How to Pitch a Story: Part Two

Yesterday, I wrote about How to Pitch a Story: Part One. I focused on the steps I’ve used in preparing for a pitch, including targeting outlets and developing pitch materials. Today, I’ve provided How to Pitch a Story: Part Two, which focuses on managing the process and closing out the pitch. I look forward to hearing your feedback on these posts.

Keep Good Records

If you’re not using a customer relationship management (CRM) system to manage your media outreach, start using one now. It’s the best way to keep track of your history working with organizations and individuals, particularly if you’re working in a team environment.

Take good notes on your interaction with the journalists, and attach all your pitches, documents and other information to the system. Ideally, you should use a system that also enables you to manage tasks and follow-up as well.

Most CRM systems are built for managing a sales pipeline, and that’s what media relations is all about. You’re selling a story and need to track your prospects and lead-to-close ratios. If you do this for a few months, you’ll quickly identify patterns around what works and what doesn’t.Don’t Forget Your Manners

The best thing you can do to build media relationships is to treat journalists with respect and courtesy. Don’t forget to say “please” and “thank you.” Even if the journalist is in a bad mood and tells you to go away, thank them for their time and follow their advice. I have made a habit of sending personal, hand-written thank you notes to journalists over the years, and it’s paid off in countless repeat stories with these journalists. Genuine feedback and simple “thank you” notes can go a long way to improving your success.

Use New Tools

As a final thought, use new tools for researching and building relationships with journalists. For example, Twitter is a great tool for following journalist conversations. Most journalists talk about the stories they are working on and their experiences working with PR professionals on Twitter. If you pay attention, you’ll get all the information you need to tailor your pitch to them (and you just might find an urgent need you can help them with).

Take full advantage of query services like Help A Reporter Out (HARO). If you’re not using HARO, you should be. HARO is the most widely-used reporter-source matching service out there. I find at least one good opportunity each day for somebody in my network.

Use social networking tools like LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more about journalists, but don’t be a stalker. You can learn about a journalist’s background, the organizations they are involved with and the publications they write for from their profiles. You also might find out that you share a common interest or passion, which is never a bad thing.

And finally, learn from other professionals on both the PR and media side of the equation. Take part in the weekly #journchat discussions on Twitter. Meet up with a local journalist or seasoned PR veteran for coffee. Ask for their advice and learn from the process. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to help you out if you just ask.

Conclusion

These are but a few of my basic suggestions for how I’ve been able to secure a lot of great placements for clients over the years. I hope you found a few good nuggets in this post that you can use to improve your media relations success, and to build some long-lasting relationships with journalists. Remember, if a journalist isn’t interested in the story you’re pitching today, they might still be interested in the next one. Don’t lose hope and keep at it, it will all be worth it when you get those big hits.

What would you add for advice on how to pitch a story? What should junior-level staffers keep in mind when working with the media? If you’re a journalist, what type of pitch works best on you? How can a PR professional establish themselves as a trusted source for you? PLEASE share your tips.

(Image Credit: President Obama Winds Up for the First Pitch 1 by sportsreference)

About Jeremy Porter 214 Articles
Jeremy Porter has been passionate about the intersection of public relations and journalism since studying both Public Relations and Journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University in the late 90s. Porter launched Journalistics in 2009 to share his ideas and insights around both professions and how trends and developments in modern day marketing, communications, and technology impact those working in these fields. Porter also values the traditions and history of both professions and regularly shares his perspective in these areas - and related topics geared toward the next generation of journalism and public relations professionals.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the tips! Just a few months ago my role was changed to external communications at a company and I’ve had to learn the PR side of the business. I have a degree in journalism, so it helps, but I’m still having to overcome the learning curve. I have a hard time pitching stories because I’m not an official spokesperson, so I really can’t sit on the phone and answer all a reporter’s questions for fear of being quoted (it’s happened). Aside from having my boss (who is a spokesperson) sit there next to me, do you have any advice? I’d hate to waste the reporter’s time and tell them to call our media line with any additional questions, only to have to take a message and have a spokesperson call him/her back.

  2. Great tips! I am new to PR as well and am on the same page as Ashley. Do you have any tips for us “newbies” if we don’t have all the information for the reporter, but still want to keep their interest? Sometimes they need the information right away and aren’t willing to wait for an interview. What’s the best way to handle this situation?

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