A pitch letter is so much more than putting a story idea into several long paragraphs that contain fancy words. Rather, it's the result of research and time spent crafting a teaser that leaves the reader (and typically a writer) wanting more. However, creating the perfect pitch presents a slew of challenges, especially when the majority of email pitches sent to a journalist fall victim to their trash bin. Just like you, journalists are busy people with deadlines and don’t have time to sift through long and general pitches that, in most cases, aren’t relevant to their publications. Ensure your pitch doesn't receive the immediate boot by avoiding common mistakes made by many PR professionals. Learn how to navigate this tricky territory by following these 5 strategies for the perfect pitch letter.
1. The Subject Line
Crafting an enticing subject line is the first step to attracting the attention of the journalist who you are hoping will write your story. This is the first element of your pitch that the writer will see and often the deciding factor in whether or not the journalist will read the entire idea, so make sure that it captures the essence of your idea in a brief yet pointed phrase. Creating a news headline for the subject line is a great strategy because it leads the journalist to believe that you understand their business and aren’t trying to manipulate them into writing a fluff story that few people will care about.
2. Be PersonalWhile we don’t recommend trying to be the teacher’s pet and demonstrating your knowledge of the writer by listing every story he has ever written, showing that you know a little bit about the journalist’s writing style and areas of interest as well as some information about the publication is the ideal way to personalize your pitch. If there is a particular article that connected you to the writer, causing you to pitch this story to him, mention it and briefly describe why it interested you. This strategy will help the journalist understand that you care about the pitch and might even lead to a long-term relationship between you and the writer. Also, don’t send a copy and pasted version to every writer on your media list. Each pitch you send must be targeted toward a specific writer and publication.
3. Keep it Brief
Try to stick to two paragraphs of body copy plus an introduction paragraph and call to action. And, when we are talking about paragraphs, they shouldn’t be any longer than five sentences. Journalists receive hundreds of pitches each day, so they have no tolerance for fluff. Include the most essential details of your story and then wrap it up. If they are interested, they will reach out to you and request more information. It’s also a good idea to use bullet points. They are an effective way to display a series of facts or other pieces of information that don’t fit into a short paragraph. Just don’t try to write your pitch around bullet points. They aren’t necessary for every pitch letter.
4. Why Should the Writer Care?
Like we said earlier, journalists receive hundreds of pitches every day, so it’s up to you to tell them why they should care about it. While your story may be exciting and relevant to you, it doesn’t mean your pitch will stand out in an inbox full of information others consider to be newsworthy. To ensure that it isn’t thrown out without even a glance, provide the writer with a localized angle that fits in with the publication’s mission. For example, if you are pitching your client who is a CEO in the finance industry to a lifestyle magazine, you probably don’t want to focus on his career. Try pitching a feature that focuses on the client's other areas of interest that the magazine covers, such as wine, restaurants or sports.
5. Write a Call to Action
If your pitch was successful in grabbing the writer’s attention with an enticing subject line and sparking their creativity with relevant body copy, then offer them a way to seal the deal with a call to action in the final paragraph. This brief paragraph should thank the writer for their consideration and offer ways to make writing the story easier. State that you would be happy to provide any materials the writer may need, such as images, interviews, company information, etc. Including links to press mentions and the company or client website is also helpful to the writer.
Check back next week to learn about proper email etiquette from our etiquette specialist, Ellen Ericson.
By Rebecca Taylor, MDPR Team Member