Perfecting your media pitch

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

By Mark G. Auerbach

I’ve been wearing two hats for decades, one as a public relations practitioner getting my clients’ names, products and services in lights, and one as a reporter, who is bombarded by similar folks wanting their names, programs and more to catch my attention.

In a world of understaffed, overworked press rooms and tired reporters with too much on their plates, you want to make sure that you have an effective media pitch made to the right person. Whether you’re offering yourself up as a resource, launching a product or service, or calling attention to someone or something of importance, you have to have a personalized pitch that is short, to the point, and effective, yet is exciting enough to catch a reporter’s eyes and ears. You also have to pitch the right story to the right reporter.

Over the holidays, a friend of a family member reached out to me with a pitch to be on my radio program. Her intro caught my eye. “I’m a friend of _____ who recommended that I reach out to you.” (Well, the friend of a friend, or the six degrees of Kevin Bacon approach usually works if the person you’re pitching likes the person you name-dropped). The pitch went on to say that she wanted to partner on my radio program, and she had a link to her website and another link to a podcast she’d appeared on. Her product and service had nothing to do with my ArtsBeat program, and although she was originally from the area, she wasn’t in the market. For her, I was a wasted pitch. She couldn’t connect her product with my content. For me, it was a waste of time, although I wrote back a nice response.

Find the right person for your pitch

First, make sure you’re pitching the right person at the source where you want coverage. You can do a little research from looking at a staff list or a masthead to ID the reporter(s) who might be appropriate. You might ask your ad rep (if you’re buying advertising from the media source). I’ve called switchboards before to ask who the appropriate person might be, or have Googled bylines.

Second, in these socially-distanced, work-from-home times, approach the reporter by email (I’ve also used Facebook Messenger and Twitter messaging), briefly tell them about your proposal, and ask them if you can email them more details. In this way, you’re building the foundation for a working relationship.

Then, make your pitch. Be short, to the point, and include links or references to more in-depth information. Ask them what kinds of deadlines they might need, and last of all, ask them for the name of the right person if it turns out they’re not the right person to pitch. And, repeat to the new person.

The necessities

The pitch must contain:

– Your contact information, which includes, besides your name, your title and company, your email address, and a phone number where you can be reached (include both office and cell). You would be amazed at how many people leave out this important information.

– The who, what, when, where, and why information of the event; the general details of the product or service you’re announcing, and the key points that make your coverage request relevant, timely, and important.

– What additional materials you can provide: in-depth product or service description, photos, audio, video you can provide; links to details, people you can make available for an interview, and anything else of relevance the reporter might need…along with the offer to provide these resources in a timely fashion.

Timing is everything. If you pitch someone for coverage on a Monday, and the event is on a Tuesday, time is not on your side. Give the reporter enough time to work the story, knowing full well that your story isn’t the only one being worked on.

And, as you should with every other contact you add to your Rolodex or media list, courtesy counts. Thank them for their time. If it’s an event you want covered (and they agree to), invite them. Once you’ve built a bridge with the prospective press contact, nurture the relationship.
Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on TV and radio on WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB. His new series, On The Mark, premiered in October.

Leave a Reply

The Self-Employment Survival Guide can help you succeed. Learn all about it here.

Self-Employment Survival Guide book cover