Story-First Pitching

When pitching to the media you only have a few lines to grab their attention and prove the worth of your material. A strong story, that is easily communicable, is critical to your pitch. 

Great stories require time and consideration to ensure they meet the key requirements of being relevant, engaging and well-written. Following the three steps below can help you to create and review your pitch, and guarantee it has the best chance of being picked up.

Find a suitable story

You may already have your story in mind, for example; big company news, new product launch, research findings, or hot-take on industry challenges. If you’re finding it hard to work out a good story, it may be that you need to be patient and wait for something to come through… or (more likely) that you need to think creatively and look into different areas of your business for your story. 

Try brainstorming these three kinds of material:

News story 

Any significant company news that has relevance for the wider world or your industry e.g: exciting product launches, significant company expansion, acquisitions, CSR initiatives, award wins.

Opinion 

This could be a reflection, or a new perspective, on recent events in your industry or a national/global story. It needs to be something unique, so check that you’re saying something new and make sure your spokesperson has got the experience or position in the industry to be saying what they are saying.

Awareness/education 

If your company or members of your team have some new research or findings, or specialist experience that would be helpful to others, then draft this out. Sharing knowledge is a brilliant way to build your reputation and promote your work in a less commercial way. 

Before settling definitively on any story, think critically about whether an outsider to your company would be interested in reading your story. Then, examine more closely the audience you want to target and who you will be pitching to.

It is always a good idea to check whether your selected journalist or publication has recently covered the topic you are writing or hoping to speak about. Don’t be ignorant, spend some time looking into their latest pieces and make sure you know their speciality. If they only cover gaming tech, then don’t go to them hoping they will do the hard work of finding someone in their organisation who might be interested in fintech. If they have covered your topic recently, do you have anything unique to add? Also, check they cover the kind of material you want to pitch in. For instance, don’t send a news press release to an academic journal that only covers peer reviewed papers.

If you are particularly interested in working with a certain journalist or publication another way round is to look into the material they are covering and see how you might be able to offer them something additional of use.

It’s important to make a good first impression. However, the same rule goes for the second, third, fourth and every pitch after that. You can’t let the quality of your content slip. It’s a competitive environment and journalists can be quickly turned off and frustrated by weak or irrelevant stories, or mistakes in your pitching. They need to know you can consistently entertain, inform, and educate their readers. 

Craft the story form

The kind of story you want to pitch in, combined with your target journalists/publications, will help lead you to the story form. News will most often take the form of a press release, going to multiple publications, but could also span out into exclusive interviews or articles if the journalist thinks that their readers would like to know more. For opinion or educational pieces press releases can work, particularly for announcing research findings, but more targeted Q&A profiling, long-form articles, short blogs, videos or podcasts may be more suitable.

Don’t include anything that could be construed as advertising or directly promotional. Stay objective!  Make it snappy and whilst you want to make sure your business gets mentioned or attributed somewhere, steer clear from including any promotional material. 

So your story is strong and you’ve settled on your form. Now you have to communicate it well. It goes almost without saying spelling and grammar should be immaculate. However, also think about how you can concisely communicate all that you need, whilst capturing the audience visually or intellectually. Include agreed PR messaging where appropriate.

Pitch it in

Address the journalist directly, personalise your message and keep it concise. Depending on the type of pitch you may not need to have your full piece written, but you need to be confident you can deliver and give them a strong overview through an abstract or outline first. 

Journalists get so many emails a day your pitch will go straight to the ‘trash’ if it doesn’t hit the three essentials: relevant, engaging, well-written. Your email headline is very important and whilst there is no ‘magic formula’ it helps to be clear and direct about what you are pitching. Journalists are well trained in spotting clickbait headers that have no real substance, so think carefully about what the key point of your story is and why they want to open your email to read further. 

Remember, it’s not just about getting your pitch past the journalist. The real goal is to make it go further and have an impact with a wider audience. The strongest stories are those that will be passed on, and get people talking (in a good way) about your material.