Pitching story ideas to reporters is not an intuitive business skill.
Although it feels a little bit like pitching a product to a client or pitching your business to an investor, a PR pitch requires a skill set that seems more suited to a journalist than an entrepreneur.
Yet the harsh reality is that your publicity efforts will fall short unless you have the ability to pitch story ideas to journalists and media contacts.
The upside is that the secrets of PR pitching can be learned quickly, starting with these mistakes you'll want to avoid when you pitch story concepts to reporters:
- Wrong person. Identify the appropriate reporter's name before you email your pitch to a media outlet. Sending a generic, "To Whom It May Concern," pitch is pointless – but even more so is a pitch that ends up in the wrong person's inbox.
- Too many people. When they don't have the appropriate reporter's name, entrepreneurs sometimes send the pitch to multiple email addresses at the same media outlet. That's a mistake because if you can't take the time to research the right contact person, you probably didn't take the time to thoroughly research your story concept, either.
- Wrong tone. A press release is a straightforward presentation of facts. A pitch also relies on facts, but its primary purpose is to give the reporter a reason to run the story. If your pitch isn't interesting and compelling, it won't get picked up as a new story.
- No follow up. Follow up is a standard feature of PR pitches. Sometimes it's appropriate to offer the reporter additional information and sometimes it isn't. Either way, be sure to follow up with the reporter in a day or two, even if it's just to check the status of your story idea.
- Too long. Pitches should run no more than five paragraphs for emails and thirty seconds for phone calls. If your pitch is too long, it probably contains a level of detail that is more appropriate for a press release or other supporting documents. Keep it short and offer to provide more details upon request.
- Typos and grammar mistakes. Journalists take typos and grammar very seriously. Make a few grammar mistakes and many journalists will not even bother to read the rest of the pitch.
- Not convincing. Reporters will let you get away with some pitch mistakes – but an unconvincing presentation isn't one of them. Journalists are unimpressed by weak and disorganized PR pitches, especially when they have dozens of pitches to choose from.