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Pitching the media – Get It Right the First Time

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Have you ever thought about pitching a journalist? Most brands focus on digital marketing or content marketing to attract high-value leads. But public relations is a great way to build your authority, gain free press for your small business, and scale your customer base.

With the rise of sites like HARO and SourceBottle or Twitter’s #JournoRequest, you don’t need to hire PR professionals to get media coverage. You can now respond directly to journalists’ requests or cold pitch the media and get published again and again.

I’m going to show you how. In this blog, we’ll cover.

  • How to research and target the right media outlet for your brand
  • How to choose an angle for your story
  • How to write email subject lines that create interest right away
  • How to write media pitches that get published
  • How to create a call-to-action that gives your media pitch the edge

I’ve spent the last few years building my public relations strategy. I’ve responded to media requests and pitched contributor articles to editors. I’ve heard “no” many times, but I’ve also received that all-important “yes” email. And with over 1oo press mentions, I know what it takes to become news.

Step by step on how to pitch your story to the media
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    What is a media pitch?

    A media pitch is a concise, personalized message to an editor or journalist at a magazine, newspaper, blog, podcast, radio, or television station. It’s designed to entice the reporter or editor to contact you and learn more about your small business or brand.

    It can be sent via email; through direct messages on social media networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; or you can call the journalist. You can also respond directly to a media pitch on sites like HARO, JustReachOut, and SourceBottle, to name a few.

    Are media pitches the same as press releases?

    No. A media pitch differs from a press release in its format and objective.

    Think of your pitch as a snippet. The purpose of a media pitch is to spark interest in a reporter, enough that they want to know more and are prepared to contact you to get the full story. So your pitch needs to deliver value and be relevant. An example of a great media pitch is to lead with data.  Journalists are always on the lookout for compelling data trends.

    Press releases, on the other hand, tell the whole story. They don’t necessarily require a follow-up interview and can be published as-is. For example, your press release will include who, what, where, when, why, and how. It’s the full message.

    Why pitch the media?

    The goal of media pitching is to:

    1. Build your authority in your industry
    2. Get backlinks to your website
    3. Attract more qualified leads to your website
    4. Grow your business

    Responding to press opportunities: Where do you start

    What I love most about responding to media requests is you don’t have to build a relationship with the journalist. So you can skip the research phase and months of strengthening media relations (engaging the journalist on social media, asking what stories they’re working on and how you can be of assistance). All you need isa pitch with a hook that’s relevant.

    Responding to press opportunities differs from cold pitching because the journalist already has an angle for their article. Now they’re looking for a source to provide a new idea, data, or stories to bolster their news piece.

    Here are a few sites you can use to respond to media requests:

    Free resources:

    1. HARO – https://www.helpareporter.com (strong US focus)
    2. SourceBottle – https://www.sourcebottle.com (strong Australian focus)
    3. JournoRequests – https://www.journorequests.com (#JournoRequests on Twitter, strong UK focus)

    Paid-for resources:

    • JustReachOut – https://justreachout.io (strong US focus)
      • Packages are tiered to cater to your needs – choose between Simple Outreach, Advanced Outreach, or Guided Outreach.
      • Includes one-on-one guidance from former journalists on how to respond, which publications to target, reviewing content, and much more.
    • ResponseSource – https://www.responsesource.com (strong UK focus)
      • Cost – varies depending on which category you’d like to monitor.
      • Includes direct contact details of the journalist, the size of the publication, and the value of the article.

    Cold pitching: What is it?

    For cold pitching, it’s your job to come up with an idea or angle for a story. It needs to be relevant to the publication’s audience, and you have to sell it to the journalist or news team. This is a lot more time-intensive than media pitching because you need to research the journalist’s written work, build a relationship, write a compelling media pitch and have your news article ready to send if the editor agrees to review it.

    Pro tip: It helps to get someone who is a contributor or has a relationship with journalists at a particular news outlet to introduce you. This gives you the best chance of getting your email opened, read, and your story published.

    So let’s start by looking at how to write a cold media pitch.

    7 Steps on how to write a media pitch

    To get coverage for your story, you must include these important elements in your media pitch.

    Every media pitch request these 7 elements

    1. Make your subject line count.

    Just like in email marketing, subject lines are the heartbeat of your media pitch. Get it wrong and the journalist won’t open your email. Journalists are masters at crafting eye-catching headlines, so make your subject line stand out.

    Sites like Sharethrough Headline Optimizer help you to fine-tune your subject line.

    2. Establish Credibility.

    To become a media source, you need to establish credibility. Explain what makes you qualified to speak on the story you’re pitching. For example, what relevant information can you share that would make a journalist give your story a second look.
    • Are you famous?
    • Have you written a best-selling book or pioneered some social movement?
    • Have you built a multimillion-dollar company in a year?
    • Are you a contributor to other media outlets (example, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Financial Times)?
    For example, to establish credibility you could write something like:

    Hi (insert name),

    I handle PR for Allan Dib, a successful entrepreneur and the bestselling author of The 1-Page Marketing Plan, named by Huffington Post as one of the top ten marketing books for small businesses.


    Your previous work is vital to establishing you as an authority, so mention it early in your media pitch.

    3. State your lead.

    A lead is the story or idea. It’s the juicy bit of information that gets journalists interested.  It can be a news peg or a time peg. So a news peg focuses on a trending topic, whereas a time peg focuses on an upcoming event or date.

    Was your brand picked up by a celebrity and featured on their Instagram account? Has your company created a viral moment?

    4. Include a call-to-action.

    What do you want the journalist to do next?

    • Arrange an interview (example, on their podcast)
    • Write a product review
    • Mention your brand or company
    • Use your quote in a story they’re writing

    Be clear about the next steps. If you’ve enticed the editor with a few stats from a survey, offer to send the full report. They’ll know to contact you.

    5. Add a soundbite quote.

    Take a stance. Include a contrary opinion. Even if the reporter doesn’t feature your story, they may use your quote in a relevant article. Particularly when responding to HARO requests, you want to include a quote the publication can copy and paste into the articles they’re writing.

    6. Keep it brief.

    Media pitching requires precision. It’s not a time to waffle or show your talent for description. My tip is to be clear and concise but also demonstrate your value proposition. The best pitches create impact quickly. Using data is a great way to do this. Also consider taking a stand, sharing an opposing view, whatever.

    Here’s an example of a brief pitch.

    Example of a cold HARO pitch

    7. Sign off by recapping important details.

    Before signing off, you want to recap whom the pitch is for, their title, company URL, and include a headshot if possible. 

    • Name
    • Founder of 
    • Website URL
    • Headshot – Link to a shared Google Drive 
    • Social media links (bonus)

    And don’t forget to thank the journalist for their time.

    How do you effectively pitch the media?

    To stand out, you need to create interest and deliver value. Follow these top tips for pitching success.

    Ways to get your message across to the media

    Research the media outlet.

    When pitching media outlets, you want to follow their pitching guidelines. Most online publications will tell you if you must submit your media pitch to the editorial team or if you can email pitches directly to a journalist.

    So in the research phase, you want to search for the following.

    • Who are the media giants in your industry?
    • Who are the journalists that cover your industry? Which reporters are most likely to pick up your story and run with it?
    • What topics interest them and their audience? Do they like feel-good stories or hard-hitting ones?
    • Can you email your pitch directly to the journalist, or do you need to send it to a generic email address? For example, you can search for the media’s contact details on sites like Hunter.

    You also want to show you’ve done your research. For example, if you’re pitching to be on a podcast, make sure you’ve listened to a few of the episodes.

    Include the journalist's name in your subject line.

    Hubspot’s Not Another State of Marketing Report found that emails with the reader’s first name in the subject line had a higher clickthrough rate than those that don’t. Remember, editors and journalists may receive hundreds of pitches each day, so personalizing the subject line gives you a leg up.

    Be clear on your intentions.

    Do you want to pitch a news story, or is your goal to become a regular contributor? Your media pitch needs to convey your point clearly. So be direct but professional.

    Here’s an example.

    I’d like to write for Entrepreneur magazine as a contributor. What is the best way to apply?

    or

    I am looking to apply to write for Entrepreneur as a contributor. Are you the correct person to chat with?

    Build a relationship.

    Journalists who know you and like you are more open to running your story. Think about your inbox. You’re more likely to open an email from someone you know, so it’s vital to stay in touch with a journalist long after they’ve accepted your pitch.

    Whether this means following their social account and liking or commenting on their posts, or emailing them to say you enjoyed an article they wrote, keep in touch.

    Respond quickly to press opportunities.

    Most journalist requests are time-sensitive. For the best chance of success, respond within 15 to 30 minutes of a HARO post going live. If you’re cold pitching and the journalist likes your idea, you need to send through a completed article within 48 hours. Take too long, and they’ll have forgotten about your story and will have moved on.

    Give them a compelling reason to choose you.

    Do you have a substantial email database? Maybe you have a podcast that gets a ton of views or a social media page with tens of thousands of engaged followers?

    Offering to share the published article or interview with your connections can give your media pitch the edge over someone who maybe doesn’t have a large target audience to promote it. So don’t be afraid to persuade. I like to include this as a P.S., but you can add it above your contact details.

    For example,

    P.S. My email list comprises 45,000 owners/entrepreneurs of small businesses whom I’d share your article with. I’m also happy to promote the post on my social networks.

    Format your pitch.

    How you lay out your pitch can influence whether the journalist reads it or closes the email before looking at it.

    Make the email as easy to read as possible. Approach it like you would a blog article (learn how to write a blog post for beginners here). Format your response to include:

    • all caps
    • bold text
    • upweighted fonts
    • bullet points
    • quotes
    • italics

    Follow up.

    Journalists are incredibly busy, and they receive thousands of pitches each week.  You want to follow up on your pitch two or three days after emailing it. But don’t make your subject line Re: (Original pitch subject line).

    Common mistakes when pitching the media

    Six things you shouldn't do when pitching the media
    • Responding to pitches where you don’t meet the basic requirements. What are they looking for? If they ask for a female entrepreneur based in San Francisco, that’s what they want. Don’t waste your or their time pitching if you don’t meet those requirements. Also, if they ask for 150 words on the benefits of email marketing, don’t overshoot and send them a mini-essay totalling 400 words. They won’t even read it. So read the requirements before doing anything.
    • Not checking the pitch deadline. When is the pitch due? If they need the pitch by 12 PM EST, Friday, 4 June, don’t email your request after that time. Also, make sure you can make yourself available for an interview. If you’re not in the right timezone or prepared to get up in the wee hours of the morning, don’t pitch.
    • Pitching the wrong person or publication. Media outlets have an editorial enquiries or editorial guidelines section. Sometimes, this can be a brief sentence in the tertiary menu or the site or an entire page. Here they’ll list whom to pitch your ideas to. Do your homework before emailing your pitch or reaching out to a journalist on Twitter. If you send it to the wrong person, it’ll get ignored. Send too many, and you’ll get blacklisted.

      For example, in Forbes editorial enquiries section, they list exactly how to get in touch with their journalists.

    Forbes
    • Nothing new to share. Journalists are looking for sources with fresh ideas or a new take on a particular subject. They don’t want generic responses that they’ve seen a couple hundred times. They want to break the news, so don’t pitch if you don’t have something compelling to share.
    • Forgetting to proofread your pitch. That’s right, spelling and grammar mistakes are a no-no. They make you look unprofessional, so clean up your pitch with something like Grammarly or the Hemingways App.
    • No formatting. Make your pitch easy to read. If you send a wall of text, they’re not going to look at it. So use short sentences. Introduce bullet points, italics, numbers, bold, uppercase text, quotes, etc.

    Media pitch examples

    Media pitching doesn’t need to be scary or the job of PR professionals. Use these media pitch examples to get your story coverage.

    Cold pitch example template

    Hi (journalist’s name),

    I know you’re one of the editors at Entrepreneur, I’m a good friend of (state the mutual connection) who (contributes to your magazine, was featured on your show, etc). He/she mentioned I should reach out.

    (Introduce yourself and establish credibility. If you’ve been mentioned in the press or are a regular contributor to a particular publication, list it).

    Every day I help small to medium sized businesses across the U.S. troubleshoot their marketing. These four mistakes kept cropping up, so I wrote a piece on how to fail at small business marketing, and actionable tips to turn it around.

    Check it out here: (include clickable link)

    If you like what you see, and you’re interested, here are three other ideas that I want to flesh out for your (name of magazine / show).

    • Title of article
    • Title of article
    • Title of article

    Happy to chat if you need more info, I’ve got tons of great insight and data to share withr the readers of (publication or podcast name).

    All the best,

    – (Insert name)

    P.S. My mailing list comprises roughly XXXXX (state who your target audience is) whom I’d share the article with. I’m also happy to promote the post on my social networks. (If you have a podcast, include it here as well.)

    Podcast example template

    Hey (insert name),(Business name or authority) is a fan of (insert podcast name) and loved the recent episode where you talked about (podcast topic).

    (Establish credibility and mention why you’re a good fit guest for the podcast. Tailor this part to the podcast as well.)

    Here’s why (he/she) would be an excellent fit for your show.

    • (list only compelling information)

    Would you be interested in having (him/her) on as a guest.

    (Name) has been interviewed on a number of podcasts, here are just some of them:

    1. List and hyperlink to episode
    2. ____
    3. ____

    Here are two ideas we’d love to focus on during the interview:

    Topic #1—

    (Review the podcast episode titles and write a topic that fits in but still creates buzz. Make sure it’s relevant to their audience.)

    Topic #2—

    (…And another one here.)

    Curious to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks so much,

    – (Your name)

    P.S. We’d be happy to share your podcast with (mention # of email list subscribers), and we’d include a short audio clip on social media, linking to your account and the full podcast.

    Here’s an example of a podcast pitch which resulted in a response.

    Example template for pitching yourself as a guest for a podcast

    Warm pitch (responding to HARO) template

    Subject line: Pitch: (Include the journalist’s request)

    Hi (insert name),

    (Introduce who you are and establish credibility—basically a short bio that highlights your experience and mentions noteworthy info. Tell the journalist why they should choose your pitch.)

    (Include a teaser line that relates to the journalist’s request and possibly takes a stand.)

    (REPEAT/REPHRASE THE JOURNALIST’S QUESTION.)

    (Add your sound bite quote. Keep it short and punchy. Use emotive language. Add personality to your response. Remember the journalist should be able to copy and paste your quote directly into their article.)

    • (Back up your argument. Use relevant stats, reasons why, examples of, etc. Bullet points work best.)
    • Another stat, etc.
    • Another stat, etc.

    (Include another great quote. One sentence is best.)

    (Then sign off your email pitch and let them know if you’re available to chat. Mention you’ve got tons of great advice and data to back up their story, and if you have a large social following or customer database, you’ll want to let the journalist know (as this can influence their decision to use your post or not). Say you’d be happy to share the article with this list.

    All the best,

    (Your name)

    (Business name or your designation)

    (Web address)

    (Include a link to a cloud-based folder that contains web-ready visuals for the journalist.)


    Take a look at this example. It highlights the journalist’s questions in bold and includes short, compelling answers.

    Example of how to layout your media pitch

    Make your media pitches count.

    Writing a media pitch doesn’t have to be hard, but it’s a numbers game. Businesses worldwide are trying to get coverage for their brand. Many use PR agencies who’ve spent years writing media pitches and building relationships with journalists.  Follow the tips listed above, and you’ll give your stories a fighting chance.

    Remember, media pitches and press releases are not the same, but both should be a part of your PR strategy. If you want to learn how to write a press release, check out the link.

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