one can’t forget presentation either,” says General Manager Philip Anast.

Identify the right reporter and outlet.

Pitching a journalist or outlet on a subject they don’t cover is not only a waste of time, but hurts your credibility and that of your client, says Grace Vinton, account director and media specialist: “You need to be 100% certain a journalist covers a topic before sending them a pitch about it. There’s no excuse. All of their articles are online. The best pitches are tailored to a journalist’s beat and interest area and will help level-up the journalist’s coverage on the topic in some way!”

When possible, individualize the pitch, says Senior Account Director Yancey Casey. “Making a connection with reporters through custom-tailored pitches is the best way to rise above the noise and drive conversations. Respect their time — and yours — by pitching thoughtfully, concisely, and with their readers in mind,” he says.

On-target and personalized pitching is a great way to build long-lasting media relationships, says Tara Stultz, chief strategy officer: “If you take this approach, reporters will know that you only reach out to them when you have a story that is aligned with what they are looking for. As a result, they will be much more likely to open your pitches, respond to them, and cover your clients’ news and thought leadership. Yes, media relationships matter–and this is how strong ones are forged.”

Write a great subject line.

In the old days, a reporter at least had to open an envelope and read a release before crumpling it into a ball and firing it into the wastebasket. Now, an emailed pitch can be consigned to oblivion without ever being read. That’s why an eye-catching and compelling subject line is so important, says Michelle Noteboom, senior director of accounts and content. She offers the following tips:

  1. Use active voice.
  2. Include a question, e.g., “Can AI tools enhance patient safety? One health system leader says ‘yes’.”
  3. Be provocative when you can, e.g., “We don’t have a doctor shortage. We have a shortage of using doctors efficiently.”
  4. Offer a numbered list, e.g., “5 ways AI is driving documentation efficiencies.”

Keep it short, adds Senior Account and Content Director Maria Meredith: “Make the subject line pithy, with something their readers will care about, and then get to the point quickly within the first few lines. Anything you can do to make it faster and easier for journalists to hone in on stories that will pique their readers’ interest will help build those relationships.”

It’s an unfortunate fact of PR that most media pitches fail to generate coverage, but following the advice above will give yours a better chance of succeeding.