Journalists-Turned-PR-Pros Offer Tips on Pitching

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On March 4, Business Wire Seattle hosted a special luncheon event, “From News Cycle to Spin Cycle:
What I Learned Working Both Sides of the Pitch.”  At this event, moderated by Business Wire Vice President, New Media and Twitter voice Monika Maeckle, some 40 attendees took advice and posed questions to a panel composed of:

  • Chris Elliott, Group Manager, Weber Shandwick
  • David Postman, Senior Media Relations Manager, Vulcan Inc.
  • Marty McOmber, Communications Director, Casey Family Programs

All three panelists have extensive journalism experience in print and broadcast, with jobs ranging from beat reporter to nightly news producer.  Each was therefore able to relate how their previous journalism experience shapes their decision-making as a PR person, and discussed good and bad pitches they’ve both sent and received.  One of the key recommendations from the panel was that PR people need to learn to think like reporters — Poynter Online was suggested as a resource for learning how journalists are trained and what are the key topics among reporters.

Among the other points offered by the panel:

  • Use eye-catching, concise email subject lines.  The subject should grab one’s attention and the body of the email should be short. Keep it simple.
  • Develop relationships with beat reporters before you pitch them. Send a note saying you liked their article in Monday’s paper and email a link to a similar story that they might like to read.
  • If a reporter complains that you did not give him/her a story, offer another angle to the story or an exclusive on your next story.
  • Don’t call a reporter to ask if he/she received your email.   (And don’t tweet them to ask, either.)  If you haven’t heard back in a couple of days, feel free to email again. Some emails can get missed or auto-deleted (see tip 1).
  • Contact the correct reporter. If you’re pitching a restaurant story, do not contact the tech blogger.
  • Pay attention to social media, but know which social media is relevant to your industry. Do not dismiss the 17-year-old bloggers; they might have more influence than you think.
  • Thinking more like a reporter means doing your homework before sending your pitch.  Google the reporter. Read their work to learn what kind articles he/she writes.
  • Don’t bury the lede of your story in the fourth paragraph of your press release.  Get to the point in the first two sentences.

Keep in mind, all of these tips relate to working with journalists, but work just as well for targeting bloggers and other nontraditional media as well.

Local Business Wire offices host several events each year on PR, IR and media topics.  Check out the Business Wire Events page to find an upcoming event in your area.

One Response to Journalists-Turned-PR-Pros Offer Tips on Pitching

  1. Former Journalists on Pitching Journalists…

    Business Wired, the blog of the Business Wire press release service has a nice post for those who pitch journalists on story ideas: “Journalists-Turned-PR-Pros Offer Tips on Pitching”……

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