Your Essential Pitch Checklist

Posted by on Jun 8, 2020 in Public Relations
Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

In the final installment of our three-part series, we explain the nuts and bolts of crafting a pitch that will get your company media coverage.

Now that you’ve learned about the elements of a great story, the importance of research before you send your pitch, and how to find the right media contacts for your unique story, it’s time to get down to the business of writing your pitch. Here’s what you will need:

A strong grasp of the medium you’re pitching. Magazines, TV, radio, online, and podcasts all requires a different approach and strategy. Print magazines, for example, have long lead times–sometimes up to a year–while online outlets might publish in days if not hours. The format for each medium also vary greatly–from Q&As to long-form features to quick hit segments. Some podcasts have guests, some don’t. Local TV morning shows tend to focus on local news, businesses, and personal interest stories. Consumer lifestyle publications appeal to a broad audience, while trade publications are very niche. Your pitch will need to take all of these elements into account, so again, research is key. In addition to diving into each publication, website, podcast, or show, you should check out PR Week, Mediabistro, and MuckRack for more intel.

An attention grabbing (and relevant!) subject line. Ready to get that email out? Don’t forget the importance of a good subject line. Many reporters receive dozens if not hundreds of pitches a week, so think about what will stand out and make them take a second look. In general, keep your subject line short, concise and to the point. A word of caution: Don’t try to use a click-bait-y subject line to entice a reporter into reading your email or start it with “re” to try to trick them into thinking you’ve already been corresponding.

The correct spelling of the journalist’s name. You would be amazed how many times I’ve received emails that mis-spell my name and it’s always annoying. Check and double check to make sure you have it right.

A strong, personal story hook in the first paragraph. Your opening few sentences should get the reporter’s attention and should quickly answer the question: Why should they care? And don’t forget to personalize the pitch! According to MuckRack’s Annual Journalist Survey, a lack of personalization is the #1 reason that journalists immediately reject otherwise relevant pitches. That includes mass emails or putting a bunch of journalists in the BCC line, a cardinal sin if there every was one.

Who, what, when, where and why. Get all of the facts and salient information into your pitch the first time around. Don’t make a reporter hunt around for things like a link to your company’s website, statistics, or your expert’s bio. That’s one great way to land in the delete file. That being said, don’t ramble on and on or include attachments. If you have a press release, drop it at the end of the email and use Dropbox or Google Drive for photos, logos, surveys, and other big files.

Good timing. According to MuckRack’s survey, the best time to pitch a journalist is between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. Also, be aware of the journalist’s deadlines (e.g. putting out a weekly newspaper or when the magazine is about to go to print). It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, avoid pitching then.

Smart follow up. Don’t be the person who follows up with annoying frequency. A week after you’ve sent your first pitch is a reasonable amount of time to wait before following up unless the pitch is very time sensitive. No answer after the 2nd following up? Proceed with caution! And for the love of all that’s good in the world, do not, I repeat, do not follow up with a phone call unless you have a long and established relationship with said journalist or producer.


Looking for PR help? Want to have your pitch critiqued or revised? Get in touch with us here or sign up for a 1:1 Zoom PR and marketing strategy session here.

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