PR professionals are constantly searching for the perfect pitch and, as a team, we have spent hours upon hours perfecting our strategy for our crowdfunding and retained clients. We reached out to journalists through Help A Reporter Out (HARO) and asked for their feedback about what a perfect pitch is to them in 10 questions. Here are some of the questions I asked them:

  1. How do you like being pitched? Do you like having your name in the subject and reference to past articles?
  2. Do you like when PR people reach out to build a relationship? What do you look for in a productive relationship between a PR rep and yourself?
  3. When do you like to be pitched (morning, afternoon, around lunch, etc.)?
  4. Do you prefer follow up emails or phone calls?
  5. What was the most memorable pitch you’ve received?
  6. What would make you choose a pitch to write about over another?
  7. Are images, GIFS, videos, etc. important to include?
  8. What do you think of catchy or funny subject lines?
  9. What are your thoughts about being pitched via Twitter?
  10. Are samples important to getting coverage?

HOPE GIBBS

The perfect pitch is one that answers the question I’m looking to write about. Ditto for responding to queries from reporters on HARO. You have to give the reporter short, effective information to help them do their job well. After all, it’s not what’s in it for the client to benefit — it’s what’s in it for the story to be great. That’s always the goal.

My three tips for the perfect pitch: Be concise. Be interesting. Be available to talk more.

JOHN METZGER

John Metzger made the leap from journalism to PR and is currently the CEO of Metzger Albee Public Relations. He was a magazine editor in the 1980s, covered wars in Central America, and evolved into high-tech trade magazines to eventually start one of the first tech PR firms in the country.

How do you like being pitched? Do you like having your name in the subject and reference to past articles?

I’m a little different animal these days in that I started out as a journalist — from covering wars in Central America to editing some of the first high-tech trade magazines, I was pitched by media relations professionals before we knew what “pitching” or “media relations” was. Back then, it was more of a ‘free-for-all’ and I was approached from every angle and from every PR-type imaginable. The best rose to the top by understanding exactly what my beat or my publication was all about, what I had covered, and perhaps what I should be covering, and then helping me out by, frankly, doing my work for me. I was so busy that I really appreciated someone being able to package some quality, objective editorial material including text and graphics that made my overworked life easier. Though we didn’t have email back then, the most important and relevant publishings took place around phone calls and in-person meetings. In reality, that’s how the best work happens today. Email may be the hook, but a conversation has to ensue to carry forward the depth and breadth of a great story and editorial placement.

Do you like when PR people reach out to build a relationship? What do you look for in a productive relationship between a PR rep and yourself?

I never liked being schmoozed for the sake of it, but that said, if I knew a PR person was representing an important organization that was relevant to my publication, I wanted to know them and have a relationship. Meeting for breakfasts, lunches and dinners, particularly at trade shows, was perfectly acceptable way of being schmoozed. I was glad to be plied with food and drink by people I knew would be instrumental in keeping me informed on important news and information — but that never gained them any particular favoritism, as I would only meet with them because they represented clients or categories that mattered to me. I looked at them as sources, not people I owed favors to.

When do you like to be pitched (morning, afternoon, around lunch, etc.)?

The general rule is that reporters research their stories in the morning, then write them in the afternoon, and file at EOD deadline. So, mornings are generally best, but you need to consider the publication itself to gauge time of week or month. Metro daily reporters driven by breaking news live entirely different lives than monthly magazine editors, and weekly reporters have entirely different cycles as well. Still, mornings are generally best, and as a young PR pro on the West Coast and then in the Mountain Time Zone, it was my habit to hit up the East Coast media first thing in the morning. Though the media is now much more dispersed, I’ve never lost that habit of VERY early to rise and get on the phone or emails.

Do you prefer follow up emails or phone calls?

Emails really are more convenient, as they allow for floating response time. Catching a phone call is always disruptive, but sometimes necessary.

What was the most memorable pitch you’ve received?

I covered military topics for years, and was pitched some major introductions such as the Apache helicopter, the Abrams tank, the Beretta 92SB replacing the venerable Colt .45 sidearm for the U.S. military. As an early high-tech trade editor, I was pitched some of the first CAD (Computer-Aided Design) programs like Autocad, which completely changed the fields of architecture, engineering and manufacturing.

What would make you choose a pitch to write about over another?

I always want to be the hottest with the most-est. Anything to get the scoop on anything as long as it was directly relevant to my readers.

Are images, GIFS, videos, etc. important to include?

Always.

What do you think of catchy or funny subject lines?

They are great if they work, terrible if they don’t.

What are your thoughts about being pitched via Twitter?

If that’s how a particular reporter wants to be pitched, then fine.

ALISON PODWORSKI

Alison Podworski is a former television news reporter and is currently the owner of Alison May Public Relations in Massachusetts. She is also a contributing writer for Women’s Prospects.

My advice for the perfect pitch is to first, think about why would the the reporter want to cover the story? Why would the public care about it? For example if you just created a new sunscreen, provide the media with skin cancer survivors who can tell their story and the importance of sunscreen.

  • Write an eye-catching sentence in the email subject line.
  • Don’t use all capitals or exclamation marks; you are not shouting at them.
  • It’s all about the headline in the press release. Write a compelling headline that is going make them want to read more. Keep it real and do not exaggerate.
  • Add a video or images.
  • Use bullet points.
  • Get to the point and get to the pitch in the first paragraph.
  • Keep the press release short because no one has time to read a two-page press release.
  • Use social media to your advantage and tweet or tag the media.

How do you like being pitched? Do you like having your name in the subject and reference to past articles?

When I was a news reporter, the best way to reach out to me was email. I was on the road covering stories most of the day, so I had very little time to chat on the phone. It made a big difference if those pitching to me actually watched my stories on TV and knew what I covered.

Do you like when PR people reach out to build a relationship?

When I was a reporter, I loved having a relationship with PR folks. I knew what clients they had, so if I needed a person to speak on a specific topic, I knew who to call.  I knew that the PR team would get me an interview fast and would provide me with any information, video or pictures needed.

What do you look for in a productive relationship between a PR rep and yourself?

The best relationship is an honest one. When I was a reporter I needed to know the PR rep was giving me the full story. I also needed them to understand that I wasn’t always going to be able to cover the story or breaking news happenings.

When do you like to be pitched (morning, afternoon, around lunch, etc.)?

Morning was always best because if it was a story that they wanted covered, I could try to fit it in the schedule. Once we were out on the road for the day, it was tough to get through emails and set up stories.

Do you prefer follow up emails or phone calls?

I always liked follow up emails, again because I was either doing an interview or on air, so emails worked best.

What was the most memorable pitch you’ve received?

When I worked in Springfield, MA I received a pitch from a local college PR manager. He was also a former journalist, so he knew exactly how to pitch. He had a guest speaker coming to the college. I swear, if the press release came from anyone else, we would have overlooked it, but the way he wrote it- made us want to cover the speaker.

What would make you choose a pitch to write about over another?

When I worked in news, the PR rep needed to tell me why the viewers would care. It’s not about a business or product, it’s about a story. If you are a sunscreen company, don’t tell me about your new spf product. Give me a person who now wears your sunscreen because they had skin cancer and now wear it everyday.

Are images, GIFS, videos, etc. important to include?

Yes, the more images, links, videos, the better. Journalists are very busy and don’t have a lot of time to do research. If the PR rep provides them with everything they need in one document, they just made their lives much easier.

What do you think of catchy or funny subject lines?

I think subject lines are critical in drawing in a journalist’s attention. But, I am not a fan of funny subject lines. They need to draw me in, but don’t be too cliche, dramatic or lie.

What are your thoughts about being pitched via Twitter?

When I was a reporter, Twitter was not that big, so I can’t answer to that. As a publicist, I do use Twitter and have not had a ton of success. I am old school, send an email.

Are samples important to getting coverage?

I think it depends on what you are pitching. For example, if you are pitching a product that should be seen in person, I would send a sample. A video and internet can only do so much.

JENNIFER LEE MAGAS

Jennifer worked for NPR radio and is currently the Vice President of Magas Media Consultants, a PR agency that combines the best of traditional PR with online PR.

  1. KISS (Keep It Short and Simple)

No editor wants to read through mountains of paragraphs to get at whatever product or news you’re trying to promote. The KISS Principle really applies here in terms of writing; keep your pitch to the bare essentials with no more than 150 words. It’s totally fine to start drafting your pitch however long you like – in fact, I find that longer is better in this initial phase to jot down thoughts – but trim it down substantially when finalizing.

  1. Wait Until They Bite

I think of PR like fishing; there’s a sea full of reporters and editors, and our job is to cast out a fancy line (or in this case pitch them a story) in hopes of them biting. When fishing, you want to make sure not to give out too much bait and be patient with things.

You’ll want to apply these same principles to your pitch -don’t give out too much information on initial contact. Going along with rule#1, keep everything short and to the point so that you don’t dilute the email with fluff. Offer a press kit or press release upon request; if the reader is interested, they’ll ask for more information.

  1. Personalize It

One of the most important things to remember is that your pitch needs to be tailored to your audience. The same pitch won’t work for different types of audiences, so you need to figure out what they will respond to and how you can get them hooked, and adjust this each time you’re pitching something.

  1. Study Up

Once you determine your audience, you need to figure out your main talking points, and practice how you’re going to relay these to them. This means rehearsing and researching as much as you possibly can. In doing your research, you need to become an expert at what you’re pitching, so you can ready to answer any questions the audience might have.

  1. Don’t Fake It

Regardless of the type of audience you’re pitching to, no one is going to respond to what you have to say if you don’t appear passionate. Convince the audience that you truly believe in what you’re pitching, and do this through your knowledge and your tone of voice. Be sincere when you’re talking to them, and don’t just rely on facts to seal the deal.

  1. Bullet Points

Editors and reporters love bullet points. Starting an email off with a quick sentence followed by a few key bullet points allows the reader to get a quick and dirty glimpse of what you’re offering. Even better, it gives them an easy way to go back and reference things since you took the time to separate items via a simplified list. If you give them pages and pages to look at, you’re going to lose them.

TRISH HOFFMAN

Trish is a reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience in covering business news, general news, sports and weather, on television, radio and online. Since 2005 she has also worked as a PR executive when she was plucked off of the anchor desk by a friend who needed a media strategist.

Crafting the pitch is key! It all starts with my client’s story. Without that, there is no pitch!

Once I determine whether the story is newsworthy, I go to my reporter, producer and anchor contact list to find the best fit. Now that I’ve been in the business for 10 plus years, I have established a nice media list with journalists who know when I call, I have a newsworthy pitch that’s customized just for them!

I’ve also learned how they want to receive these pitches…some like me to text their cell with a sentence of what the story is…tonight I have a client on CNN and that pitch started with a text to the host of the show. Within minutes I booked my client!

When pitching journalists, I am very careful to do my homework. What sector do they cover and what’s their style of writing. Some are really humorous and open to an idea they didn’t consider while others are very pragmatic and will stay in their lane no matter how perfect your pitch is.

Journalists have to trust you! They have to know you are presenting a guest who can talk in soundbites, and get the message across in seconds. If you’re pitching a story for television news, you also have to be sure your client will look good on the air when it comes to presentation and their style and speak clearly. Journalists need to count on PR teams to bring it all…much like a present all wrapped up and tied with a bow. When I’m wearing my reporter hat, I look for the same…I look for pitches that have a clear and fluid message. I prefer pitches via email so I can review the pitch as often as I need to while considering to use it and then while writing my story, whether for print or broadcast.

The Perfect Pitch

It’s so important for the person pitching me to have a strong story hook that’s connected to what I’m writing about. Pitches can take on a life of their own after I receive one. If they are really good, they can offer a fresh perspective and direction for the story in the long run.

Be sure to know your story and how it can benefit the story I’m writing. I get a lot of pitches everyday, so it’s important for me to trust you as a source of information and the same goes for your client. Don’t connect me to your client if he or she can’t get their point across. Make sure you prep your client before a call…it really does make life easier.

Have fun and enjoy the challenge because whether you are a journalist or a public relations pro, it’s a lot of work but such a thrill when you see your client on the air…or your reporter story making a difference.