How to Grab a Journalist's Attention in a Matter of Seconds

Written by: Sarah Kinsella

The cold hard truth: Your PR pitch must grab a journalist’s attention in a matter of seconds before it is ignored, sent to the spam folder or deleted.

In this over-saturated media world, dominated by videos and imagery, it is increasingly important to generate creative and compelling content in your very first pitch. And, while journalists are always on the hunt for stories that will engage their readers, they are simultaneously bombarded with irrelevant pitches daily, increasing the chances of your pitch getting overlooked.

Whether your client just received a prestigious award or launched a revolutionary product, there are several things we can do as PR professionals to ensure our newsworthy stories are not only breaking through the clutter of journalists’ mailboxes, but also evolving into meaningful stories that are relevant for our media partners and drive our clients’ business forward. Below are four tips for crafting effective, captivating PR pitches:

Be Relevant. Before even starting to craft your pitch, read the news. Is there a current trend or recent industry announcement that you can tie your story to? Weaving your client into a greater trend showcases your knowledge of the market, making your story an easier sell. Also, be aware of negative news. Was there a recent national tragedy or a controversial study just released that refutes a claim you make in your pitch? If so, now might not be the right time to send them news.

Pro Tip : If your client is not currently focusing on industry trends, suggest they do so. Pull together a list of trends that you think would be suitable and recommend ways they can get involved to stay relevant.

Keep it Short, Straightforward & Scram . When crafting your pitch, keep it short . No need for a long drawn out email with unnecessary information about the client background, etc. Make the pitch straightforward by sharing the most important, newsworthy nuggets in the first three sentences. Reflect on the story you are trying to tell and determine, in one sentence, why this story would be intriguing to the journalist. Once you’ve shared that, scram .

Give the journalist room to review your pitch and determine if they would like to pursue the story. No need to hound them—you’ll end up deterring the writer from responding at all.

Pro Tip : If you haven’t heard back in a few days, determine if a check in is appropriate. If so, keep your follow up pitch brief and only reiterate the info that was most pertinent in your original pitch.

Related: Why PR? Five Reasons to Implement a Strategic Public Relations Campaign

Research. There is nothing worse than getting an email back from a journalist that schools you on their beat or past stories. Do your research before clicking ‘send.’ Check to see who has recently written about the topic and ensure their beat hasn’t changed. Once you find the right journalists, do additional research on how they prefer to be pitched, where they are based, etc. The access we have to our media partners through social channels is better than ever before. Perhaps you can even find a personal connection. Use your findings to add a personal note to your pitch, which shows you’ve taken the time to get to know them as a person—at the end of the day, we’re in the business of creating relationships that add value to all involved.

Pro Tip : Social media can be your best friend. Add the journalists you’re looking to work with on social media and engage with their content – this might even give you a good idea of a new way to pitch them.

Be a Resource . Most of the time when pitching a journalist, PR professionals are asking for something and not providing additional value back. Don’t be a moocher—be a resource too! Consider your relationship with a journalist as a partnership, one that is mutually beneficial. If a journalist is interested in your story, go above and beyond to get them the information necessary to compile the piece – whether it be a recent study, a scheduled interview or updated fact sheet.

Also, just because a writer decides to pass on your pitch one time, doesn’t mean they won’t pick up your next one. If a journalist emails you to let you know they are passing, respond as a resource. Check the news and see if there is anything that may be helpful for them to include in an upcoming story.

Pro Tip: Relationships are key and journalists are people too! Where appropriate, check in to see how a writer is doing and if there’s anything you may be able to assist with.

All in all, think of your pitch as a first impression. You want your content to showcase the best possible version of your client in all facets and offer value to the writer. If you use the above tips, you should be all set to secure those feature stories for the brands you represent and build lasting relationships with journalists!