Pitch Perfect: How Your Story Can Break Through The Saturated News Cycle

As a journalist, my  best stories have come from people giving me a call to tell me about what’s “going on.” But to get one good pitch I have to go through dozens of bad ones.” My email inbox is a graveyard for ineffective pitches. You have to pitch journalists but journalists have to pitch their managers and there are some clear questions they will be asked.

  1. Who Cares? It’s the harsh question you don’t get to hear, but is the foundation of every pitch. Is the idea self serving or does it impact the broader community? Is that community aligned with the journalism organization’s target audience? 

  2. Journalists are not part of your marketing or PR team. Yes, covering a story will give people exposure, however the focus is on what the audience will respond to and not what it will do for you. Marketing is about the business and journalism is about the customer. Focus on the problem you are trying to solve for and pitch from that area of expertise. For all other intentions, there’s a sales department at each organization where companies or individuals can buy advertisements.
  3. It’s Not News: It’s not timely. It’s not unique. It doesn’t impact people. It doesn’t call people to action. It doesn’t impact their safety. We’ve done the story before. It’s not….new.

  4. Bad Timing: I was getting PR pitches during the NYC subway mass shooting about things that had nothing to do with that story that was dominating coverage for the entire day. Those sending the pitch either automated the email or are not paying attention. I couldn’t tell you what the pitch was because I didn’t read it and I didn’t go back to it either. Another timing issue is trying to pitch when a journalist is close to their deadline. I always say a good rule of thumb is to pitch your story between 7:30am – 9am before editorial meetings. 

  5. You are pitching the wrong person/outlet. Does the journalist you are targeting do stories in your area? I did stories mainly regarding equity, criminal justice reform, and education. I may get pitches about new cookbooks, or something regarding animals or something else outlandish that I don’t specialize in. Does the journalism organization even cover those stories? Just as journalism organizations have to be clear about their audience, you do too. 

  6. There are limited resources: The most pressing, timely and impactful stories get the most resources. When a tanker exploded on the highway a helicopter, reporter, and photographers are sent to the scene leaving few resources for other stories. It’s also important to remember that there are fewer people working during the early morning, late evenings and weekend shifts when compared to regular working hours on Monday – Friday. If you have an event you want coverage for, you improve your chances when you have it when the organization has the most resources. 

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