3 rules when pitching a story

By: Hope Salyer

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Source: Janet Murray

Public relations specialists have to keep up with the latest trends and news going on around the world in order to better serve their clients. They also have to stay current on the latest trends in the PR industry.

One big trend in the PR field that has been going around recently is the importance of knowing how to pitch a story to journalists. This has always been a struggle, but with the ever-growing social media platforms, journalists are now sharing the mistakes that PR practitioners often make when trying to pitch a story. Here are three rules to follow to help you pitch your next story to a reporter:

  1. Know the reporter and his or her target audience.

As PR specialists, we are always told the importance of knowing our target audience. We think about who we are writing a story to, what language we should use for that audience, and even what pictures to include that the target audience would find helpful. We oftentimes are so focused on our own target audience, that we don’t think about the target audience of the reporter we are pitching.

When sending a pitch email or tweet to a reporter on your upcoming story, be sure to do some research on what topics that reporter covers. You don’t want to send a pitch about Kanex’s new GoPlay Series of portable gaming controllers to a reporter who covers the beauty industry. You have to know what that reporter is going to want to cover, and what is going to benefit him or her as much as it will you and your client, otherwise you are wasting everyone’s time.

  1. Know whether your story is actually newsworthy.

PR practitioners spend so much time trying to help build a client’s visibility that they can sometimes get caught up in seeing their client in the news. You have to keep in mind whether your story or pitch is actually newsworthy. Not everything that your client does is going to be important. It might seem that way in the moment, but PR practitioners have to be able to decide what matters to reporters and what doesn’t.

If you are constantly sending pitch emails to the same reporter, he or she is going to get sick of seeing your name in his or her inbox. You have to focus on building a mutually beneficial relationship between you, the PR practitioner, and the reporter.

  1. Know how to send a pitch.
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Screenshot by Hope Salyer

Numerous journalists have been posting photos online of pitch emails from PR specialists. The reporters are unable to tell what is being sent by a PR practitioner, and what is a spam email. Pitch emails that follow the spam format are oftentimes deleted within seconds of opening them because journalists don’t know what email is going to help them cover a story and what email is going to give them a virus.

Pitch emails that begin by saying they saw a link post from the reporter and have a similar story at this link are suspicious to journalists before they even begin to read the email. Try to keep from linking out too much in emails. One link to the story is fine, but you don’t need to link to the reporter’s story from last week.

These are my top three tips for pitching a story, but I want to know what yours are as well. Leave a comment below on what your “Golden Rules” are for pitching a client story to a reporter.

Hope Salyer is a junior public relations major and journalism and communication double minor. Hope is serving as the Chief Financial Officer of EMU PRSSA. This is Hope’s first semester serving for the PRSSA E-Board. A Michigan native, she hopes to start her career working for an agency in the Detroit area. Her dream is to become the public relations coordinator for the Detroit Tigers. Contact Hope on Twitter @hsalyer01 or by email hsalyer@emich.edu.

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