The most rewarding – and maybe the hardest – part of working at a top tech PR agency is pitching stories to media. There’s no tougher audience than a journalist, especially in tech. If you think you get a lot of emails in a day, journalists get ten times more, at least. The challenge for PR people is to break into their inboxes, and we can only do that by meeting their needs as well as our own.
In addition to proper research and targeting, there are ways to draft a pitch that will actually be read. Making it personal is a great starting point. Here are six ways to customize a media pitch so journalists read it and respond.
The easiest way to personalize a pitch is to mention a journalist’s past stories or segments. This works well in our field of B2B tech PR, but it’s a pretty universal principle. Tell the journalist you enjoyed their piece on retail media networks or thought an article on data privacy was interesting. Call out specific points that stood out or share your take on the trend. Be genuine, and make sure you then segue seamlessly to the pitch. As Suzanne Struglinski of Industry Dive says, “PR tip of the day – have you read, watched or listened to anything done recently by that journalist in that news outlet you want to cover your news? No? Time to fix that.” Following top journalists, consuming their content consistently, and reacting to it in meaningful ways will help when it comes to personalizing any outreach.
An overly generic subject line is a story-killer, so if you’re including a tidbit on a recent story or appearance, flag it in the subject line. It’ll instantly tell the journalist that your pitch is personalized rather than the result of a mass mail-merge. Naturally, it will be more likely to catch their attention. But be sure to follow through in your pitch so that the email doesn’t come across as a bait-and-switch type of note.
Journalists often make great panel moderators. They know their industry and know the questions that get a conversation started and keep it flowing. Speakers’ panels are great tools to get insight on relevant topics and gain an understanding of priority media. Mention a journalist’s most recent panel or speaking gig in your pitch, and offer feedback. It will show engagement, and let’s face it, everyone appreciates an audience.
Once you’ve secured a great opportunity, use it to your advantage. Remind the journalist that you chatted previously, or that they covered one of the stories you offered. Assuming it went well, they’ll likely be keen to hear from the same executive or be open to a fresh pitch involving the company. Or, you may be able to refer to a colleague or mutual journalist friend to help them make the connection.
Similarly, feel free to mention a post or tweet from the journalist in your pitch. Obviously, it shows you’re paying attention and may help build a rapport. However, we don’t recommend pitching a journalist via Twitter or other social platform. They probably get enough direct messages, and it’s not smart to add to those unless they’ve invited DM pitches, or if it’s absolutely the last resort. But of course if you see a journalist tweet about a trend relevant to a story you’re pitching or a post asking for POVs from industry experts, you should reference it in your pitch.
Following journalists on social media also offers tips and insights. They’re not shy about what they personally do and do not want to see in their inbox from PR people. Some despise getting pitches that offer an exclusive chat with an executive or don’t appreciate receiving commentary on breaking news.
This has less to do with what goes into your pitch than how you do it. You will likely have multiple reporters from the same publication on your list, but instead of pitching all at once, offer your story or interview to a single journalist. If they don’t get back to you after 24 hours or so, move on to the next. Through our media outreach efforts here at Crenshaw, we’ve found that reporters appreciate when they’re the only one pitched at their publication. If you think they don’t know who else at their outlet you’ve contacted, you’re wrong. Journalists at the same publications are having the same conversations with their editors and will find out if they received the same pitch. This might seem tedious but in the end you could create a great relationship with that journalist who bites.