The Anatomy of a Successful Pitch


When someone asks me for advice on pitching reporters, I always think back to an article by Business Insider’s Alyson Shontell outlining some best practices of pitching via e-mail. Back when it was first published, I immediately thought it should be mandatory reading for PR people so I saved it in my files to re-read again (and again). I still find the information to be of value, so I thought I’d share some of my key take-aways.

Start off with a bang: Unless you have a rapport with the reporter, your email title and first sentence are the two most important parts of your pitch. You need to be concise while providing enough information; creative and intriguing while still getting the point across. Make sure to include information that will be most interesting and relevant to that specific reporter – if it’s the VC and not the start-up name that you include in your e-mail title, so be it. If you get the reporter to read your full pitch based on the first line and title alone, consider it a win.

Who are you, again?: Like most of us, reporters can tell when they’re BCC’d on a mass e-mail, and they don’t appreciate it! Take the time to know who you’re connecting with. Know what they’ve covered and angles they’d like to pursue. Sure, it can take double, maybe even triple the time to pitch when you have to research every reporter, but it’s time well spent.

Get to the point: Pitch the story, don’t tell the story. This pitch isn’t your college thesis – it should be factual, simple and to the point. Speaking of point, bullet points are a good way to lighten up a wordy pitch. Reporters respond better when information is readily available and organized.

What’s the scoop?: The best thing you can offer a reporter is a scoop or an exclusive; the worst thing you can offer is an embargoed piece of news that they know will be covered by every other news outlet when said embargo is lifted. If your client really wants Business Insider to cover their news, than offer it exclusively to Business Insider. That’s not to say your offer will be accepted (or even earn you an email response!), but there’s no doubt that it’s your best shot.

Most importantly, everyone has his or her own style of pitching. Some PR folks like to kick off their efforts with a call, while others start with an introductory e-mail. Some PR people prefer to work off of a script while I find scripts intimidating and like to approach my call as a ‘casual conversation’ rather than a ‘pitch’. Do what is most comfortable to you while being considerate of the reporter. It may take awhile but in the end, you’ll find your stride.

What am I missing? Leave us a comment below with your pitching best practices!

Post by Kristen Everett
Zer0 to 5ive Senior Strategist
Twitter: @krissyeverett