Earlier this month, I wrote about how to see if your press releases are working effectively. Within the blog, I briefly touched upon the concept of ‘pitching’. This is when a PR professional contacts a magazine and briefly submits an article idea to a journalist. Rather than simply sending a basic press release, a feature pitch outlines the story idea and provides the journalist with the necessary tools to be able to visualise the whole story.
With my predominantly PR-based background, I’ve spent many hours crafting the perfect article pitch to send to journalists. Since taking over as editor of Social Work News magazine, it’s been interesting to have a foot on the other side of the door (so to speak) and see how other people send through pitches. Some are fantastically written and immediately pique my interest, whilst occasionally I receive pitches which leave a lot to be desired.
With that in mind, I asked the collective hive over at the Freelance PR’s group on Facebook to share their insights and suggestions for how to maximise the impact of a PR pitch.
Do your background research
The priority before submitting any article pitch is to do your due diligence. Are you pitching to the right magazine? There is nothing more unprofessional than sending through a pitch idea or a press release to a completely irrelevant publication.
Is your idea something that the magazine is likely to cover? Have they written something similar recently – if so, how does your idea differ?
Always take the time to read the publication in full before you send anything out. Many publications (particularly trade magazines) provide editorial guidelines/pitch guides on their websites so take the time to research this first.
With my editor’s hat on, there’s nothing worse than a pitch from someone who has clearly never glanced at your publication.
If you can’t find the title in your local newsagents, or you haven’t got the budget to purchase copious magazines and newspapers then make use of tools such as Press Reader or even Amazon Prime/Kindle Unlimited. You can use these to read through the latest issues often free of charge. Use this to your advantage!
Think about your approach
Once you know which journalist you want to target (usually the commissioning editor) think about your introduction. Look at what previous articles they’ve written and gain an idea of their style.
You need to pitch your article to the journalist and explain why it’s relevant for their readers.
Fiona Scott suggests that a good approach is to send an email which clearly states “I really enjoyed the article you wrote last month on ABC, if you are ever writing about this subject in the future I work with DEF and they’d be more than happy to comment or take part in any issue around ABC.”
You may also want to provide suggestions of where you think that the article could fit within the publication. If there’s a set column or segment which is appropriate, then make sure you reference it – it will show the journalist that you’ve thought about how it works for that specific publication.
It’s the details that matter
Within the article pitch, you want to truly ‘sell in’ your idea.
You can offer suggestions for headlines, ideas for people that they can interview and explain what images you have available to support the story.
Try to avoid sending through images via attachments – a journalist’s inbox is notoriously full, so large attachments are a no-no.
If you do have photos, make sure you consider whether the publication prefers portrait or landscape images. Broadly speaking, images need to be at least 300 dpi to be suitable for print purposes (you can find this out by right-clicking the image>properties>details).
Personally, I always include the photo caption in the image file name. It’s also good practice to know who to attribute the photo credit to.
Always consider the “why”
I think that this is the crux of your approach. You should always consider the “why” of your pitch. Why is the story interesting and why should the journalist (and their readers) care?
If you can’t answer this question, then you need to rethink your approach.
With my journalistic background, I’ve received hundreds of press releases where my immediate reaction has been “why on earth has that been sent to me?”. Clearly, this is not the reaction you want for your lovingly crafted pitch, so try to view it with objective eyes.
The more time you spend on the preparation of your pitch, the better the chance of success!
Finally, when concluding your pitch, always make sure you leave a friendly and approachable sign-off. As Sarah Hawes says; “think about building a future relationship with the editor, not just getting something in once.”